In Reply to: Up a hill, one-in-four posted by David FG on February 28, 2010 at 09:25:
: : To go up a hill, one-in-four is the phrase I'm questioning. The French have a saying, se mettre en quatre (a faire quelque chose)which means to break oneself in four to accomplish something, push oneself to the limit. Is that the sense of this phrase in English or is there reference to one in four being obese, out of shape, unfit?
: 'One-in-four' is a reference to the steepness of a hill. In this case, it means that the height that one goes up increases by 1 foot for every 4 feet travelled. That's a pretty steep hill.
: I am not sure if this was ever used outside the British Isles.
It's relatively recently that British road signs started to show gradients in percentages rather than ratios. They always used to say "1:4 slope", and a few of them still do. Certainly everybody I know would naturally say "Gallows Hill is really steep, it must be nearly one in four", not "it must be 25%". (VSD)