be put out to pasture on a promise

Discussion in 'English Only' started by EvaH, Sep 4, 2011.

  1. EvaH Senior Member


    In the book Parrot and Olivier in America, which I am translating, I came across the above mentioned phrase. I think it is an idiom. I am afraid I don't understand it quite well. Context: Parrot is observing his mistress Mathilde. Then he approaches her, nuzzles her neck... And then he says:

    "I soon understood I was put out to pasture on a promise, as they say, from a genius of the female sex."

    Does it mean, Mathilde refused to sleep with him?

    Thank you for your answers.
  2. stormwreath Senior Member

    English - England
    I don't know if it's a common idiom, but I'd understand "on a promise" to mean that you're planning to meet someone later on, for a date or whatever, and that person has said (or at least strongly hinted) that they'd be willing to sleep with you. "I'm on a promise tonight", might be something you'd say with a wink to your best friend.

    "Put out to pasture" is a metaphor from what you do to horses which are too old and decrepit, and no longer able to perform their job properly. You retire them by putting them in a pasture to eat grass and laze about until they die.

    So putting the two together, I'd understand your sentence to mean that Mathilde is ending their relationship ('put out to pasture') but trying to do it tactfully by hinting that she might be willing to sleep with him later on, perhaps ('on a promise') - but crucially, not right there and then.
  3. Parla Senior Member

    New York City
    English - US
    I find it quite puzzling. "Put out to pasture" is well known and well understood but is generally used to imply that someone is too old to be useful any longer, not applied to the ending of a romantic relationship. I don't get the "on a promise" part.
  4. EStjarn

    EStjarn Senior Member

    Here's more context:

    I wouldn't go as far as saying 'refused to', but more like she was not in the right mood. I think the meaning is 'Not now. Later.'

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