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Charlotte (referring to the children): They're huge. What have you been feeding them?"

Martin (the father): They are from good stock on their mother's side.

This is an extract from a script of a movie "Patriot".

I found a word "stock" in the dictionaries. among lots of different meanings, I found this: the original type from which a particular race, family group etc, is derived. I thought that's what it should be. What do you think?

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  • It is definitely old fashioned, and today, might even be considered not pc. It sounds waspy to me (I am a wasp, just for the record). it's the kind of thing my father used to say and he was born in 1902. Just to give this some historical perspective....
    – Lambie
    Commented Jul 20, 2018 at 17:02

1 Answer 1

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This is a rather joking reference to the meaning "group that an animal has been bred from".

One sometimes talks about "breeding stock" the animals that are kept for having more babies. We might say "This pig comes from good stock, so she should be a good pig"

It isn't so common to talk about people like this, except as a joke: Charlotte asks about the children being so big. Martin says it is because their ancestors were big and strong, but in a slightly "tongue in cheek" way.

The word "stock" is an interesting one with two etymologies that have influenced each other and given rise to a lot of apparently unconnected submeanings: "meat broth", "a pillory", "goods in a shop", "animals on a farm" and "family origin".

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    I don't find it at all odd or jokey to use stock to refer to people in this way - perhaps a bit old-fashioned. Phrases like "good farming stock" referring to people seem quite unremarkable to me.
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Jul 20, 2018 at 15:08
  • It also adds to the humor that Martin specifies "on their mother's side", to indirectly praise his wife by saying her lineage is superior, and downplaying his own contribution.
    – Andrew
    Commented Jul 20, 2018 at 15:16
  • It can be construed as funny, but also, it can also characterize a type of character or speech. Not everyone would use this today. It could be seen as a social class marker; snobby, elitist or middle-class trying to define itself as better than others.
    – Lambie
    Commented Jul 20, 2018 at 17:04
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    If it is a marker, I'd see it as a marking a person as being "country" not "city". I don't see this as typical elitist speech.
    – James K
    Commented Jul 20, 2018 at 17:07
  • Aside: from the "goods in a shop" meaning. The phrase "take stock of the situation" means to pause and consider all the circumstances, before revising (or not) one's plans. Commented Jul 20, 2018 at 17:35

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