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They gave him a pass

Posted by Smokey Stover on January 05, 2009 at 04:35

In Reply to: They gave him a pass posted by Marianne Stanley on January 04, 2009 at 09:26:

: I have heard "They gave him (or her) a pass." or "Did they give him a pass?" on Fox for several years. Can you tell me if it originated there and if so, in what context (about WHO? and WHEN?)

The phrases you quote can have more than one meaning, although I suppose you probably mean "They gave him a piece of paper or stub or badge that gave him permission to enter certain places." If that's your meaning, then this use of pass is very old, going back at least to 1586. In the time since this usage has been slightly expanded, to include derivatives like the passport. The Oxford English Dictionary defines this use thus:

"II. Permission or authorization to pass.

7. a. Permission to leave, enter, or travel somewhere; a document giving or declaring such permission. Also fig."

A pass can give one permission to travel abroad (with a passport), or simply to go backstage. The Fox Television Network uses the word in its standard meaning, as do the other networks. Although there are other ways in which the word can be used, all the networks follow the standard practice in their use or uses of the word.