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The meaning and origin of the expression: Life's not all beer and skittles

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Life's not all beer and skittles

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Meaning

'Beer and skittles' is shorthand for a life of indulgence spent in the pub.

Origin

Beer and skittlesSkittles, also known as Ninepins, which was the pre-cursor to ten-pin bowling, has been a popular English pub game since the 17th century. The pins are set up in a square pattern and players attempt to knock them down with a ball. It is still played but not so much as previously.

The game was referred to in Footman's History of the Parish Church of Chipping Lambourn, 1894, which reprints a piece from 1634:

"William Gyde... for playing at skittolles on Sunday."

Citations of beer and skittles and variants appear in literature from the 19th century; for example, Dickens' Pickwick Papers, 1837:

"It's a reg'lar holiday to them - all porter and skittles."

Thomas Hughes' Tom Brown's Schooldays, 1857:

"Life isn't all beer and skittles."