''On a wing and a prayer'' in everyday American English

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Hello everyone,


I already know the history (origin) of the expression, I know its basic meaning (= do something with very few resources and very little chance of success). I also know that it occurs in both American English and British English. My question: can I, in everyday conversation, use "on a wing and a prayer" and be understood normally in American English?

My example:

"Jane, my wife and I started this business on a wing and a prayer. We didn't have much money and no one to turn to for help. But now, thank God, we are comfortably off.''


Thank you in advance!
 
  • Sparky Malarky

    Moderator
    English - US
    There is nothing wrong with using "a wing and a prayer" in this sentence, but it usually is not used quite this way. I believe, and I'm betting you know this, that original phrase was "coming in on a wing and a prayer." I think the main reason your sentence sounds odd to me is that there is another cliche which is so very common when talking about starting a business with few resources.

    I would expect to hear "Jane, we started this business on a shoestring."
     

    sdgraham

    Senior Member
    USA English
    There is nothing wrong with using "a wing and a prayer" in this sentence, but it usually is not used quite this way. I believe, and I'm betting you know this, that original phrase was "coming in on a wing and a prayer." I think the main reason your sentence sounds odd to me is that there is another cliche which is so very common when talking about starting a business with few resources.

    I would expect to hear "Jane, we started this business on a shoestring."
    :thumbsup: :thumbsup:

    Note that the original cliché referred to damaged warplanes trying to make it back to an airfield. It probably comes from some film or book about wartime aviation.

    Like many such sayings that get picked up by the masses, no aviation-oriented person would use it.

    I suggest you avoid it.
     

    ain'ttranslationfun?

    Senior Member
    US English
    "(Coming in) on a wing and a prayer" means "hoping for the best with what's available and for a bit of luck". "On a shoestring" means "on a very limited budget".
     

    MarcB

    Senior Member
    US English
    Hello everyone,


    I already know the history (origin) of the expression, I know its basic meaning (= do something with very few resources and very little chance of success). I also know that it occurs in both American English and British English. My question: can I, in everyday conversation, use "on a wing and a prayer" and be understood normally in American English?

    My example:

    "Jane, my wife and I started this business on a wing and a prayer. We didn't have much money and no one to turn to for help. But now, thank God, we are comfortably off.''


    Thank you in advance!
    As in a previous post we do not say comfortably off.
    I graduated, got a good job and now I'm comfortably off. And I achieved it all through my own efforts. !
    I graduated, got a good job and now I'm comfortable. (or well off.)
     
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