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Re: Hell for leather

Posted by Smokey Stover on December 29, 2009 at 18:35

In Reply to: Hell for leather posted by Malcolm on December 29, 2009 at 15:15:

: Does anyone know the correct origin of 'Hell for leather'?

Correct? Well, Kipling used the expression in 1889 and 1893, in its usual meaning, that is, "at breakneck speed, very fast, reckless" (cf. OED s.v. hell, Phrases 6e.). The "for leather" refers to riding on horseback, that is, with a leather saddle.
In the U.S. the more usual expression is "hell-bent for leather" (see OED, s.v. hell-bent), attested in 1926, although hell-bent without the leather appears earlier, as in, e.g., "hell-bent-for-election" , in a cow-punching context.

The association with riding has at the present been more or less left in the dust, and "recklessly determined" is as commonly intended as "very fast."
SS