Where does the phrase "given the sack" come from?

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fizzyBee | 17:47 Mon 10th Dec 2007 | Phrases & Sayings
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Where does the phrase "given the sack" come from? Why "the sack"?


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Years ago,tradesmen used to move from job to job carrying their tools in a sack,which they gave to their employer for safe-keeping.When they left they were given the sack back,and thats how the phrase originated.
The earliest uses of this phrase - dating back to the 1600s in France - refer to the dismissal of a servant. So, the 'sack' is more likely to have contained a housemaid's or footman's clothing etc rather than actual tools. But, whether tools or personal things, the idea behind it is the same.
I prefer tyrepill's answer - I find the idea of the French aristocracy condescending to allow a domestic servant own anything, let alone leave wih it wholly implausible, laughable even.
a journetman carried the tools of his trade in a sack but this is not the same as being sacked, it is related to the war like term, sacking a town, meaning removing things of value from it, but i can't think why
You are, of course, perfectly free, Count, to consider The Oxford English Dictionary's outline of the phrase's history "laughable". That publication is, however, considered to be the 'bible' of English word/phrase history by everyone who knows about our language. It makes no mention whatsoever of workmen or their tools.
Tyrepill uses the phrase, "when they left", which is not quite what "getting the sack" actually means.
I'm sure that servants, even French ones pre-Revolution, had clothes of their own, a Bible perhaps, a memento of mother and whatnot. Those are the items they would have put in their 'sack'.
Quizmonster-The distinguished physicist Hans Reichenbach commented ' I have come to the conclusion that a person should never accept any statement or even fact as being the absolute truth.... No statement should be believed merely because it has been made by an authority.'

The OED acknowledge that they often get word/phrase provenance wrong and quite sensibly retain an open mind.

Why don't you?

The concept of a domestic servant of a French aristocrat ever being afforded the opportunity to acquire sufficient literacy to read a Bible is even more fanciful, I suspect.
Wherever did you get the idea that I "don't retain an open mind", Fink-Knottle? Until some equally-authoritative source appears with evidence that the OED has got this - or anything else - wrong, I'll stick with what it says on etymology. Simple as that.
I have never claimed that the OED is infallible, just that it's the best we've got in the field of language history.
In the same way, I tend to take a consultant's advice on my health before what the old guy in the corner of the snug-bar suggests! Accordingly, I could scarcely agree more with Reichenbach.

Oh dear, oh dear, Count! Bibles were owned by the illiterate peasantry of Europe for centuries because of what they were not because they offered reading-material. Assuming the servant did not stroll up the drive to the chateau on Day 1 of his/her employment stark b-naked, they would at least have had clothes.
Fair comment Quizmonster-but your consultant analogy made me smile (smugly).

My wife,suspecting pregnancy, was told that our (now 30 years old) daughter was 'just a fibroid' by a consultant gynochologist.

... and a bonnier fibroid you never saw!
Oh dear-I of course meant Gynechologist
No you didn't - you meant gynaecologist

If fk is from 'over the pond', 'gynechologist' is correct, Ethel.
Well, they are all wrong over there.

You're right, Ethel: they should get with the program.:)
Teee heee.
A Yorkshireman ,and to my embarrassment, I was born in bed with a lady.
Of course specialists make mistakes, FK, but one still doesn't ask a plumber to erect a fitted wardrobe in one's bedroom. (Congratulations on your bonnie daughter, by the way.)

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