"(one's) to lose"

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Sun Oct 2 16:33:42 UTC 2011

But the Louis XV's "crown" is both actual and metaphorical: his reign even
more than the thing on his head. Moreover, the entire context admits of the
suggestion that if he were to lose it, it would be his own damned fault:


(The awesome quip that immediately follows is also worth noting:

"Terray was dismissed on the same day. Everywhere it was said : 'It is the
Bartholomew of Ministers,' and the Spanish ambassador is reported to
have answered
'Yes, but it is not the Massacre of the Innocents.'")

My SWAG is that the Dickinson-Stryienski quote spent decades as the property
of professors of French history, quoted occasionally in person but seemingly
not in print (though I haven't checked JSTOR, for example).  Cacoyannis may
or may not have been inspired by it.

Of course, the current use may be completely independent of these citations.


On Sun, Oct 2, 2011 at 11:30 AM, Victor Steinbok <aardvark66 at gmail.com>wrote:

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> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Victor Steinbok <aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM>
> Subject:      Re: "(one's) to lose"
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> For my money, this one is different from the rest because the meaning is
> literal. All other examples--including the 90's+ horse-races, the
> possession is virtual and not literal. Basically, the subtext of "It's
> Obama's race to lose" is "unless he makes a mistake". Similarly, in
> Cacoyannis's text (also a translation), the world is only a virtual
> possession, not actual.  But the meaning in the Stryienski passage is
> "he can do as he pleases" because the possession is /actual/.
> Look at it in another way. In this case, only the king can lose the
> crown--although he can lose it by someone else's act, not merely his
> own. In the racing metaphor, there is /always/ a loser, no matter who
> the favorite is--whoever wins, favorite or not, everyone else, in that
> context, loses, even though the losers never had possession of the win,
> except for the virtual one by the prohibitive favorite.
> This is also why Clytemnestra's line works so well--Agamemnon may have
> virtual possession of the world outside the home, but she has the
> /actual/ run (possession) of the house. You can't make it work in the
> 1916 case.
> VS-)
> On 10/2/2011 10:57 AM, Jonathan Lighter wrote:
> > The still earlier passage may, however, be the effective origin. It
> appears
> > in H. N. Dickinson's translation of  _The National History of France: The
> > Eighteenth Century," by Casimir Stryienski (N.Y.: Putnam, 1916), p. 218:
> >
> > "Maupeou was exiled on August 24, 1744. The Chancellor said when he left
> : '
> > *The King wishes to lose his crown*. Well, it is his to lose.'"
> >
> > Another seemingly obvious locution, but once essentially nonexistent.
> >
> > JL
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