"And there's damn all."

Larry Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Wed Apr 28 19:43:09 UTC 1999

At 1:11 PM -0400 4/28/99, Michael K. Gottlieb wrote:
>On Wed, 28 Apr 1999, Larry Horn wrote:
>> Don't forget its use (also regionally restricted) as an intensifying
>> adverb, analogous to other expletives occurring in this frame:
>>         There's {bugger all/fuck all} I can do about it.   [i.e. 'nothing']
>A propos of "bugger all," is anyone else familiar with "damn all,"
>specifically in the following context:
>  "And there's damn all."  I believe it means, "and that's that," or,
>given Professor Horn's citation, short for "there's damn all i can do
>about it."
>  It still seems like an awkward shortening.  I came across it in
>Schaffer's _Equus_.  Dysart is talking about his marital problems.

Yes, this must be elliptical in the same way as "And there's nothing" would
be in the same context.  (Not quite the same as "that's that" to my ear.)

I just ran a search on "damn all" in Nexis and all the relevant citations
(excluding cases where _damn_ is a verb ("We shouldn't damn all of them
because of faults with some" or whatever), where one sentence ends with
"damn" and the next begins with "All", etc.) use "damn all" in the sense of
"nothing" or quantificational "no".  Here's a sampler, all from British or
Irish papers (I just specified "Majpap" in the search, but no relevant
examples came from this side of the pond), and all replaceable (modulo
considerations of delicacy) by "fuck all" or "bugger all".  I love the
eloquence of the last example below, which comes from the London Times and
is the only one in which "damn all" is equipped with a hyphen:
"The coming generation will have computers in every classroom - damn-all
use if you can't read."

I'm afraid the closest U.S. equivalent is something like "precious little".


    The sparsely populated communities of north Northumberland don't feel
intensely English, since they know London thinks  damn all  of them. Some
even support Scotland at sport, which would be unthinkable in reverse. The
nearby Scottish towns are largely sufficient unto ...

   ... cannot easily remember what it might have attempted in accordance with
these high aims, this is for the very good reason that it has achieved  damn
 all.  Given a splendid home in New York by the US, heavily dependent on
   ... in 1998 was Pounds 72,000. However, this does not include the wages of
the public servants who have been seconded to the unit.

    How useful is it? " Damn all, " said one senior government official. "We
might order up the odd transcript from them and it has saved a bill. But we ...
   ... drifted out of football and back into his grocery business, but he was
invited to manage Sheffield United, whose chairman had admitted: "I know  damn
 all  about this game and the committee know less."

   ... taunted the team for failing to show its hand.

   "I have made full disclosure even of my private papers and you have
 damn all. "
  ... for training racehorses, but its bald plain, with a couple of thousand
sheep morosely gnawing at its pate, provides  damn all  in the way of cover.

   It will be  damn all  consolation to Warren Gatland and his players that
Ireland again succeeded in bridging the great divide between the Celts and the
Big Two ...
    Firstly, it is January when telly and the fireside are attractive options.
Secondly, there is  damn all  else on the other channels. Thirdly, avarice of a
pathetic and hopeless sort is the prime obsession of the British public. And
fourthly, the ...
   ... don't see Trocaire or Jubilee 2000 collecting for Ireland's debt. Oh no,
it's always the stranger, but do  damn all  for our own poor, only pay lip
service to them as usual. Have we to be the Good Samaritan to any and every
   Meanwhile, the coming generation will have computers in every classroom
--damn-all  use if you can't read--and no access to the local library which
will, by then, be shut. This may not cause the end of civilisation as we ...

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