Posted by R. Berg on May 12, 2001
In Reply to: Further on the 'Soup' theme - 'in the soup' posted by James Briggs on May 11, 2001
: In the soup is an expression used to imply that someone is in trouble. The origin, as given me by a tour guide in Dublin, goes back to the potato famine in 1840s Ireland. Such was the famine that soup kitchens in Dublin, all run by the British, were vital; however, in order to be given soup, Irish families had to give up Catholicism and also Anglicise their names - O'Donohue became Donohue for instance. The Irish hated this, but were so hungry that many families were forced to be in the soup.
If your tour guide was correct, another phrase is historically related to that one. Eric Partridge, "A Dictionary of Catch Phrases American and British," says this about "That's the ticket for soup":
"You've got what you came for--so now be off!: from the late 1850s until a few years before WW1. Hotten, 1860, wrote that the catchphrase came from 'the card given to beggars for immediate relief at soup kitchens'."
However, the Oxford Engl. Dict. (1971, reprint of 1933 ed.) labels "in the soup" as U.S. If the phrase originated in Dublin, shouldn't it be British too?