Rock bottom
Posted: 05 February 2008 12:44 PM   [ Ignore ]
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Does anyone know the origin of this phrase?  I’ve searched high and low and can’t find it.  Of course, that probably just means I’m a poor researcher.

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Posted: 05 February 2008 12:56 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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OED:

rock-bottom, bed-rock; also fig., the fundamental or lowest possible level, nadir (see also quot. 1866); also attrib. or as adj., lowest possible, unbeatable (of prices, etc.); fundamental, firmly grounded, honest, sound
[1856 ‘OLD COLONIST’ How to Farm & Settle in Austral. 56 This lowest bottom, ‘the rock’ as it is emphatically termed, in reference to its character as a bar to further digging for gold.] 1866 Oregon State Jrnl. 24 Nov. 2/2 A sound democrat, or ‘rock bottom’, never shrinks from the requirements of his master. 1884 Lisbon (Dakota) Star 10 Oct., Boots, shoes and rubbers in great variety and at rock-bottom prices. [...]

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Posted: 07 February 2008 12:09 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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But, why “rock”? Why does “rock” mean the lowest? Am I not understanding your referense?

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Posted: 07 February 2008 04:42 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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I assume it’s a very simple allusion:
When you dig, you can keep digging till you hit the rock.  So the rock is at the bottom.
Fom LH’s OED excerpt, rock-bottom is a synonym for bed-rock; again bed-rock being the lowest level you normally dig to (or at least easily...)

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Posted: 07 February 2008 06:48 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Yes, I would have thought the “bedrock” gave the game away.

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