It refers to a distance which is greater than expected.
I have always thought it a confection to confuse town-dwellers and found it particularly efficacious employed as such. However there are academics who have more academic explanations and adduce such literary references as:
Frederick de Kruger's The Villager's Tale (1829)
The travelling stage had set me downOr:
Within a mile of yon church-town;
'T was long indeed, a country mile.
But well I knew each field or style;
The Treasury of Knowledge and Library of Reference (1850)
Robin Hood shot a full mile; and, according to his bard, a north-country mile was equal to two statute ones.I leave you to come to your own conclusion regarding its etymology as I believe I have identified a new measure - the County Mile, or rather the Lancashire Mile
This is smaller than the statute mile and so leads to inflation of distances. I cite two instances only, (but am sure there are many others): both from the Leeds & Liverpool Canal.
|Burnley's Straight Mile|
The canal embankment in Burnley is known as The Straight Mile
It would be churlish of me to dispute the straight description, but 1225 yards was never a mile in my books.
It is, in fact, 1640 yards long.
I cannot, or rather, do not dare to, suggest a reason for this phenomenon but offer it up for consideration.