Wednesday, April 20, 2022

RETRO Episode 65: Thick As Thieves Behind the Scenes

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Bunny Trails

RETRO Episode 65: Thick as Thieves

Record Date: April 17, 2022

Air Date: April 20, 2022


Welcome to Bunny Trails, a whimsical adventure of idioms and other turns of phrase. 

I’m Shauna Harrison


And I’m Dan Pugh

Each week we take an idiom or other turn of phrase and try to tell the story from its entry into the English language, to how it’s used today.

This week, we are diving into the archives because we were able to get a new episode together.

When someone says, “I didn’t have time to do that”, what they are really saying is, “that wasn’t high enough in my priority list for me to get it done”. And that’s perfectly okay. But I do think it’s important for us to be honest about where our priorities are. This week, the show didn’t rise high enough on our priority list to write a new episode. 


There are many humanitarian crises happening in our world. Dan and I spent the last few days volunteering with Team Rubicon and the International Rescue Committee to assist refugees fleeing war. 

Team Rubicon is an international disaster response nonprofit that unites the skills and experiences of military veterans with first responders to rapidly provide relief to communities in need. Founded in 2010 with the expressed goal of quickly responding to large-scale disasters, Team Rubicon has deployed thousands of volunteers across the United States and world to provide relief to communities in need. You can find out more about them at 


The International Rescue Committee (IRC) helps people affected by humanitarian crises—including the climate crisis—to survive, recover and rebuild their lives. Founded at the call of Albert Einstein in 1933, the IRC is now at work in over 40 crisis-affected countries as well as communities throughout Europe and the Americas.  They deliver lasting impact by providing health care, helping children learn, and empowering individuals and communities to become self-reliant, always seeking to address the inequalities facing women and girls. You can get more about them at 

Shauna and I know our efforts this week aren’t going to change the course of the entire world. But they might change the world for a few families. And when the opportunity arose to give our time and energy, we couldn’t turn that down.


With that update out of the way, let’s take a look at our Retro episode for this week, Thick As Thieves. 

This episode goes all the way back to October 23, 2019. Dan and I listened to this episode and a couple of things came to mind…


Like I can’t believe we were over 5 minutes into the show before we even said what we were talking about. We tend to use a 2 minute rule now. We need to give the definition of our phrase within 2 minutes of the start of the show, not counting cold opens, to keep people interested. If this was the first episode I listened to, I might not have stuck around to get to the good part. 


There are a lot of little side thoughts in here… they’re completely unnecessary. 


I feel a little bad about the faux-southern accent I did for the old nosy woman in your opening story. I’m not sure I made it clear I was making a joke, and it sounded a little mean-spirited. 

My editing has got quite a bit better since 2019. In the early days we edited to try and make the show sound faster paced than we usually speak. It also made it sound like we interrupted each other a ton. But it isn’t consistent, so in other places it sounds like we have oddly long gaps. 


I’m also thankful for Dan’s improved editing skills… because now he just pulls out most of the times I trip over my own tongue. 


I didn’t expect the sex jokes, commenting on ménage a trois and some sly comment about “thick”. They were subtle, but it surprised me.

I went into the inkle weaver conversation not remembering what an inkle-weaving was. So I was also waiting with bated breath about it. But my advice at the end was solid, at least for visual learners. Just google it. 


Inkle weaving or weaving methods that are incredibly similar have been seen in some recent tv shows like Game of Thrones and Vikings. You can actually purchase your own inkle weaving starter kit online from craft stores and it’s become popular enough to be easily found on Amazon. So, making a comeback? 


I wish I could say we helped with that, but Game of Thrones ended its HBO run in a spectacular failure in May 2019, which was a few months before this episode aired. 

But, without further ado, let’s jump into the show, from October 23, 2019 - Thick as Thieves

Bunny Trails

Episode 65: Thick as Thieves

Record Date: October 19, 2019

Air Date: October 23, 2019


Welcome to Bunny Trails, a whimsical adventure of idioms and other turns of phrase. 

I’m Dan Pugh

And I’m Shauna Harrison

Each week, we delve into the origin and history of an idiom, or other turn of phrase, and discuss how it’s been used over time. 

This week, I’m using the way-back machine to remember my own history. 

When I was a teenager, I had a best friend who I spent all of my time with. We talked about going to the same college, stuff like that. We lived in a small town. One street light, ya know? And not even a full one, just one of those single red lights that flashes… yeah. I remember one afternoon, we were hanging out at her house and we were supposed to stay in the neighborhood... You can probably tell where this is going. We did not stay in the neighborhood... We decided to walk to the Dairy King - yes I said King - and get ice cream and Charlies. A Charlie consists of French fries, chili, and nacho cheese sauce. Both disgusting and absolutely delicious. By the time we got back to her house, her mom was waiting on the front porch. Mrs. Jenkins had called her… “Mrs. Jones. Those two girls, your redhead and that blonde girl, always together, thick as thieves. Well, I saw them walking down the street not 10 minutes ago. They are just the prettiest girls. I’d hate for them to get into any trouble.”   


