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Rule of Thumb

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Definition: A rule of thumb is an easy-to-remember guideline that isn't necessarily a hard-and-fast rule or scientific formula but it's more than just a dumb guess.

For centuries rule of thumb has been used as an estimated measurement by many craftsmen including carpenters, brewers, and tailors. The term referred generally to the length of the thumb from the joint to the tip, approximately an inch. It was once quite common to use body parts as measurement references (such as a hand in measuring horses) and some of the reference endure today in one form or another.

Common Misconceptions About Rule of Thumb

Unfortunately, many sources have pounced on another origin that says the term refers to the size of a stick that a husband could use to beat his wife. While the term may indeed have cropped up centuries later in reference to wife-beating, the term predates that obscure usage. At this site, rule of thumb is used as described in the definition above.
Rule of Thumb: Not Really - Another Myth of Women's History - About Women's History Guide Jone Johnson Lewis explains the common misconception about rule of thumb being a reference to wife beating. The article deals primarily with the very real issue of domestic violence and its linking to the term rule of thumb.

The Rule of Thumb for Wife-Beating Hoax - Debunker.com quotes many sources with discussion of where the misconception regarding domestic violence originated, the legal and casual references, the Oxford English Dictionary definition, and other historical references to rule of thumb as an approximation having nothing to do with wife-beating.
Also Known As: guideline | estimate
Examples:
"For most general audiences, body copy set at 10 or 11 points is good rule of thumb."

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