[Note: This entry incorporates material from the previous version of can’t see]
can to can’t, from adv phr For varr, see below chiefly Sth, Midl Cf can’t see n
From dawn to dark.
a from can (see) to (or till) can’t (see); pronc-spp from kin to can’t, from kin to kaint and varr.
1900 S. Watchman (Mobile AL) 7 July /5, The farmers are very busy fighting the grass from can till can’t. 1916 Alton Eve. Telegraph (IL) 7 June 4/2, Now is the time of year when farm hands say they “work from kin to can’t” and they explain the day’s length more fully by saying they work from the time they “kin see in the morning ’til they can’t see at night.” 1937 in 1977 Amer. Slave Suppl. 1 1.90 AL, De mos’ us did wuz wurk from ’can ’til can’t. Ibid 1.413 AL, Most slaves worked on Satu’day jes like dey did on Monday; that was from kin’ ter caught [sic], or frum sun ter sun. 1937 Clovis NM Eve. News–Jrl. 10 June 6/5, [Advt:] If you have a blowout just call us. . . We will be open from ‘can till can’t’ and our service is yours for the asking. 1941 Daniels Tar Heels 157 NC, In the South it was such labor from kin to can’t which pushed some of the people to the towns. 1941 Writers’ Program Guide Colorado 226, Work begins at sunup and continues until after sundown, or, as the phrase is “from can see to can’t see.” 1947 Ballowe The Lawd 50 LA, After days and days of work from sun to sun, kin to cain’t, the wheel was finished. 1952 Brown NC Folkl. 1.556 wNC, Kin-see to (till) can’t-see: phr. From early morning (the time one “can see”) till dark (the time one “can’t see”). “I work from kin-see to can’t see.”—West. Illiterate. Rare. 1968 DARE FW Addit LA39, Kin to can—sunup to sundown, said of a work day. 1969 DARE Tape MA58, Now this is a Southern expression that takes place of our daylight to dark: it’s from can see until can’t see, from can see till can’t see. 1975 Gould ME Lingo 154, Kin to kaint—From see to can’t see; dawn to dusk. 1975 Mexia Daily News (TX) 30 Sept 2/1, With good moisture from the recent rains, farmers were rolling tractors from “kin-til-kaint” planting small grain and completing their harvest operations. 1995 Elko Daily Free Press (NV) 14 Jan 17/2, [Advt:] Everything goes, including house. . . Bicycles, window air-conditioner, clothing, kitchen goods, books, redwood lumber, camping, trampoline, furniture, beds and rugs. Saturday, can see till can’t see, Sunday a.m.
b from can’t (see) to can’t (see); pronc-spp from cain’t to cain’t, from kaint see to kaint see and varr.
1906 S. Workman 35.209 sLA, In the expressive language of one of the hands, they work from “can’t to can’t[”]; that is, when they begin in the morning it is too dark to see and when they knock off at night it is too dark to see. 1914 S. Workman 43.212 AR [Black], I worked from can’t to can’t—from ‘can’t see in the mornin’ till ‘can’t see at night.’ 1919 Forest & Stream 89.11 FL, I tell you I know every bit of ground and tree and ditch here for miles. I’ve walked over them from ‘kaint see’ to ‘kaint see,’ and many a time at dark. 1929 St. Louis Post–Dispatch (MO) 24 Nov sec H 3/4 FL, “How long do you work?” I asked a guard. “We work from cain’t to cain’t,” he assured me with a grin. “From when we cain’t see in the morning ’til we cain’t see at night.” 1931 Scribner’s Mag. 89.127 FL, “I got boys in the woods from can’t to can’t,” Fatty said (from can’t-see to can’t-see, or “from dawn to dark”) “gettin’ me squirrels for that purloo.” 1950 PADS 14.18 SC, Can’t see. . . The period of darkness before day or after dark. “He worked from can’t see to can’t see,” from before day until after dark. 1983 Indiana Gaz. (PA) 30 Apr mag sec 2/2, She says she is busy from “can’t to can’t,” explaining, “I’m busy from when I can’t see in the morning until I can’t see at night.”
c also as adj phr: kin and kaint.
1918 Leader–Courier (Kingman KS) 30 Aug 4/3, Everybody attended Chautauqua last week and are busy getting their work caught up this week. Every man and boy and some few of the “soft sex” are working like Old Reliable “Kin and Kaint,” and W. L. Gibson keeps his tractor going 24 hours each day. 1931 Indianapolis Sun. Star (IN) 19 July 15/2, “Do you work pretty steady?” brought this from Jeph: “We wurrks on a kin an’ kaint skeddle—we start as soon as we kin see an’ stop w’en we kaint.”