Posted by ESC on September 29, 1999
In Reply to: Bought the farm posted by norm secrest on September 28, 1999
: I understood the origin to have been barnstormers in: the US after WW1. (the book "The Right Stuff", I believe) When someone crashed in a farmer's fields he had to pay the damages to the crops, hence "bought the farm."
I was all ready to tell you that I always thought the phrase had its origins in a farmer, for example, dying and his family taking the insurance money and paying off the mortgage.
However, a couple of books I checked agree with you that the phrase has its origins in the military. But there's disagreement on how exactly the phrase came about.
In the "Morris Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins" there is a long passage on "bought the farm." Paraphrasing here, one idea was that when a soldier was killed in action, it was said he "bought the farm." That is, the soldier was at peace, on a heavenly version of the farm he had often daydreamed about buying when he got back home.
The other suggested origin was along the same lines. But the phrase "Well, he's bought his farm," was a wry comment on the dead soldier not getting a chance to realize his dream.