ChatterBank0 min ago
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While usually in agreement with Q, I think there's another explanation for this little used phrase. A similar cliche' still in use is "Get one's goat". This is fairly clear in meaning... i.e.,becoming upset due to an event or action on the part of another. This phrase (Act the goat) I believe, has a close relationship to our question. The origin may be related to the the belief in England (one source suggests Wales) that goats have a calming effect on milk cows. Similarly, in the U.S., at least c1900, a goat was kept in the barns of thoroughbred race horses and were thought to have the same calming effect. So, in this view, Act the goat has, possibly, an opposing meaning to being foolish.
The phrase may also find its genesis (pun only slightly intended) in the Bible reference found in Leviticus, Chapter 16, concerning the use of a scapegoat to banish the sins of the nation of Israel. That option is probably more obscure, in mu humble opinion...
In addition, for the last century at least, to call someone a goat meant you thought him a fool.
It is not in such common use in Britain as it was in my younger days, but there is simply no question but that the phrase meant then 'to play the fool' and I am pretty sure it still does. The occasional addition of the words 'play' and 'giddy' - the latter meaning 'foolish' for the past 1000 years - to the phrase only supports that view. (I cannot, of course, vouch for its meaning on your side of the Pond!) Cheers
It's amazing the number of letters we seemed quite happy to dispense with in the Doric!
I suppose nowadays it is far more common - even among children - to say "Stop f-wording about!"