Cambridge, Massachusetts and London, England 1977

( S381)

No more than a Sprat in a whale’s belly

1714 Mather Diary 2.296:
What Number and Value of them we have now circulating, is, as our Gentlemen of Business express it, no more than a Spratt in a Whale Belly, NED Sprat sb. 3b.


To throw a Tub to a whale

1734 New-York Weekly Journal in Newspaper Extracts(l) 1.406:

I have already spent too much Time on this Bradfordian, envious pitiful Tub.

1776 JA in Adams FC 2.53:

[He] is throwing out his Barrells to amuse Leviathan, untill his Reinforcements shall arrive.

1776 HGates in Massachusetts Historical Society, Proceedings 67(1941-4) 141:

Can't you throw out some tubb to these whales?

1777 WCarmichael in WHM 44 (1949) 13:

The Ministry have made it a tub to throw out to the Whale.

1779 AMcDougall in Clinton Papers 4.598:

This is the Tub of the Day, to divert the whales.

1781 Adams Works 7.379:

Peace is a tub easily thrown out for the amusement of the whale.

1781 JEliot in Belknap Papers 3.217:

The destination of the French fleet is the tub of our present diversion.

1781 Oliver Origin 96:

They knew that the Whole Rabble must have a Tub to play with.

1782 AA in Adams FC 4.371:

It was only a tub to the Whale.

1782 EPendleton in Madison Papers 4.257:

A mere Tub thrown out to amuse the Whale.

1785 Jefferson Papers 7.643:

They are throwing out another barrel for the political whales to play with.

1789 Mason Papers 3.1164.

1793 Brackenridge Modern 202:

[It] is like throwing a barrel to a whale, in order to preserve the ship.

1801 Weems Letters 2.171:

It w'd do as a barrel to the whale untill we coud get another & better plan in progress.

1802 Moultrie Memoirs 1.95.

1802 Paine To the Citizens 2.924:

It is as a tub thrown out to the whale to prevent its attacking and sinking the vessel.

1809 Lee Diary and Letters 77:

Which is but a secondary object with me: as we say in New England - a tub to catch a whale with.

1809 Weems Washington 30:

This it seems he had drawn up as a Tub for the whale.

1810 King Life 5.181.

1811 Claiborne Letter Books 6.13.

1811 Weems Cambling 25:

Great whales must needs have their great tubs.

1813 Paulding Lay 40.

1814 JRandolph in Quincy JQuincy 350:

They will be delighted with some tub for the popular whale against the next election.

1818 Jefferson Writings 19.259:

As some tub ... must always be thrown our to the whale.

1820 15.280.

1820 King Life 6.289:

The proposed compromise is a tub to the whale.

1825 JDesha in Jackson Correspondence 3.286:

The management in the late Presidential election will be the tub to be thrown out to the whale for the next season.

1830 Ames Mariner's 280:

The literary arena . . . has served as a tub to the whale for a long time.

1842 Paulding Letters(II) 317:

Every little mite of a politician ... has only to throw a Tub to the great Whale, the People.
Oxford 845-6; TW 384(2).

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