Hell bent

Posted by ESC on September 01, 2001

In Reply to: Origin of "hell bent for leather" posted by garry on September 01, 2001

: Anyone know of the origin of "hell bent for leather" or perhaps "hell for leather"? In context seems to mean "to move quickly".

Hell bent -- I Hear America Talking: An Illustrated History of American Words and Phrases by Stuart Berg Flexner (1976, Van Nostrand Reinhold Company) says "hell bent, 1835; hell bent for leather, late 1920s; hell bent for breakfast, 1931" are American terms for moving fast or doing something quickly, the earliest ones coined during the period of growth called the Industrial Revolution. However, Charles Earle Funk, in A Hog on Ice (1948, Harper & Row) says that "hell for leather.is a British expression, apparently originating in the British army in India. Possibly (Rudyard) Kipling coined it, for he was the first to record it, though he may have been actually quoting army speech. His first usage is in 'The Story of the Gadsbys,' .Though the term must originally have referred to the terrific beating inflicted upon leather saddles by heavy troopers at full speed, even by Kipling's time it had acquired a figurative sense indicating great speed, on foot, by vehicle, or by horse." Kipling was born in 1865 and died in 1936.