Yesterday I tied Emmy’s leash around the leg of our butcher block kitchen island so I could cook in peace without worrying about spilling hot liquids on her. She enjoyed teething on a chew stick while watching me work.
This morning in the shower my mind drifted as my mind tends to do in the shower. I started thinking about the possible origin of the phrase “tied to her apron strings.” I am familiar with colonial life here, complete with its ongoing open fire for cooking and heat. Perhaps colonial mothers used a similar restraint to keep their toddlers away from the fire while they worked.
Sadly I have so far been unable to corroborate my idea. The phrase took on meaning long ago, not so different from our current use. Now and for a couple of hundred years it refers to a man who refuses to grow up. Since I believe that most popular phrases had an origin in actual practice, I find that origin unsatisfactory.
If there are any other sleuths out there curious about the phrase, I would appreciate knowing what you find.