Tinker’s damn and tinker’s dam

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Tinker’s damn and the alternative spelling tinker’s dam are idioms that have been in the English language since the 1800s. An idiom is a word, group of words or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal meaning.We will examine the meaning of the term tinker’s damn, where it came from and a few examples of its use in sentences.

Tinker’s damn and the alternative spelling tinker’s dam are terms that mean something small, insignificant or worthless. Primarily, the term is found in the phrase not give a tinker’s damn, meaning to not care about something at all. There are many dubious stories tying the origin of the phrase tinker’s damn to tinkers constructing makeship “dams” on plates to manage solder. A tinker was an itinerant worker who mended pots and pans. In fact, a phrase that was a forerunner of tinker’s damn is tinker’s curse. This most certainly points to the phrase tinker’s damn as referring to the swearing habits of tinkers. The spelling tinker’s dam came about later, to assuage the sensibilities of those who did not wish to use the mild oath, damn. This spelling is still occasionally seen, but the preferred spelling is tinker’s damn. Note that tinker’s is a possessive noun, and therefore ends in ‘s.


The mister is disgustingly good at many things—it’s why I married him, after all—but despite a very keen intelligence and excellence at giving foot rubs, he cannot spell worth a tinker’s damn. (Winding Road Magazine)

Give Kasich this: While countless other Republicans were afraid, when the going was good, to not endorse Donald Trump, Kasich never gave a tinker’s damn for Trump, and said so. (The Columbus Dispatch)

“We want to live in the present, and the only history that is worth a tinker’s damn is the history we make today.” (The Irish Times)