"Nothing to lose"

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Sun Sep 30 20:40:48 UTC 2007

Benjamin Barrett wrote:

"... [T]here was _nothing to lose_."

The usual way of expressing this concept in Saint Louis BE is:

"Nothing beats a try but a failure."

For some reason, this has always messed with my mind, since the
"obvious" interpretation is that "a failure beats a try," a statement
whose truth is undeniable. Yet, the saying is always used and
understood as though it meant, "There's nothing to lose." And, when
you think about it, it *does* mean that! If you don't try, the only
possible outcome is failure, whereas, if you try, you may succeed or
you may fail. But, if you fail, it matters not (oddly, using "it
doesn't matter" was most unhip in the Saint Louis of my youth),
because, in any case, _there was nothing to lose_.

All say, "How hard it is that we have to die"---a strange complaint to
come from the mouths of people who have had to live.
                                              -Sam'l Clemens

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

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