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Done your dash

Posted by Graham Cambray on March 09, 2009 at 02:14

In Reply to: Done your dash posted by Lyndon on March 02, 2009 at 08:04:

: Can someone pls tell me the origin of the phrase "you've done your dash" (used in Australia frequently), meaning you've ruined your chance or opportunity?


The phrase may have shifted its meaning over the years. Today, it generally means what you say - for example, at "done (one's) dash - to have lost (one's) chance or opportunity." But the earliest example I can find is in a volume of earthy poems, heavy on the Aussie slang: The Songs of a Sentimental Bloke / Dennis, C. J. (Clarence James). The foreword is dated 1st September, 1915. He uses the phrase several times, but the one where the meaning is most clear is:
"I'm crook; me name is Mud; I've done me dash;
Me flamin' spirit's got the flamin' 'ump!". And, helpfully, he gives a sort of glossary, which includes:
"Dash, to do-one's -- To reach one's Waterloo."
So the original meaning seems to give up, or be beaten.
Oddly, that sense still seems to survive in Oz today. If, instead of Googling for "He's done his dash" or "You've done your dash" - where the meaning is that of lost opportunities - you search for "I've done my dash", you get a subtly different meaning - more "I've made all the effort I want to make" or "I've given up trying".
This is now just surmise, but maybe originally "dash" in the sense of strenuous progress rather than speed? "Done his dash" = "Made his effort" ???
So I can't claim to have really pinned the origins of this phrase, but at least I've got it back to around 1915, and touched on it's meaning then. (GC)