|my cowboy spur|
I've since cooled off.
|my hero Lash LaRue|
Thus ... the spur from my brother.
This is kind of a long way to get to something that happened yesterday. Joyce asked me if I knew the source of the phrase the spur of the moment. I didn't. I looked it up. Now I do.
The OED traces the word spur (meaning the device you see above) back to the eighth century. By the Middle Ages, it had acquired what the OED calls a "generalized sense." Sir Walter Scott, it seems (in Kenilworth, 1821), even used it to mean one who wears spurs.
My Shakespeare concordance reveals that the Bard used spur many times--both literally and figuratively--in the sonnets, the plays (from the famous--Romeo and Juliet--to the less so--Timon of Athens).
The OED traces the spur of the moment back to 1801, and its use is obvious, isn't it? Something in the immediate present (the moment) is urging us to (spurring us) to do something.
As my wife, Joyce, pointed out to me yesterday, when most of us now speak the phrase, we tend to emphasize it like this: "I decided to go on the spur of the moment." And we tend to use it as a synonym for impulsively.
But--given its original meaning--maybe we should be saying "I decided to go on the spur of the moment"--indicating that something about that particular moment urged us to act.
Ain't gonna happen.
Language and usage do not always (or even often?) conform to sense or obey its dictates. With language, we're more, you know, kind of spur-of-the-moment critters.