To handle someone with kid gloves

Example in use: “Be careful how to speak to Jane today. She just lost her pet dog and is very upset” “Ok, what a shame. Thanks for warning me, I’ll make sure I handle her with kid gloves.”

Meaning: to deal with someone or something very tactfully or carefully

Possible German equivalent: jmdn. wie ein rohes Ei behandeln

Possible origin: This expression seems to originate from at least the early 1800s if not earlier. Members of the upper classes and aristocracy would wear gloves to protect their hands as it was important for them to have soft skin which did not have signs of physical work. They were also a symbol of wealth as this supple leather was expensive but also that people who wore such gloves didn’t have to engage in any type of manual activity.

Kidskin, which comes from baby goats (kids) was particularly popular as it was so soft and smooth that it also felt gentle to others, giving more impression of silky, smooth skin. It was especially important that women wore gloves to protect their skin and white hands were further proof of their status in that they did not need to work and that they were gentle, frail characters.

The Oxford English Dictionary suggests that the expression “handling someone with kid gloves” was linked to the idea of treating someone gently by 1830 but many believe it might have been in common language before that time.

So the next time you have to be careful how you handle a situation, perhaps you need to reach for those elusive kid gloves first!

Glove / ɡlav


Welcome again to our weekly series that hopes to go behind the scenes of some rather typical English expressions.