Posted by Smokey Stover on March 26, 2006
In Reply to: Beats the hell outta' me posted by Jack Scupham on March 26, 2006
: What are the origins of the phrase "Beats the hell outta' me"? I tied google but no origins.
I've always assumed that this was just a somewhat illogical paraphrase of "Beats me!" Adding "hell" to intensify it requires some restructuring of the phrase. The way it is used is the same way as "Beats me" is used.
The OED has recognized "Beats me," but not "Beats the hell out of me." OED: " [beat] c. Of a difficulty: To master (a person), to defy all his efforts to conquer it. Also, to baffle, perplex. Phrases to beat the band, rap: see the ns. [citations] c1810 in Smiles Engineers III. 51 The engineers hereabouts are all bet; and if you really succeed in accomplishing what they cannot do, etc. 1882 J. PAYN Cash Only II. 316 'This beats me altogether,' mused the lawyer. 1930 W. DE LA MARE On the Edge 135 Why you should have taken so much trouble about it simply beats me...."
If you're concerned about the connection with the usual meaning of "beat," as in thrash, pummel, or defeat, I offer the possibility that "this problem defeats my efforts to understand it." SS