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raymondaliasapollyon
Posted: Friday, October 30, 2020 4:22:37 AM
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Hi,

What does the "to" in the idiom "be on a hiding to nothing" mean? I'd like to know whether it is found in other expressions.
And what does the "on" mean?

I'd appreciate your help.
Romany
Posted: Friday, October 30, 2020 6:19:31 AM
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I'm afraid you have found an idiom that doesn't exist.

That collection of words together don't make sense. To be on "a hiding" is gobbledygook. And "a hiding to nothing" makes it even more indecipherable.


The only thing I can possibly think of, is that you may have heard someone use "a highway to nowhere", which is self-explanatory, and then misremembered what you had heard?

Sarrriesfan
Posted: Friday, October 30, 2020 6:52:25 AM

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Sorry Romany to disagree with you again this week, but it’s a phrase that is used by some people.

https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/be-on-a-hiding-to-nothing
Quote:
to be trying to do something when there is no chance that you will succeed


https://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/on-a-hiding-to-nothing
Quote:
If you say that someone who is trying to achieve something is on a hiding to nothing, you are emphasizing that they have absolutely no chance of being successful.
[British, informal, emphasis]


To here acts like “to” in I am going to town or I am going to London, it indicates the destination.

In this case to nothing, if it was grammatical I guess it should be nowhere, but it’s a idiom and they don’t always make sense. Romany you are right in that sense it is gobbledegook I have always been puzzled by why it means what it means.
Romany
Posted: Friday, October 30, 2020 8:06:11 AM
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Jeez, mate, don't be "sorry"; I come here as much to learn as to help if I can. And it's not much help to anyone if I steer them in the wrong direction!!

Well, what can I say? I'm amazed that I live in the same world as this phrase...but have never in my life come across it.

From the explanation I see that it's a sporting-phrase - perhaps that's why I'm ignorant of it.Anxious

So thanks Sarries, for educating me, and thanks to Raymond for bringing it to my attention.

(I still think it's a ridiculous phrase which I can't see myself ever using. But sometimes one's characters use expressions one would never use oneself!Dancing )
FounDit
Posted: Friday, October 30, 2020 11:51:36 AM

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I've never heard it used in AmE, and it made no sense when I first read it. Your explanation on "to nothing" was clear, Sarrriesfan, but do you have any ideas about the "on a hiding" part? I dont' see how that relates to doing something.

I'm familiar with "a hide" in the sense of being camouflaged, or having a place to hide, but on this one, I draw a blank.
Sarrriesfan
Posted: Friday, October 30, 2020 12:55:08 PM

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FounDit wrote:
I've never heard it used in AmE, and it made no sense when I first read it. Your explanation on "to nothing" was clear, Sarrriesfan, but do you have any ideas about the "on a hiding" part? I dont' see how that relates to doing something.

I'm familiar with "a hide" in the sense of being camouflaged, or having a place to hide, but on this one, I draw a blank.


I am unsure FounDit, there is also hiding “meaning to beat someone repeatedly”, the headmaster picked up his cane and have the naughty schoolboy a good hiding.
I wonder if it can be related to that the amount that you will be beaten by will ensure your are unable to make any progress?
But I am not convinced myself.
Romany
Posted: Friday, October 30, 2020 1:54:20 PM
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In the explanation I looked up it said that it was a reference to getting a hiding - as it's used in sport i.e. Man. United gave Fullham a hiding.

So I interpreted it as meaning: "The way you're going, you're on the road(highway) to a hiding. Even if you don't get a hiding, you won't be getting anything else(nothing: you won't break any records, get a win, or make the Semi-finals.)

So your chances range from a hiding to (achieving) nothing: in other, more familiar words "You've got Buckleys." ("Buckley's" = no chance).
FounDit
Posted: Friday, October 30, 2020 4:31:11 PM

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Hmm..., well I am familiar with a hiding in the sense of a beating, and the reference to sport seems to be related to that. In AmE we have the expression "tan your hide" to mean a beating, often with a belt, or cane, or switch cut from a tree.

But this idiom is oddly worded to me, and I can't get a grasp on this use of hiding. Somehow I can't see how a hiding to nothing refers to a beating, defeat, or failure.

Unless, and this just occurred to me, it means being beaten until there is nothing left. Similar to being beaten to death, or beaten into the dirt.
Drag0nspeaker
Posted: Friday, October 30, 2020 7:32:13 PM

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I always assumed this was a boxing term - the poor fighter had the odds against him.
He'd get a hiding (be beaten thoroughly) or . . . nothing.

The odds of winning were 100:zero. Not even 100 to one, but "a hiding" to nothing.

EDITED to add:
Not boxing, but horse=racing, it seems.

Quote:
"To be faced with a situation which is pointless, as a successful outcome is impossible. This is usually expressed in terms of a sporting contest in which one of two outcomes is foreseen, either a hiding or nothing. The 'to' in the phrase indicates alternative outcomes, as in terms like '6 to 1' or 'dollars to doughnuts'.
"The phrase is known from the early 20th century and originated as horse racing parlance. The earliest record that I can find is from Arthur Binstead's novel Mop Fair, 1905, or, to give it its glorious technicolor name, Mop Fair. Some Elegant Extracts from the Private Correspondence of Lady Viola Drumcree, the Fatherless Daughter of Feodorovna, Countess of Chertsey."
Phrase Finder.

Quote:
"the odds looked like a hiding to nothing . . ."
The Atlantic Monthly‎, Making of America Project, 1931

This is from Wiki with no source - "From horse racing, hiding (“beating”); to (“as used to express gambling odds”), e.g., 6 to 1. Literally, the phrase can be described as to bet on a contest whose outcome is at worst a beating, or at best nothing."
Romany
Posted: Friday, October 30, 2020 8:10:25 PM
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Ahh - if it's racing that makes perfect sense, - at last.

When people are having an argument in horsey circles, someone will always call "Six to Four the field." We used it to mean a barney.(quarrel, argument)e.g. "The Forresters are at it 6 to 4 the field." "Oh I don't go to Kennel Club meetings any more. They spend most of every meetings 6 to 4 the field."

Makes as much sense as "on a hiding to nothing" Drool
Drag0nspeaker
Posted: Friday, October 30, 2020 11:55:16 PM

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Hmmm Think We (when I was young) used "at sixes and sevens" to mean "in disagreement".
Apparently, it's been an idiom since Early Middle English.

I guess "six to four the field" is the horse-racing version.
Romany
Posted: Saturday, October 31, 2020 10:59:47 AM
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Yeah, well horsey/doggy people are all a bit peculiar. My mother used to refer to my ankles as my "fetlocks", fgs!!
Drag0nspeaker
Posted: Tuesday, November 3, 2020 6:52:51 AM

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Romany wrote:
Yeah, well horsey/doggy people are all a bit peculiar. My mother used to refer to my ankles as my "fetlocks", fgs!!


Wow! Check out those legs!

Romany
Posted: Tuesday, November 3, 2020 7:05:07 AM
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Yeah - what a sexy filly I am, huh?

I also grew up possessing 'loins' which were, according to my mother and grandmother,always in imminent danger of catching a chill.

Still have never really worked out where these loins were situated - tho' I have come across other poor folk who battled continually with chilly-loin syndrome until they left home.
Drag0nspeaker
Posted: Tuesday, November 3, 2020 7:47:39 AM

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Got to keep those loins girt!
Hope123
Posted: Tuesday, November 3, 2020 8:10:39 AM

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I learn something new every day. Never heard of either of the expressions mentioned here.


We had barbecued tenderloin for supper last night. Yum.


https://tonysmarket.com/understanding-beef-loin_22/
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