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Going to the wall

Posted by ESC on July 22, 2007

In Reply to: Going to the wall posted by Tim Steele on July 22, 2007

: Does anyone know the origin of the phrase "going to the wall"? I've heard it explained as church seating for the elderly but is there another theory?

Yes. Here's the other:
TO GO TO THE WALL -- "Though now it is usually a business house that, under insurmountable financial difficulties, 'goes to the wall,' it was back in the sixteenth century the adversary in a conflict that, forced to yield ground, went to the wall. The allusion is to the desperate straits of a wayfarer when set upon by ruffians in an unlighted street of former years. By giving ground and getting his back to the wall he was better able to defend himself by poniard or sword. From the same situation, by no means uncommon in the Middle Ages and later, came our expression, to be driven (or pushed to the wall, which we now use in a similar sense, to be forced to one?s last resource." From "Heavens to Betsy" by Charles Earle Funk (1955, Harper & Row, New York).