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On a hiding to nothing: a thought

Posted by James Briggs on June 04, 2001

In Reply to: On a hiding to nothing posted by R. Berg on June 04, 2001

: : What on earth is the derivation of this expression. I have searched all the usual sources and can find nothing

: Is that British? I haven't heard it here (U.S.). Eric Partridge, "A Dictionary of Catch Phrases American and British," has an entry for it but doesn't say exactly how it originated:

: "Usu. prec. by 'he's' or 'they're.' Bound to be defeated: (?) since c. 1960, but very much in the vogue early and mid 1970s. 'Common. I suspect mainly political or business. It appeared in a headline in The Sunday Times, 25 Sep. 1977' (Playfair)."

A hiding to nothing is used regularly in the UK to suggest that there is no way to win in a particular situation. I too am intrigued by this combination of words, but I can find no recorded reason why they should be used together in this way. If it were a hiding OR nothing then it would be clearer.