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The modern expression to cast aspersions seems to have first been used by Henry Fielding in his 1749 novel Tom Jones.

Proverbial in English since the 14th century - it occurs for example in Langland's poem Piers Plowman (1362) - and popularised by its use in the Bible: 'neither cast ye your pearls before swine' (Matthew, 7: 6 in the Authorised Version of 1611 and previously in Tyndale's translation of 1526).

The word cack is an Old English word for excrement or dung.

Cachus was Old English for a privy, and both words come from the Latin cacare, to defecate.

The allusion of the expression therefore is to the victory of the five survivors in the conflict with the multitude of other warriors.

This expression referred originally to Caesar's second wife Pompeia.

From this has developed the idea of giving someone a free hand to do what they want.

The term first came in use in the 18th century in this sense, although it had been used since the mid-17th century in the special sense of a hand containing no court cards in the card game piquet., meaning 'now, at once', is that in medieval times, a nail was a shallow vessel mounted on a post or stand and business deals were closed by payments placed in the 'nail'.However, the more likely derivation for the expression comes from the world of wine tasting.Latin 'for on the nail' is supernaculum, and this word also describes the very best wine, meaning that the wine is so fine that the imbiber only leaves enough in the glass to make a bead on a nail.In a widening of its meaning, the phrase is used to mean rejecting a complicated or disadvantageous issue.In American black slang of the 1940s, however, it meant to die - indeed, the most final way of calling off all bets.So, to be left-handed was to use the cack hand or be cack-handed.

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