Thursday, July 24, 2008


Someone asked about the phrase “a lick and a promise” during last Tuesday’s show. It signifies a superficial cleaning on the literal level, and inadequate attention to some issue on the metaphorical level. Think of a dog or a cat doing a quick lick of its fur and then springing up to do something else.

There ensued a brief discussion of the wide range of meanings involved in the word lick, and that sent me to the dictionary. Lick may refer to

• an act of licking
• a slight and hasty wash
• a casual amount of work
• a dab of paint
• a spot to which animals resort to lick the salt or salt earth found there
• a horse ailment
• a smart blow.
• an opportunity
• a speedy spurt in racing
• a plan or idea
• a short solo or phrase, usually improvised and often interpolated into a piece of written music
• criticism or condemnation

SIDEBAR: Lick Observatory

Now available from McFarland & Co.: Word Parts Dictionary, 2nd edition

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