Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Wednesday's Random Slang-o-rama: Bet you a million to a bit of dirt

Now here's one that is probably easier to guess at than last week's "I'll give you Jim Smith." --

Bet you a million to a bit of dirt.

Heck, you probably don't need a whole lot of time to ponder such a transparent phrase...
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Time's a-wastin', so here's the definition, courtesy of Passing English of the Victorian Era: A Dictionary of Heterodox English, Slang, and Phrase by J. Redding Ware (1909):

Bet you a million to a bit of dirt (Sporting, 19th cent.). The thing is so sure that there can be no uncertainty. The betting man's Ultima Thule of confidence.

(For those of you, who like me, are thinking Ultima what? I looked it up. Dictionary.com explains ultima Thule is Latin for "the highest degree obtainable." You're welcome!)

If the fellow on the other side of the table says he'll "bet you a million to a bit of dirt," it's time to fold (or maybe he's bluffing...). Image from: Detroit Publishing Company Collection, Photography Collection, Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs, The New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundation



6 comments:

Liz said...

Once again you set me researching due to a vague recollection of an island. Ultimate Thule was first used by a Greek to denote a land beyond the known world. Your definition is more appropriate, but I'm left wondering what book I read about that island.

Ann Parker said...

Hi Liz!
An island! Interesting! I can see where the two definitions/uses might merge. Hmmm. Now *I'm* wondering what book you read that mentioned Ultimate Thule! :-) Be sure to share when you figure it out...

Liz said...

Misspelled or spell check did. Ultima.

Liz said...

Mentioned in epilogue of Mary Stewart's Madam, Will You Talk? Sure to have looked up. But another dystopian novel? Not my typical reading. More thinking.

Ann Parker said...

Serendipity, Liz! I read Madam, Will You Talk? for a book club just last year... I shall have to look that up!

Liz said...

Also Edgar Allan Poe's Dream Land.