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Wisp of Straw (A)

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Sign of danger. Often hung under the arch of a bridge undergoing repairs, to warn watermen; sometimes in streets to warn passengers that the roof of a house is under repair. The Romans used to twist straw round the horns of a tossing ox or bull, to warn passers-by to beware, hence the phrase fœnum habet in cornu, the man is crochety or dangerous. The reason why straw (or hay) is used is because it is readily come-at-able, cheap, and easily wisped into a bundle visible some long way off.

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Entry taken from Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, edited by the Rev. E. Cobham Brewer, LL.D. and revised in 1895.

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