Thick as thieves is generally used to say that two people are very close to one another. It usually isn’t used in a romantic way and oftentimes indicates that the relationship is somewhat isolated or independent from other friendships. 

Merriam-Webster provides the definition: very close and secretive with the example: 

They were (as) thick as thieves for weeks, which made us wonder what they were doing.


Origins and History

A popular story for Thick As Thieves is that the idiom originated in the 1800s. At that time, thieves often worked together in gangs and were extremely close, telling each other everything and completely relying on each other. This sounds fun and clever, but let’s look back a little and find out where this all really started. 

First things first, the phrase got its start well before the 1800s. However, it was in a slightly different form. Now one might think that the key word in the phrase is thieves… but one would be wrong. I was one. Well, anyway… because I was busy looking up interesting facts about thieves in medieval Europe, it took me a bit longer to research this idiom. 

Sidenote for interesting fact about thieves in medieval Europe: 

As it turns out, the linchpin of the phrase is indeed the word thick. Thick has had multiple meanings, bother literal and figurative, over the years. I still hear it used to describe an individual as … well, possessing less than average intelligence. 

The Oxford English Dictionary provides multiple definitions for thick: 

#10 is the figurative form from the sense: 

Of the individual things collectively: Existing or occurring in large numbers in a relatively small space, or at short intervals; densely arranged, crowded; hence, numerous, abundant, plentiful

An example of this: 

the enemy army bore down upon them, two massive columns, thick with soldiers. 

Here’s the definition: 

Close in confidence and association; intimate, familiar; often in similes (with allusion to other senses), e.g. as thick as glue, as inkle-weavers, as peas in a shell, as (two) thieves, as thick as three in a bed, etc. colloquial.

Here are some examples of thick used in this figurative sense. 

C1756 John Nichols · Literary Anecdotes of the 18th Century

‘Yes’, said he, ‘we begin now, though contrary to my expectation, and without my seeking, to be pretty thick; and I thank God who reconciles me to my adversaries’.

1781 Selected Papers Twining Family

He and I were quite ‘thick’. We rode together frequently.

1802 Charles Lamb and Mary Anne Lamb · The letters of Charles and Mary Anne Lamb

Are you & the first Consul thick?

1820 Walter Scott · The monastery: a romance

That's right, twa will be as thick as three in a bed an' ance ye forgather.

1833 Theodore Edward Hook · The parson's daughter

She and my wife are as thick as thieves, as the proverb goes.

1836 Harriet Granville · Letters, 1810-1845

He is thick with all the new Ministers.

1869 Routledge's every boy's annual

We soon grew as thick as inkle-weavers.

So our phrase didn’t actually begin with thieves being the representation of closeness. Also, this leads to one very important question? What is an inkle-weaver? 

To Urban Dictionary! 

Alright, I checked here first, because I was somewhat nervous that I might have gotten us into an odd predicament by having an episode centered around a word that means something completely different than how we’re using it… however: 

Inkle means: 

To have an inkling; to think vaguely.

He always inkles that something foreboding is approaching him.


To crash a party

Her: What did you do last night?

Him: Well, i was driving along with John and we decided to inkle at Jennifer's.

Her: You B*st**d!

Now, remember. That was according to Urban Dictionary. So that isn’t actually what inkle means… but I think we’re safe in regards to censorship. So, I checked out Oxford English Dictionary. 

Inkle-weaver n. a weaver of inkle or linen tape; whence the phrase as great (or thick) as inkle-weavers, extremely intimate

That doesn’t exactly tell us what inkle is… This is one of those times that the visual medium can be really helpful. But alas… Many people have seen items that are created using inkle-weaving. These include belts, camera straps, bracelets, ribbon trim, etc. And inkle loom consists of a wooden frame with a series of dowels extending horizontally. The yarn that is used is traditionally made of linen and often also called inkle. A wide variety of patterns can be made with this type of weaving. 

The first time this use of inkle-weavers to indicate the intimacy between people is in 1738. So, this is actually a little bit earlier than our “thick as … insert noun” usage of a phrase. 

1688   T. Brown Reasons Mr. Bays

The Inkle-weavers,..the dealers in Ribbons.

1738 Jonathan Swift · A complete collection of genteel and ingenious conversation, according to the most polite mode and method now used at court, and in the best companies of England

She and you were as great as two Inkle-weavers.

1788 William Cowper · The letters and prose writings

When people are intimate, we say—They are as great as two Inkle-weavers..Inkle weavers contract intimacies with each other sooner than other people, on account of their juxtaposition in weaving of Inkle [the inkle-looms being so narrow and close together].

1874 Mrs. Henry Wood · The Master of Greylands. A novel

My relatives..and the Greylands' Rest people used to be as thick as inkle-weavers.


Evening star out of Washington, DC - October 18, 1948


A Quick Thank You


This episode is sponsored by our amazing Patrons on Patreon.

