stand a chance

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stand a chance

Post by William Barclay » Thu Jun 02, 2005 2:28 am

I heard a newscaster use this expression this morning (“they wouldn’t stand a chance”) and realised that it was a rather odd expression, difficult to decipher literally. Does anyone have any ideas of its origin?

PS. I did run a search and found nothing.
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stand a chance

Post by Ken Greenwald » Fri Jun 03, 2005 6:06 am

Bill, It never ceases to amaze me how we can go all our lives using a common expression, not understanding exactly why it means what it does. But don’t get your hopes up because after researching this one, I still don’t know! (<:)

STAND A CHANCE is an idiom that has been around since the early 18th century in one form or another – STAND A GOOD / FAIR / POOR / SMALL / LITTLE / NO CHANCE. To STAND A CHANCE means to have a real possibility or hope of winning or succeeding. <“He believed that he really stood a chance of winning the jackpot”>.

The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms states that this idiom was first recorded in 1796, but didn’t provide the quote. After locating the 1796 quote in the OED, I would say that the expression in one form or another was actually around some 70 years before that (see 1725 and 1736 quotes). The other point I would make is that the STAND THEIR CHANCE of the 1796-7 quote isn't really the same expression and has a different meaning than the expression under discussion (see above). The OED defines this form as meaning: “to take one's chance, submit to what may befall one.” However, the two earlier quotes ARE listed under the standard meaning. So I would say that The American Heritage Dictionary gave us a bum steer on this one, and in the following list of quotes from the OED and other sources, the 1796-7 quote is the only one with the oddball meaning.
<1725. “s.v. ‘Lay,’ He stands a queer Lay; He STANDS AN ODD CHANCE, or is in great Danger.”—‘New Canting Dictionary’>

<1736 “The Duke STOOD A VERY TICKLISH CHANCE.”— The life of John, Duke of Marlborough’ by T. Lediard, I. Page 319>

<1796-7 “Mrs. Long and her nieces must STAND THEIR CHANCE.”—‘Pride and Prejudice’ by Jane Austen, ii>

<1803 “They STOOD A FAIR CHANCE of going to hell.”—‘Pic Nic’ (1806), No. 13, II. page 211>

<1830 “ . . . and if they [[wild swans and geese]] were not endued [sic] with extraordinary vigilance and sagacity, their race would STAND A CHANCE of becoming extinct.”—‘Transactions of the American Philosophical Society,’ ‘Some Observations on the Moulting of Birds’ by G.Ord, New Series, Vol. 3, page 294>

<1845 “Under such circumstances an obnoxious criminal STOOD . . . SMALL CHANCE of justice.”—‘Essays’ (1889) by M. Pattison, I. 18>

<1848 "He would have STOOD A FAIR CHANCE for a prize.”—‘Journal of the Royal Agricultural Society,’ IX. II. page 281>

<1861 “Grey will STAND NO CHANCE.”—‘Temple Bar,’ II, page 539>
Of the 104 different OED headings under the headword STAND, some with as many as 22 subheadings, the one which seems to apply best to the STAND in STAND A CHANCE is one which first appeared in print in 1589 with the now obsolete meaning: “To have opportunity (to do something). Said of persons and things” So that TO STAND A CHANCE would mean to have the opportunity for a chance for success. Of course this only addresses which meaning of STAND the expression is using, but not how it came to have this particular meaning.
<1612 “Orations . . . wherein Schollers STAND TO shew most art.”—‘Ludus Literarius or the Grammar Schoole’ (1627) by Brinsley, x. page 158>
(American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms, Oxford English Dictionary, Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase & Fable)
__________________

Ken G – June 2, 2005
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stand a chance

Post by Erik_Kowal » Fri Jun 03, 2005 6:40 am

Actually, that 1589 sense survives in a number of other expressions that are still in common currency, such as 'stand to gain', 'stand to acquire', 'stand to learn [something]', 'stand to win [something]' and 'stand to benefit', including some in the passive voice: "That hedge/Your hair/The president's 2005 budget could stand to be trimmed more than a little".

