"(one's) to lose"

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Mon Oct 3 00:50:08 UTC 2011

That's not only possible, it's quite probable.

However, most everything in GB that's out of copyright should be viewable
without blank spots. So all the "X's to lose" before the mid '20s should, I
think, appear.

After that, there is the likelihood that many exx. are simply untraceable.

But in the present case, there is an undeniable and amazing upswing in
frequency after 1995. It's hard to believe that a significant number of
earlier exx. were simply blotted out at random.

I haven't searched the newspaper databases.  But it would be quite
surprising to find that the phrase was any more frequent in newspapers
before, say, 1990, than it was in the books and periodicals at GB.

Presumably an exhaustive search would turn up a few more exx., but if there
are only a few the natural conclusion must be that the phrase was
extraordinarily rare.

Try a search, for example, for a related phrase like "run any risk of
losing."  I just did and found 748 exx, going back as far as 1811.


On Sun, Oct 2, 2011 at 8:07 PM, Joel S. Berson <Berson at att.net> wrote:

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       "Joel S. Berson" <Berson at ATT.NET>
> Subject:      Re: "(one's) to lose"
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> At 10/2/2011 03:48 PM, Jonathan Lighter wrote:
> >But whatever the literal meaning of the seemingly straightforward phrase
> "X
> >is Y's to lose," that elementary string of words, which individually are
> in
> >the vocabulary of every three-year-old, seems not to exist in print in the
> >English language before 1916. That means that effectively it had no
> >existence. That situation apparently persisted for about another 80 years.
> Jon, this paragraph led me to wonder -- is there any data on what
> percentage of words written (in print, I mean, including pixels) in
> every decade is accessible to full text search?  Could that be a
> factor in not finding instances of use for several decades after
> first appearance?
> Joel
> ------------------------------------------------------------
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