Query: the expression "hands down"

Douglas G. Wilson douglas at NB.NET
Sat Mar 22 04:30:18 UTC 2008

Sam Clements wrote:
> OED, 1867.
> h. hands down: with ease, with little or no effort; unconditionally,
> submissively; orig. in the racing phr. to win hands down, referring to
> the
> jockey dropping his hands, and so relaxing his hold on the reins, when
> victory appears certain.
> Sam Clements
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Cohen, Gerald Leonard" <gcohen at MST.EDU>
> Sent: Friday, March 21, 2008 9:57 PM
> Subject: Query: the expression "hands down"
>> Today a student asked me the origin of the expression "hands down,"
>> as in
>> "He won hands down," and I didn't have a good answer.  Would anyone
>> perhaps know what the original context might have been?  In what sort
>> of a
>> contest would one literally win "hands down"?
>> Gerald Cohen

One can also win "in a walk" ... or "in a canter" ... or "in a walk,
hands down" ... or "in a canter, hands down": examples of the last:









The inept (IMHO) alternative "lose hands down" is more recent; there is
even the occasional "lose in a canter".

-- Doug Wilson

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

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