The 'stand to...' construction can also be used to create novel phrases from non-standard elements:

"At this rate, your bank account stands to inflate by 20% over the coming year";

"Deirdre entertained the delusion that her reputation among her schoolmates stood to burgeon inordinately if only she were to link the dismally dreary blog of her daily life, with its repetitive recitations of inedible organic breakfasts, disparaged nearly-boyfriends and unsettlingly irregular menstruations, to the luridly agitating websites of Paris Hilton and Anna Nicole Smith, whom the boys in her class never tired of comparing with their own disappointing same-age consorts. Those unwitting unfortunates oscillated into the boys' favour and out of it again at a rate that caused their parents to grow dizzy and bewildered with the exhaustion that comes from enforced small-talking with fourteen-year-old girls who are fluent only in MTV. Meanwhile, in the unstable rolling boil of Deirdre's imagination, the BCC'ed email that contained the link to her blog, and thence to the cachet that Anna and Paris alone could confer on it, would spark in the lads an appreciation of her mystique that no slosh of Poison down her asymmetrical cleavage had thus far inflamed".

In sum, the reports of this expression's obsoleteness have been greatly exaggerated.
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stand a chance

Post by Bobinwales » Fri Jun 03, 2005 7:42 am

Do you think it could have come from duelling parlance? "I stand to regain my good name".
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Signature: All those years gone to waist!
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stand a chance

Post by Ken Greenwald » Fri Jun 03, 2005 5:23 pm

Erik, It looks to me as though you’re right. I’m not sure why the OED listed that particular usage as obsolete.

The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms, for example has:

STAND verb intransitive: To be in a position of possible gain or loss: “She stands to make a fortune.”
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Merriam-Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary

STAND: 6 b) to be in a position to gain or lose because of an action taken or commitment made <“stands to realize a handsome profit on his investment”>
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Random House Unabridged Dictionary

STAND: 16) (of persons or things) to be or remain in a specified state, condition, relation, relative position, etc.: “He stood in jeopardy of losing his license.” 17) to have the possibility or likelihood: “He stands to gain a sizable profit through the sale of the house.”
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After once again sifting through the OED’s hundreds of possibilities for the verb STAND, I did find the following, which is said to refer to betting and commercial speculation, etc. and which does not exactly fit all the examples you provided (stand to gain/acquire/learn/win/benefit, etc), but which gets closer to the above dictionary definitions.

STAND: 16 d) In betting, commercial speculation, etc.: To be in the position of being reasonably certain ‘to’ (win or lose something or a specified amount); to have ‘to’ (win or lose a certain amount in a specified contingency).
<1861 “He STANDS TO LOSE twenty thousand.”—‘Temple Bar,’ II, page 150>

<1871 “So hedging your bets . . . that you STAND TO WIN sufficient gloves to last you the whole season.”—‘Punch,’ 19 August, page 67/1>

<1880 “She stood to lose all round.”—The Rebel of the Family’ by Mrs. E Lynn Linton, i>

<1891 “He STANDS TO WIN either way.”—“Chamber’s Journal,” 27 June, page 404/1>

<1892 Ibid. 8 Oct. 648/1 If a man were reckless, . . . he STOOD TO dismast his ship and hopelessly ruin his chances of a smart passage.”—“Chamber’s Journal,” 8 October, page 648/1>
Ken G – June 3, 2005
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stand a chance

Post by Shelley » Fri Jun 03, 2005 11:18 pm

Does the usage of "stand" as in "I'll stand you to a pint" fit in here? (Did I make this up?) I figured "stand a chance" had to do with affording, or parting with, the price of a raffle ticket and if you didn't stand a chance it meant you weren't even getting in the game. I'll admit it's pretty narrow . . .
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stand a chance

Post by Edwin Ashworth » Sat Jun 04, 2005 9:22 am

"Stand a round" is still fairly common over here, Shelley - in spite of the price of ale.
Where does your friend bank, please, Erik?
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stand a chance

Post by Bobinwales » Sat Jun 04, 2005 10:11 am

If Erik does tell us where his friend banks, I will be delighted to stand a round next year, as opposed to having to stand around next here.
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stand a chance

Post by Erik_Kowal » Sat Jun 04, 2005 11:58 am

As they might put it in Russia, "My friend Banks not standing around here".
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stand a chance

Post by Edwin Ashworth » Tue Jun 07, 2005 11:04 pm

The way some hedge funds are performing, people are banking up the wrong tree.
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