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The old college try

Posted by R. Berg on April 06, 2002

In Reply to: The old college try? posted by Seth on April 06, 2002

: Where does this expression come from, and what exactly does it mean? Does it refer to effort put for by students, college as a time of experimentation, or something else entirely?

Effort, not experimentation.
From Eric Partridge, Dictionary of Catch Phrases: American and British, from the Sixteenth Century to the Present Day:
"give it the old college try" . . . : Do one's utmost, though success is uncertain. Gen. US from c. 1960. [Older than that, I think -- R.B.] Paraphrased, if not actually quoted, from one or more of the innumerable 'rah rah' college football films of the 1930s and 40s, the burden of which was that you can win if you try, no matter what the odds. Hence often with a certain ironic twist, sometimes becoming equivalent to "Go through the motions, even if little or nothing is accomplished."

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