I read a sentence in a chapter named "The Third Level" which was:

THE presidents of the New York Central and the New York, New Haven and Hartford railroads will swear on a stack of timetables that there are only two.

Now I know the meaning of the well established idiom "to swear on a stack of bibles". But I want to ask if the author using "timetables" instead of "bibles" is an example of a slight variation.


The author of the story humorously modified the established idiom. Just as the Christian Bible was used for oaths by ordinary people, so railway officials might consider their timetables to be 'holy books' that regulate their activies. You can imagine that English teachers might swear on a stack of dictionaries, or of copies of a well-known grammar book.

  • I might have added that maths teachers might swear on a stack of logarithm tables, but I don't think anybody knows what they are these days. – Michael Harvey Apr 28 '19 at 19:23

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