Posted by Smokey Stover on December 22, 2006
In Reply to: Flogged within an inch of your life posted by Peter on December 22, 2006
: What is the orogin of the phrase "flogged within an inch of your life" ?
Peter, this phrase is more likely to be found with a different pronoun, such as, e.g., "of his life," or "of my life." "You" refers to the person addressed, who presumably already knows whether and how he was flogged.
The word "origin" is somewhat ambiguous. The phrase originated in the mind of someone trying to express in vivid language just how bad the flogging was. It was bad enough, apparently, to come as close as possible to killing the person flogged while still leaving him alive. "Within an inch" is pretty close, although it is a metaphorical closeness. The closeness of death cannot often be measured in inches.
"Of his life" is used here as a way of saying "of his death." Another example would be, "He was in fear of his life." It wasn't his life that made him afraid, but rather the chance of losing it. True, one may also say "in fear for his life." But that hasn't yet put the previous expression out of business. (Caution: don't try to substitute "of one's death" for "of one's life" in idiomatic expressions.)