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"It's a great life, If you don't weaken." Options
James P
Posted: Friday, April 20, 2012 3:24:07 PM
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My father used to occasionally say "It's a great life, if you don't weaken". Knowing my father, there's a likelyhood that it was meant with a sense of irony. I, however, couldn't help but feel that there was an element of despair about it. Maybe that's why I never asked him about it. Are any of you nice folks familiar with this phrase? Is it a recognizable quotation? If so, perhaps you would know the source?
TFD
Posted: Friday, April 20, 2012 3:30:19 PM

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I had only known this phrase as a song by the Canadian band The Tragically Hip: http://encyclopedia.thefreedictionary.com/In+Violet+Light

I wasn't aware it was a common saying.

The lyrics of the song are very interesting, maybe they will shed some light on the meaning of the idiom: http://www.hipmuseum.com/ivllb.html
Hope1
Posted: Friday, April 20, 2012 3:44:23 PM

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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Buchan,_1st_Baron_Tweedsmuir

Buchan was a Scottish novelist who served as Governor General of Canada.


"The "last Buchan" (as Graham Greene entitled his appreciative review) was the 1941 novel Sick Heart River (American title: Mountain Meadow), in which a dying protagonist confronts the questions of the meaning of life in the Canadian wilderness. The insightful quotation, "It's a great life, if you don't weaken," is famously attributed to Buchan, ...".

Buchan was probably being serious, as the Canadian wilderness is forbidding even now. But it can be a very rewarding life. Your Dad probably meant life can be hard, but it is still worthwhile, maybe even with a 'count your blessings' and/or a 'be strong' nuance.

We did not think of this saying as being morbid or of having a despair nuance. We made up a little song - 'It's a great life if you don't weaken, but who wants to be strong?' (When we were young it may have even been used with a sexual connotation.)

I am sure others may have their own views about this saying.

Nnorlen posted while I was composing.

Every man has a right to his opinion, but no man has a right to be wrong in his facts. Bernard M. Baruch 1870-1965
James P
Posted: Friday, April 20, 2012 4:11:15 PM
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My father was all Irish, fairly well read and loved vocabulary. Dad's career was as a proof reader for our local newspaper, The Minneapolis Star and Tribune. Thus he was exposed to a variety of curious words and phrases, on which he trived. He enjoyed biographies and books about American and Irish history, in particular. He had a quote or a quip to offer, no matter what the occasion. As I recall, this particular one was only heard infrequently and my sense of it is that it was used after some sort of a minor set back or discouragement, but that may simply have been his own interpretation of the phrase.
Geeman
Posted: Friday, April 20, 2012 5:34:00 PM

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It's a pretty loaded sentence.... There's a graphic novel by "Seth" called "It's a Good Life, If You Don't Weaken" that is a semi-autobiographical telling of the author's life in which he explores a lot of the nuances of that phrase or, at least, uses the phrase to summarize a sort of core value or ideology.

Apparently, the cartoonist Gene Byrnes drew the panel "It's a Great Life If You Don't Weaken" for New York Evening Telegram and the phrase was adopted by American soldiers during World War I.
James P
Posted: Friday, April 20, 2012 8:15:27 PM
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It amuses me to think that my Irish Catholic father was quoting the words of a Unionist -- Scotish, or otherwise. I'm sure that, whatever the source, he didn't know it's ultimate origin.
Ray41
Posted: Saturday, April 21, 2012 7:19:24 AM

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James P wrote:
My father used to occasionally say "It's a great life, if you don't weaken". Knowing my father, there's a likelyhood that it was meant with a sense of irony. I, however, couldn't help but feel that there was an element of despair about it. Maybe that's why I never asked him about it. Are any of you nice folks familiar with this phrase? Is it a recognizable quotation? If so, perhaps you would know the source?


Your description as to the application of this saying is exactly as I have used it, and, heard it used.
It is said 'ironically', and usually when you are in a situation of 'pushing s**t uphill'!(that is desperation)Think .
When involved in an onerous and unrewarding action, say, like trying to dig out a hopelessly bogged tractor, someone involved would come out with "it's a great life if you don't weaken". Likewise walking through a drought ravaged crop would also evoke this saying.
As I have been retired for over 10 years and no longer 'bog tractors,etc.' I have not heard this saying, but, I do feel it is more of a rural, outdoor persons expression.
So, it is a recognizable quotation, even here in Oz, and it has been part of my vocabulary for over 50 years.
As there were a lot of Irish immigrants in the Australian countryside in the late 1800's, early 1900's it well may be have been introduced by them as it has that 'Irishness' about it.


While I live I grow.
James P
Posted: Saturday, April 21, 2012 9:23:37 AM
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Thank you all very much for your thoughts on this quote.
Hope1
Posted: Saturday, April 21, 2012 9:51:44 AM

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JamesP,

You are welcome. Hope we helped.

Every man has a right to his opinion, but no man has a right to be wrong in his facts. Bernard M. Baruch 1870-1965
William Darusmont
Posted: Friday, June 1, 2018 9:11:38 AM

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Back in 1972, my first boss was the only one I ever heard use that expression. It stuck with me. As another commenter wrote. he too was well-read and am surprised it isn't found anywhere.
Words to live by!
Romany
Posted: Saturday, June 2, 2018 9:01:17 AM
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My parents, godparents, and all their friends who had gone through The Blitz used to use this phrase, in ironic vein, frequently.

From time to time, in old photos of the period, you'll see it on placards outside bombed out shops and businesses; alongside the ubiquitous "Business as usual" as people perched in the rubble and 'carried on'.

But for my father and his RAF mates it had a more "whistling in the dark" connotation in the dark days when the lives of flying crews were measured in weeks - not even months.

So while it may have started in the Canadian wilderness, it came to be symbolic to Brits for an entirely different reason.

The Canadians of course - as well as the Poles - swarmed over right from the start of the war to help fly our skies; so it was probably they who introduced it, and saw it turned into a war-time slogan which stayed with that generation?
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