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Hell bent

Posted by ESC on January 06, 2003

In Reply to: Need derivation help posted by B Gallup on January 06, 2003

: Can anyone help me with the derivation and meaning for the phrase "hell bent for leather"? Thanks

From the archives:

Hell bent -- "I Hear America Talking" 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 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.