“To hang up one's axe.” To retire from business, to give
over a useless project. The allusion is to the ancient battle-axe,
hung up to the gods when the fight was done. All classical scholars
will call to mind the allusion of Horace to a similar Roman custom.
Being snubbed by Pyrrha, he says, “He will hang up his axe upon her
wall,” or more literally, his “drenched garments on the temple-walls
of Neptune.” (1 Odes, V. 14–17.) (See Ask.)
To put the axe on the helve.
To solve a difficulty. To hit the right nail on the head.
To send the axe after the helve.
To spend good money after bad, or under the hope of recovering bad
He has an axe to grind. Some selfish motive in the background: some
personal interest to answer. Franklin tells of a man who wanted to
grind his axe, but had no one to turn the grindstone. Going to the yard
where he saw young Franklin, he asked the boy to show him how the
machine worked, and kept praising him till his axe was ground, and then
laughed at him for his pains.
Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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