What is a thank ye ma’am?

April 22, 2017 | Author: | Posted in Language

A thank ye ma’am is a bump or depression in a road that causes a carriage to jolt the occupants. The original thank ye ma’am was a small ridge or hollow made diagonally across a road on a hillside to deflect water. It received its popular name from the fact that it caused persons driving over it in a vehicle to bob up as if bowing and acknowledging an act of courtesy.

According to a custom formerly quite common in some rural sections of America, a young man out sleigh-riding with his sweetheart was privileged to kiss her every time the sleigh passed over a bump in the road. This kiss was facetiously supposed to correspond to collecting toll at the turnpikes. It was a good-natured satire upon the hackneyed and stilted reply—”Thank ye, sir,” or “Thank ye, ma’am”—given by the toll gatherer after collecting a toll.

 

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