The other day Chuck and I were discussing the phrase “get your goat.” I said, “It’s not goat, it’s goad."
He replied, “What? It’s goat."
"No. Think about it; how many people do you know who have a goat to get?"
He quickly tried to change the subject knowing that it is pointless to argue with me. We’ve been down this road before and he has learned that when it comes to language and history, what I don’t know as fact I invent.
So, who's right? Is the phrase "get my goat" or "get my goad"?
I decided to do a little research by submitting to the only bastion of authority and light and truth: I Googled both phrases, “Get your goat” and “Get your goad."
Here are theories:
The phrase “get your goat” comes from a formerly common but now outdated practice in horse racing where the owners would stable their horses with goats to calm them down. Thus, to get someones goat would anger the horses and, I suppose, render them ineffective.
Is that true? Will the presence of a goat really pacify an agitated horse? Sounds like a question for MythBusters. Anyway, I don't buy it.
Another post refers to a dictionary definition of “goat” as prison slang meaning “anger.” This doesn't sound plausible. I've never been inside a prison, but I suspect that when inmates are goading one another, "goat" isn't the first bit of slang to roll off the tongue.
Here is the most compelling explanation, I think: aside from “goad” as a verb - to goad someone into doing something, a goad is a pointy stick used to urge an animal into obedience. I further submit that the Bible provides very early references to a “goad” as something one could “get.” See Judges 3:31, 1 Samuel 13:21, Ecclesiastes 12:1. Also, see what Jesus said to Paul “It is hard for you to kick against the goads.” Acts 8:5,28:14)
My conclusion is that the phrase, properly used, is “get your goad.”
But don’t mind me, I’m stubborn. Like a goat.