out of gathers
In distress, like a woman's dress, whose gathers or pleats have become unfastened.--Albert Hyamson's Dictionary of English Phrases, 1922
Dr. Johnson's Dictionary Begun
On this date in 1746, Samuel Johnson signed a contract to create his landmark dictionary, which would not be published for another nine years. Johnson initially believed that an important aspect of his role was "to correct ... improprieties and absurdities" found in everyday usage. In the end, however, he admitted that his lofty goals were unattainable. Nevertheless, Johnson had a remarkable influence on English in other ways, such as the reduction of spelling and pronunciation variants and the establishment of literature as a tool for tracing linguistic history. Johnson, who suffered from chronic depression and once intimated that he had dreamed of being a poet but awoke horrified to find himself a lexicographer, lamented in the plan for his dictionary, "Of all the candidates for literary praise, the unhappy lexicographer holds the lowest place." He also carped, "Such is the state of hapless lexicography, that not only darkness but light impedes and distresses it."
Oh, Johnson. You're such a scamp!
PS: Happy belated birthday to kamau_d_lyon, who for his birthday gets Klingon karaoke!