"a Hail Mary of a chance"

Dan Goncharoff thegonch at GMAIL.COM
Fri Nov 11 15:30:52 UTC 2011

The discussion seems to be ignoring the fact that a Hail Mary pass is
itself a pass and a prayer together.

On Fri, Nov 11, 2011 at 10:21 AM, Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at yale.edu>wrote:

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> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU>
> Subject:      Re: "a Hail Mary of a chance"
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> 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.
> LH
> > 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.
> >
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