a case ???

Douglas G. Wilson douglas at NB.NET
Sat Mar 15 03:23:53 UTC 2008

George Thompson wrote:
> I don't see a meaning for the word "case" in HDAS or Cassell's that fits this without some heavy wrenching and squeezing.  Here it is used to mean "a loss".
> This is from a novel published in 1836.  (The author was a prominent newspaper editor -- you've met him before.)  The scene is a pawnshop.  A young man enters: he's a regular, coming in to pawn the same gold watch and chain, redeeming it when he's flush.  This time he's in a hurry, says to the pawnbroker, give me the usual for this.  The pawnbroker hands him money, he rushes out.  The pawnbroker looks at the watch, sees that instead of a gold chain, this time the chain is gilded brass, rushes out after him.  He returns, saying:
> "Ah it's no use,: he said, "he's got off clear by this time, and my thirty dollars is a case."
> William Leete Stone, Ups and Downs in the Life of a Distressed Gentleman, 1836, p. 191
An alternative tentative interpretation: maybe "case" does not = "loss",
maybe "case" has its usual meaning ("instance"/"example") and the usage
is elliptical. E.g., "a case" may be short for "a case of easy come,
easy go" or "a case of caveat emptor" or whatever.

-- Doug Wilson

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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