He hath eaten me out of house and home, he hath
put all my substance into that fat belly of his: but I will have some
of it out again, or I will ride thee a-nights like the mare.
Falstaff:Henry The Fourth, Part 2 Act 2, scene 1, 74–79
I think I am as like to ride the mare if I have any vantage of
ground to get up.
Hostess Quickly of the Boar's-Head Tavern is complaining about her lodger, Sir John Falstaff. The gargantuan knight has been imposing himself and his appetite on the simple woman and has been unforthcoming when faced with the tab. Quickly threatens to visit him like a nightmare; Falstaff retorts with a characteristically obscene reading of her threat.
This famous phrase was first formulated as "He hath eaten me out of house" sometime in the fifteenth century. If one liked, he might also have eaten you "out of house and harbor" or "out of doors," but the Bard seems to have originated the current phrase. The formula "out of house and home" itself dates from about the thirteenth century. It's never been clear whether "home" is being distinguished from "house" or whether the phrase is just a piece of poetry. As we have adopted Quickly's phrasing, however, we mean something like "He has consumed not only my provisions, but furthermore my domestic comfort."
Themes: expressions and idioms