In trying to discover the roots of the verb "canvassing", I found this:
[From obsolete canvass, to toss in a canvas sheet as punishment, from canvas.] .1
What does this mean?
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The phrasing 'toss in a canvas sheet' is confusing. What it is trying to convey is the formerly common activity of a group of people holding a stretched sheet of canvas on which another individual is lying. The group repeatedly throwing the person on the sheet into the air and then catching him or her. This was done usually as a playful activity but also as a form of light punishment and public ridicule. Canvassing from this derivation is thus a metaphor something akin to 'running an idea up a flagpole' or 'hopping a ball' thus indicating one is subjecting oneself to rigorous evaluation by the crowd - often for their boisterous entertainment. There's an illustration of the practice at Guttenburg. Search for 'Tossing up for Turkey at Christmas Time'
See this word history:
The word canvas came into Middle English, via Old Northern French canevas, from the Latin name for hemp, cannabis: hemp is the raw material traditionally used in making canvas, and is also the source of cannabis itself. The noun canvas (earlier spelled with a double -s) is also linked with the verb canvass, which originally meant ‘toss in a canvas sheet’ (a practice carried out both in fun and as a punishment); canvass then came to mean ‘assault, attack’ or ‘criticize’, and later ‘scrutinize in order to reject invalid votes’, from which developed the modern sense, ‘solicit votes’.