Maggie in Spring Valley, New York, recalls her father’s advice: Don’t go visiting with one arm longer than the other. He meant “Don’t arrive as a guest empty-handed.” The original expression appears to come from Ireland, where it appeared in the 1850s as Don’t go visiting with one arm as long as the other, the implication being that you should be using one arm to hold a gift for the host. A similar idea is expressed in the admonition Ring the door with your elbow.

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