The Volokh Conspiracy
Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent
I was reading a 1988 Eighth Circuit copyright case, which mentioned one party's argument and then said:
This is a horse quickly curried.
Odd, I thought—what's this referring to? I Googled "horse quickly curried" and found only 20 results (even including the ones Google said were potential duplicates), which is pretty rare for a phrase that was used as if it were a common saying. Many of the results spoke of a "short horse, quickly curried," but that wasn't enlightening.
Blame my urban upbringing: To "curry," it turns out, means "To groom (a horse) with a currycomb," originally stemming from "Vulgar Latin *conrēdāre : Latin com-, com- + Vulgar Latin *-rēdāre, to make ready." A short horse, quickly curried (or, more briefly, just a horse quickly curried) thus apparently means an argument that is quickly disposed of.
Incidentally, this also taught me the connection between this and "to curry favor"; to quote again the American Heritage Dictionary, "Curry favor, by folk etymology from Middle English currayen favel, from Old French correier fauvel, to curry a fallow-colored horse, be hypocritical (from the fallow horse as a medieval symbol of deceit)." "Fallow" used as a color of animal, I also learned, means "Of a pale brownish or reddish yellow colour, as withered grass or leaves," to quote the Oxford English Dictionary. Learned three new things from that one phrase!