Thursday, January 12, 2012

"Severe Course of Sprouts"

From an 1863 California newspaper:
Timely Warning.
The last Legislature passed a very stringent law on the subject of concealed weapons. The police have been enforcing this law vigorously, and they will not relax in their efforts to-day. Let all those who are in the habit of making walking arsenals of themselves therefore beware. If discovered, they will be put through a severe course of sprouts.
What is a "severe course of sprouts"?  If I search for it in, I find a number of uses in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.  I can guess that it is a humorous expression indicating that you will not be happy, but it does not sound like a severe punishment is being threatened here.  But I can't find a definition of it.


  1. sprout n.¹ [mid-late 19thC] (US) a beating; thus put through a course of sprouts, to beat, to flog, to subject to intense, harsh, discipline

  2. Merriam-Webster online has it.

    These days it sounds like some sort of vegan toxin-purging therapy...


  3. OED says "to beat, birch, or flog; to subject to a course of severe discipline or training"

  4. Nor can I. I do recall that R.A. Heinlein was fond of it as an expression in his fiction, relating to difficult academic studies.

  5. MW says:

    course of sprouts

    Definition of COURSE OF SPROUTS

    : a course of instruction marked by corporal punishment, hazing, rigorous discipline, or grueling tests or by thoroughness or difficulty

    prob. so called fr. the use of sprouts as switches in flogging

    Verification word: relic