Posted by Bob on September 15, 1999
In Reply to: Not on your tintype... posted by ESC on September 15, 1999
: : When I hear the phrase "not on your life!" I understand it to mean: "not a shred of possibility!" or "don't waste a moment believing that!"
: : But when I dissect the phrase, it doesn't make much literal sense. So where does the phrase originate, or how did that group of four words come out in that order and meaning what they do?
: Could "not on your life" literally mean: "I wouldn't do that to save YOUR life." Or "I wouldn't do that if your life depended on it."
: I haven't found the phrase yet in my reference books. I did find "not on your tintype," a phrase "in vogue around the nineteenth century," according to the "Morris Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins." A tintype was "the 1890s equivalent of the Polaroid instant photo."
: This was a variation of "not on your life," so the original phrase must have been around a long time.
: The authors, William and Mary Morris, couldn't give a definitive answer on the exact meaning of "not on your tintype."
: So we seem to be stuck with guessing on the literal meaning of both phrases.
I would venture a guess (from the construction) that it relates to swearing an oath. One swears "on a stack of bibles" or "on my mother's grave" or "on" something else. Perhaps the preceeding statement(s) is/are so risky that you shouldn't agree ... not on your life.