Life's not all beer and skittles
What's the meaning of the phrase 'Life's not all beer and skittles'?
'Beer and skittles' is shorthand for a life of indulgence spent in the pub.
What's the origin of the phrase 'Life's not all beer and skittles'?
Skittles, also known as Ninepins, which was the pre-cursor to ten-pin bowling, has been a popular English pub game since the 17th century. The pins are set up in a square pattern and players attempt to knock them down with a ball. It is still played but not so much as previously.
The game was referred to in Footman's History of the Parish Church of Chipping Lambourn, 1894, which reprints a piece from 1634:
"William Gyde... for playing at skittolles on Sunday."
Citations of beer and skittles and variants appear in literature from the 19th century; for example, Dickens' Pickwick Papers, 1837:
"It's a reg'lar holiday to them - all porter and skittles."
Thomas Hughes' Tom Brown's Schooldays, 1857:
"Life isn't all beer and skittles."
See also: the List of Proverbs.