to foot the bill
Michael Quinion this week in his excellent World Wide Words newsletter:
Q. Where and when did the phrase “to foot the bill” originate? [John Lanahan, Berlin]
A. It is an odd expression, isn’t it? It’s the kind of idiomatic
phrase that we may use regularly without any feeling that it’s in
the least odd, until somebody such as yourself asks about it.
It comes from the mildly figurative sense of “foot” that refers to
the end or bottom of something, such as the foot of a ladder. In
this case, it is a verb that - for example - might once have meant
adding a postscript to the end of a letter. But our sense refers in
particular to the totting up of a column of figures, especially in
an account ledger, and adding the result to the bottom of the
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