Grammar Monster
Grammar Monster

To Make Money from Old Rope (Origin)

What Is the Origin of the Saying "To Make Money from Old Rope"?

To make money from old rope means to make money by selling something that has been used and ought to be worthless. This extends to profiting from knowledge or using skills that were learnt for another purpose. This term has a nautical history. In the days of sailing ships, sailors would cut damaged rope into smaller undamaged lengths and sell it when ashore. At sea, long ropes are required, but on land, shorter lengths were still useful and could be sold.

Competing Theory

To make money from old rope comes from the practice of picking apart old ropes to create oakum (a fibrous material used with hot pitch for caulking seams in old-time sailing vessels). It was a chore performed by women and children in Victorian workhouses or by sailors when their ships were docked. The women and children never saw any money for their work. The oakum was sold by the workhouse authorities.



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