From "To Kill a Mockingbird", do you know the origin of the expression "when the chips are down" ? (It is used on page 120.) Thank youI understand the meaning of the expression, but I was wondering...

From "To Kill a Mockingbird", do you know the origin of the expression "when the chips are down" ? (It is used on page 120.)

Thank you

I understand the meaning of the expression, but I was wondering about the origin only.

Asked on by laoki

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literaturenerd's profile pic

literaturenerd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

In the origination of the saying "when the chips are down," while the reference to gambling is made, chips are used as a replacement to money, there is a little more to the meaning of the saying.

When one accumulates chips, it is considered that they are winning. Another way to look at the saying is that once one has played their chips, the chips are in a place where they can be lost.

Another way to look at the saying is that once a person begins to lose their chips they are considered "down" from where they began. "The chips are down" refers to the fact that things are not looking very good for the person.

As for the origin of the phrase, historically gambling first began in the 1600's in America. A specific date is not given regarding the initial use of chips.

defectedhiggins's profile pic

defectedhiggins | Student, Grade 11 | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted on

When the chips are down orginated from the poker table. Chips represent the money you are betting. When all bets have been made and chips are down, the hand is over and the players turn up their cards to see who has won. (Late 1800s, Middle English)

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