Posted by Smokey Stover on March 19, 2005
In Reply to: Re: Call it a wash or It's a wash posted by Bruce Kahl on March 18, 2005
: : Does anyone know where these sayings came from
: I am not 100% on this but I think the complete phrase is "it's a wash out" as in washing with water.
: When something is a wash it is an act of cancellation. You go to a race track and you win ten dollars and you then lose ten dollars which results in a "wash".
: You wash something with water to cancel out or obliterate the dirt.
I don't like the idea of cancelation so much as balance. In balance, no gain, no loss, or gains equal losses. It's a rather recent usage, I think. On the other hand, wash out, in its several verbal senses, and washout, in a couple of nominal senses, are much older. Even to "wash out of flight school," or figuratively from many other things, which makes you a washout, figuratively from a lot of things other than flight school, are not terribly old, but much older than "it's a wash."