You can help support this educational artform and get awesome perks along the way! Tiers start at $3 a month, which get you our polls and community-only discussions, early access to the podcast, and the behind the scenes video for each episode so you can watch along as we make the show. 

At $10 you’ll also get original digital artwork from Shauna once a month featuring exclusive art about an idiom or other turn of phrase. At $15, you’ll also get personal on-air recognition like Pat Rowe does every episode. And of course huge thanks goes to the top spot among our Patrons, our Dean of Learning, Mary Halsig-Lopez. Thank you so much to Mary and all of our patrons. 

If you want to help create Bunny Trails week after week, whatever your budget, we are bunnytrailspod on Patreon. 


Pop Culture and Modern Examples

  • 2007 - Book: Thick As Thieves: A Brother, a Sister--a True Story of Two Turbulent Lives

    • A memoir about two siblings who loved each other (sometimes); the thrill of the shoplift, the power of the written word, the agony of addiction, and the joy of someone who understands you and still stays true

    •  Steve Geng--thief, addict, committed member of Manhattan's criminal semi-elite--was a rhapsody in blue, all on his own. Women had a tendency to crack his head open. His sister? Also unusual: Veronica Geng wrote brilliantly eccentric pieces for The New Yorker, hung with rock stars and Pulitzer Prize winners, threw the occasional typewriter, fled intimacy. They were parallel universes, but when they converged, it was . . . memorable.

  • March 2014 - About the History of Emotions Blog: Thick as thieves

    • Dr Helen Rogers is Reader in Nineteenth-Century Studies at Liverpool John Moores University, and the author of the blog Conviction: Stories From a Nineteenth-Century Prison. She is also one of the editors of the Journal of Victorian Culture. In this post for the History of Emotions blog she writes about her research into juvenile criminals, including their friendships and tattoos, subjects she also speaks about in Episode 6 of ‘Five Hundred Years of Friendship’.

    • She begins the post: We’ll never know who coined the phrase ‘as thick as thieves’ to describe close and furtive acquaintances but the phrase had currency by the late 1830s when it began to appear in fiction and newspapers.[i] The timing is striking for it coincides with growing cultural anxieties about the rise of a ‘criminal class’ inhabiting a clandestine world of ‘hardened’ offenders bound by ‘evil associations’ and ‘bad connections’.

  • Current - Company: Thick as Thieves is a Melbourne based touring & events company. 

    • At Thick As Thieves, we scour the globe for the most exciting underground artists to bring you the freshest tour in roster in Australia. We're dedicated to raising the vibration in everything we do.

  • Current - Pop/Hip Hop Band: Thick As Thieves

    • Based out of Los Angeles, Thick As Thieves has toured extensively throughout the Midwest, Mid-Atlantic, Northeast, and West coast college markets, opening for national favorites such as Imagine Dragons, Nas, Bassnectar, Empire of the Sun, Sean Kingston, Matt & Kim, Young the Giant, 21 Pilots, and Wale among others. Locally, they have played at many of the world famous Sunset Strip venues such as the House of Blues, Troubadour, Whiskey a Go Go, and The Roxy. Thick as Thieves continues to pursue their path as innovators in support of their recently released debut album "Love Me Blind."

  • Current - Hard Rock Band: As Thick As Thieves

    • As Thick As Thieves is Arizona's premiere Rock 'n' Rugged five piece. Formed in 2012, "ATAT" has performed at festivals, show cases and rock shows all across the South West. Drawing influences from some of music's most successful acts, while continuously pushing for a unique and individualistic sound, has brought us to where we are today with the release of the EP, "Whiskey Bent". Featured on 98 KUPD's playdio, the EP has brought forth 2 singles, "Take You Down" and "Straight To Hell", both featuring full length music videos with the latter to released soon. The drive and charisma found within those involved has created a live performance bordering upon infamous in the Arizona local scene. The members of As Thick As Thieves are passionate about what they do and will stop at nothing to achieve success and show zero signs of slowing down.

Favorite Things About the Phrase

This phrase really takes things back through the centuries and that is so fun to me. I love feeling like I can truly be a part of and “get” a time period or the experiences that some people may have had in that time. And really, there are so many things about our live that just haven’t changed that much. I like thick as thieves. I think that it has moved to a mostly positive connotation. So while it means that two people (or maybe more) are intimate in a slightly secretive way… it isn’t a bad thing. It is just a really great friendship or closeness and that’s something we should be celebrating! So I’ll just keep using this one happily! 


Shauna: That about wraps us up for today. Thank you so much for joining us! We want to thank everyone who talked about the show last week using the BunnyTrails hashtag. Word of mouth and personal experiences are the best way to grow a podcast, and your help is greatly appreciated!


If you want to chat more about the show, or phrases and their stories in general, you can Join the Community on Patreon. You’ll find the link to that and everything else we do at

Thanks again for joining us. We’ll talk to you again next week. Until then remember... 

Words belong to their users.

Additional Sources Used Not already mentioned

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