SENTENCE USAGE: "That feller that broke the front glass out of Bart’s Store and tore the copper out of his meat display case didn’t make it a stone’s throw from the crime scene before the sheriff’s deputy caught him cowering behind the bus stop bench."
How far is a "stone’s throw" and what is the origin of the phrase?
A "stone’s throw" is, of course, literally the distance a stone can be thrown, but has come to mean "any short, but undefined distance." Early English versions of the Bible refer to "a stone’s cast" with the same meaning, "And he was withdrawn from them about a stone’s cast, and kneeled down, and prayed." (Luke 22:41, AKJV)
"Stone’s throw" was used in a non-biblical setting by the end of the 16th century. Arthur Hall’s translation "The Ten Books of Homers Iliades," 1581, contains this line: "For who can see a stone’s throw of ought thing in land or plaine?"
Stones hadn’t then been established as the definitive objects to be thrown and the following year Nicholas Lichefield wrote: "The enimyes were come, within the throwe of a Dart."
All forms of the phrase were little used and it wasn’t until 1704 that Jonathan Swift revived it in "The Battle of the Books." "The two Cavaliers had now approach’d within a Throw of a Lance."
The "stone’s throw" variant was established properly by John Arbuthnot in "The History of John Bull," 1712, and, following that, there are many citations of the phrase.
"Mrs. Bull’s condition was looked upon as desperate by all the men of art; but there were those that bragged they had an infallible ointment and plaister, which being applied to the sore, would cure it in a few days; at the same time they would give her a pill that would purge off all her bad humours, sweeten her blood, and rectify her disturbed imagination. In spite of all applications, the patient grew worse every day; she stunk so, nobody durst come within a stone’s throw of her, except those quacks who attended her close, and apprehended no danger."
The Phrase Finder, www.phrases.org.uk