Crack of the whip

What's the origin of 'a fair crack of the whip' as in 'He never got a fair crack of the whip' meaning an equal and fair opportunity to do or be something?
17:06 Sat 10th Jan 2009
 
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When driving a horse-coach, whoever has the whip also has the reins...ie is in charge. The saying, therefore, just means that the person never really got the chance to show what he could do if only given the opportunity.
Question Author
So QM, should we be saying " He didn't get a crack of the whip?" What does 'fair' add to that ? Is it 'fair' in some other sense than 'just' or 'equitable' ?
Well, Fred, I imagine the 'fair' aspect suggests that lots of other people did get the opportunity whilst this particular person did not. We all have to believe nowadays in "equality of opportunity", don't we? So, I don't believe the 'fair' does have any sense other than just or equitable.
The phrase itself has clear connections with the one that says, "He had the whip hand"...ie the superior power.
Question Author
I did find this ingenious explanation. The driver of a coach drawn by two or four horses might have the whip fall on any of them.If one is getting hit more than the others he is not getting a fair crack of the whip, he is not being treated equally , but unfairly, and he's suffering in consequence.[That's from a report of a discussion of this saying, on Australian radio. The panel admitted that they had no definitive answer. The saying was not found in print in Australia until 1924]
Even Brewer's doesn't come up with that one, Fred! I find it deeply unconvincing; indeed, I'd sooner go with what I imagine you were suggesting in your first answer...namely, that fair had to do with quantity rather than equality. I mean fair as in, "There was a fair crowd there this evening." The word crack - as well as suggesting a blow - also has the possible meaning of go or turn. In other words, the person being spoken of did get an opportunity to wield the whip but not for long enough in order that it might have had a positive effect.
The notion of unfairness to horses, particularly in the Australia of a century ago just doesn't cut it for me, I'm afraid!

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