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Where did the phrase 'chip off the old block' come from?


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Answered 2012-04-06 20:02:36

It probably came from the craft of carving, in stone or wood, so that a 'chip' (son) taken the 'old block' (the father) is made from the same material and is therefore substantially the same.

Others believe it came from the American Civil war--During the Civil War, ballistics-control-computers were still a thing of the future, so experienced gun teams aimed the cannons. The ability to land a shell in the desired location on the enemy was done by gut feel of the sergeant with the most experience. When some of the old cannons become hard to raise and lower the barrel, experienced gunners would have some wood on hand to prop up the back, or one of the wheels, to effectively change the trajectory for shots that had fallen short or long. This was often too course of an adjustment though, causing shots to fall on the opposite side of the intended target area. The "smart" gunners would have an ax nearby to chip off some of the wood, giving them finer resolution on where the shots would fall. They would instruct their crew to "take a chip off the block of wood". Using the same block over and over at times, the wood block became known as the gunners "old block." Those "smart" gunners that knew this technique would pass this on to their followers, and eventually, someone who knew the smart tricks of his elder became identified with the firing technique, and he himself became known as "a chip off the old block". Later this was applied to anyone devoted follower of a teacher, and eventually more especially to someone who emulates their parent.

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