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An ancient torture device involving a wooden horse, typically used for military punishments. I was so terrified of what my parents would do when they found out I'd failed my exam that I had visions of them making me ride the wooden mare.
A difficult, complicated, or confusing situation. The tax laws in this country are a mare's nest that nobody fully understands.
ride shanks' mare
To walk. "Shanks" refers to one's legs. The store is close enough that we don't need to drive, we can just ride shanks' mare.
by shank's mare
By one's legs and feet, used for walking; traveling by foot. A reference to the shank—the lower leg between the knee and the ankle—and the use of ponies or horses for travel. (Also written as "shanks' mare.") My bicycle fell apart three miles away from home, so I had to go the rest of the way by shank's mare. Unfortunately, with the sedentary lifestyle many lead today, travel by shank's mare has largely become obsolete.
One's legs and feet, used for walking; travel by foot. A reference to the shank— the lower leg between the knee and the ankle—and the use of ponies or horses for travel. (Also seen as "shanks' mare.") My bicycle fell apart three miles away from home, so I had to use shank's mare to go the rest of the way. Unfortunately, with the sedentary lifestyle many lead today, shank's mare has largely become an obsolete mode of travel.
old gray mare
old-fashioned Something or someone that is aged, obsolete, or outdated. An allusion to the folk song "Old Gray Mare," especially its opening line: "The old gray mare, she ain't what she used to be." It's (rare) modern use is usually somewhat derogatory. It may not have fancy apps or let me surf the Internet, but this old gray mare is still the only phone I need. I may be an old gray mare, but I still know how to get up and cut a rug on the dance floor.
by shank's mare
Fig. by foot; by walking. (Shank refers to the shank of the leg.) My car isn't working, so I'll have to travel by shank's mare. I'm sore because I've been getting around by shank's mare.
Fig. travel on foot. You'll find that shank's mare is the quickest way to get across town. Is there a bus, or do I have to use shank's mare?
a mare's nesta wonderful discovery which proves or will prove to be illusory.
A mare's nest is here being used to symbolize something that does not exist, as horses do not make nests. The phrase is first recorded in the late 16th century, as is the variant a horse's nest , although the latter is now no longer in use.
a ˈmare’s nest
1 an idea or a discovery that seems interesting and exciting but is found to be false or have no value: I fancy this will prove to be a mare’s nest! We have had these mysteries before.
A mare is a female horse or donkey. They do not make nests and so a mare’s nest does not exist.
2 a difficult or complicated situation; a mess: This area of the law is a veritable mare’s nest. ♢ My hair is a mare’s nest!
n. foot travel. (Old. Lacking a horse, one uses the legs. This does not refer to a person named shank.) You’ll find that shank’s mare is the quickest way to get across town.
On foot, walking. This quaint expression dates from the second half of the eighteenth century, the shank here alluding to the leg. Also put as to ride shank’s mare, it continues to be used, although it may be heard less often. The Cleveland Plain Dealer had it (Oct. 26, 1974): “The people who came to the Barons-Rangers game that night long ago came by streetcar and bus and by shank’s mare as well as by auto.”
the old gray mare
The passage of time. A folk song attributed to Stephen Foster and supposedly referring to a 19th-century harness-racing horse named Lady Suffolk begins, “Oh, the old gray mare, she ain't what she used to be . . . Many long years ago.” Unkind people used the image to refer women “of a certain age” (or older), although when used by themselves about themselves, it has an air of self-deprecating resignation. For example, a middle-aged woman who leaves the dance floor short of breath after a vigorous jitterbug may wipe her brow, reach for a cold drink, and exclaim, “The old gray mare ain't what she used to be.”
Walking. “Shank” is another word for shinbone. By extension, its use in the phase refers to our legs. “Mare” here is equine transport, and when we walk, we “ride” on shank's mare.