"a Hail Mary of a chance"

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Fri Nov 11 15:21:43 UTC 2011

On Nov 11, 2011, at 12:31 AM, Garson O'Toole wrote:

> Laurence Horn wrote
>> "I said they had to get somewhere around here in order to have a Hail Mary of a chance.  They've got it at midfield."
>> --announcer on NFL Network describing San Diego Chargers' desperate attempt to get in position to win the game (presumably by hurling a "Hail Mary" pass, discussed in earlier threads on the list)
>> I know Arnold has written up many posts on the "X ADJ of a N" construction (e.g. "How incompetent of a politician"), but are there any examples in the archive along the lines of "a Hail Mary of a chance", meaning something like "a chance for a Hail Mary"?
> Perhaps the phrase "a Hail Mary of a chance" may also by connected to
> "a prayer of a chance" since a Hail Mary is a prayer in addition to
> being a type of football pass in more recent days.

I thought of that, and also "a miracle of an X", which is amply exemplified on Google.  But I'm sure the announcer in the context really intended "a chance for a Hail Mary (pass)", or maybe "a prayer of a chance for a Hail Mary", a paraphrase which is not available for the other cases.  The wonderful Berryman example isn't about a hope for a ghost of a chance to reach the goal of a Chinese prayer. The goal is the drying out and shaping up via the rehab program, while the Chargers' goal was in fact getting in position to make a (successful) Hail Mary.  But maybe, a la Jerry C., the football case was a blend of "a chance for a Hail Mary" and something like "a prayer of a chance".  Or maybe he really did mean that they were trying to get within a Hail Mary chance of winning the game.  I grant that it's hard to be sure.


> Here is a humorous elaboration of the phrase (unverifed data from Google Books).
> Recovery: a novel; Delusions, etc. of John Berryman : poems
> John Berryman - 1974 - 323 pages - Snippet view
> You've got to get your mind off your parents and work on a Programme
> that will give you, after five treatments isn't it, here and in
> Illinois and Minnesota, a ghost of a Chinese prayer of a chance to
> stay dry long enough to be of some real help to your miserable
> parents.
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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

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