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A run for your money

Posted by Smokey Stover on April 26, 2010 at 22:38

In Reply to: A run for your money posted by Victoria S Dennis on April 26, 2010 at 22:02:

: : What about "give them a run for their money" I'm guessing its from horse racing. Any thoughts?

: My guess would be hunting. (That's "hunting" in the British sense of chasing animals with hounds, not shooting them with guns.) A "run" in hunting is a continuous spell of riding after hounds, and it's really what people go hunting for. Hunting is an expensive business - you need a good horse, the right clothes, etc. etc. Historically, in some parts of the country that weren't well stocked with animals to hunt you might even have to buy your quarry - a "bagged" fox or a "carted" stag. However, dedicated hunt followers reckoned that all this cost was worth it if you got "a good run for your money". (VSD)
The Oxford English Dictionary suggests that the origin was in horse racing, which, like English hunting, can be a costly sport. But almost from the start the phrase could be used in a figurative or extended sense, to mean any sort of challenge, with or without any money being spent. Indeed, the first use cited by the OED gives the phrase in its figurative use.

"1874 Slang Dict. 274 To have a run for one's money is also to have a good determined struggle for anything."

George Bernard Shaw thought he might have given Shakespeare a run for his money if he (Shaw) had been born 300 years earlier.