fat chance

M. Lynne Murphy M_Lynne_Murphy at BAYLOR.EDU
Thu Nov 25 21:57:20 UTC 1999

Barry Popik actually answered my query privately and directed me to the
RHDAS, which confirmed my suspicion that "fat chance" is historically
sarcastic.  "Slim chance" precedes it.

>From: "Alexey I. Fuchs" <c0654038 at TECHST02.TECHNION.AC.IL>
>Subject: Re: fat chance
>Date: Thu, Nov 25, 1999, 1:27 PM

>> Do any of you phrase-chaser-downers know the origin of the phrase "fat
>> chance"?  I'm wondering if the original usage was ironic, since a "fat
>> chance" is really a "slim chance" and since you can only seem to use it
>> as an exclamation on its own--well at least according to my intuition.
>> I wouldn't say "He had a fat chance of getting there."  I tried to do a
>> quick web search for the phrase to see how others use it, but was
>> inundated by diet sites and fat farms.
>> Lynne, who likes antonyms rather too much
>        I would suppose that adding "fat" before chance to indicate that
>the chance is small (whereas "fat" is intuitively associated with "big")
>could be done to show that the chance is especially easy to escape. In
>wrestling, as far as I know, putting fat on one's body is an illegal move
>made to the end of slipping out of the rival's grip. Seems like a very
>narrow usage, but there are idioms in different languages where "fat" is
>related to the idea of escaping or slipping away.
>                                                        Alexey

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