gagner haut la main - to win hands down

Discussion in 'Etymology, History of languages, and Linguistics (EHL)' started by I-Robin-I, Oct 27, 2006.

  1. I-Robin-I

    I-Robin-I Senior Member

    St Andrews
    Scotland - English
    Moderator note: As this discussion is about the etymology of two expressions that sound similar rather than their meaning, this thread has been moved to the EHL Forum

    I was wondering if these two expressions, which mean the same thing as far as I know, also share the same origin. Where exactly do the two expressions originate? That is to say, what do hands have to do with winning?
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 30, 2013
  2. walkyrie Senior Member

    né et vit en France
    For the English one, I found this :

    "The hands-down origin of the word, however, is from horse racing. A hands-down victory is one that is so assured that a jockey can drop his hands and relax his grip on the reins as he approaches the line.
    The phrase is first found in the late nineteenth century. The two earliest examples are literal references to horse races, which makes pretty clear the notion that this is the origin."
  3. I-Robin-I

    I-Robin-I Senior Member

    St Andrews
    Scotland - English
    That is very interesting, thank you. Now does anybody know the origin of the French phrase 'gagner haut la main'?
  4. tellect Senior Member

    Une explication est donnée ici :
    "Lorsque l'on dit de quelqu'un qu'il a gagné haut la main, c'est qu'il a gagné en surmontant les difficultés. L'expression vient des courses de chevaux : un cavalier maîtrisant sa monture tient la bride (un harnais entourant la tête du cheval) haute ce qui permet de tenir fermement le mors (pièce en métal que l'on met dans la bouche du cheval)."

  5. CapnPrep Senior Member

    In principle, hands down and haut la main mean different things and are not translations of one another. In combination with the verb win/gagner, the idea in both cases is that the victory is easy, but for different reasons:
    • win hands down: to win while leaving one's opponents far behind
    • gagner haut la main: to win through great skill in overcoming obstacles
    Of course, you can do both at the same time.

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