"dice with death"

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Thu Feb 21 00:52:49 UTC 2013

Intriguing phrase, Jon. Here is a dream sequence in 1791 where a
character is "throwing dice with death". The OED definition is based
on a metaphor. But, in this citation, within the context of the dream,
the actions are non-metaphorical.  Perhaps you saw this cite and
omitted it.

Year: 1791
Title: The devil upon two sticks in England: being a continuation of
Le diable boiteux of Le Sage
Volume: 6
Authors: William Combe, Alain René Le Sage
Publisher: Printed at the Logographic Press, and sold by J. Walter, London


[Begin excerpt]
Having been so unlucky as to get rid of the allotted quota at an early
part of the night, he is now in bed at a very unusual hour, where he
dreams that he has been throwing dice with death, on a tomb-stone, for
his life; and that the scare-crow having won the cast is about to
consign him to an adjoining charnel house.
[End excerpt]


On Wed, Feb 20, 2013 at 7:10 PM, Jonathan Lighter
<wuxxmupp2000 at gmail.com> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Jonathan Lighter <wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM>
> Subject:      "dice with death"
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> "To risk life, esp. daringly or foolishly."
> OED: 1941.
> [1834 E. G. E. Bulwer Lytton _Last Days of Pompeii_ (Paris: Baudry) 348: "He
> who plays at *dice with death* must expect the dog's throw," replied Sosia,
> maliciously.]
> [1847 _Literary Record and Journal of the Linnean Association of
> Pennsylvania College_ (Aug.) 225: The spectral woman who diced with death
> for the souls of the crew and won the ancient mariner.]
> [1873 _First Annual Report of the Secretary of the State Board of Health of
> the State of Michigan_ (Lansing: W. S. George, 1874) 54: It is time that
> our laws should be enforced, and that these parties who throw *dice with
> death* for a few pennies' profit should be made to feel that human life is
> too precious to be thus sold for gain.]
> 1875 Sebastian Evans _In the Studio_  (London: Macmillan) 170: Sir
> Lancelot...of old hath diced with Death, and won/ The life he freely staked
> on his emprize.
> [1893 W. H. H. Murray _Adirondack Tales_ III (Springfield, Mass.: pvtly.
> ptd.) 234: Son of [the] bravest man that ever trod a deck or chanced the
> dice with death that he might westward find a path for the commerce of the
> world.]
> [1898 Herbert Spencer _The Principles of Ethics_ II (N.Y.: D. Appleton)
> 369: When throwing dice with Death, the question whether Death's dice are
> loaded may fitly be asked.]
> 1907 Alfred Noyes, in _Blackwood's Mag._ (July) 143: Drake laughed: - "My
> lads, we have diced/ With Death to-day and won!"
> [1910 H. C. George, in _Collier's Weekly_ (Jan. 15) 15: "Shaking the dice
> with death" is a phrase brought to us by the "barn-stormers" who took
> charge of auto-racing a few years ago.]
> 1916 J. H. Knight-Adkin, in _The Spectator_ (London) (Apr. 8) 466: Boche or
> British, Belgian or French, /You dice with death when you cross the trench.
> JL
> --
> "If the truth is half as bad as I think it is, you can't handle the truth."
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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

More information about the Ads-l mailing list