On a wing and a prayer

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Hello everyone,


I'd like to know if the expression "On a wing and a prayer" sounds correct/idiomatic in the context below. Please take a look.


"I moved there on a wing and a prayer. I didn't have a job or someone to help me. Things were tough in the beginning, until I got my first job."


On a wing and a prayer definition: without preparation, money or help. Without much chance of success due to the poor conditions.


Thank you very much in advance!
 
  • Scholiast

    Senior Member
    Greetings!

    Sorry to contradict Mr Graham here, but this is elegant, not pretentious (in British English), and, though unusual, entirely understandable to anyone this side of the pond, and among moderately educated speakers anywhere.

    You may wish to correct your specimen sentence, though:

    "...I didn't have anyone..."

    or

    "...I had no-one..."
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    Greetings!

    Sorry to contradict Mr Graham here, but this is elegant, not pretentious (in British English), and, though unusual, entirely understandable to anyone this side of the pond, and among moderately educated speakers anywhere.
    There is no problem with understanding it in American English. Perhaps it sounds elegant to you because it is not a cliché in British English. It is in American English. There are a few songs and a movie with this title. Business presentations have been overrun with this expression. It has seen better days in AE.
     
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    GreenWhiteBlue

    Senior Member
    USA - English
    Sorry to contradict Mr Graham here, but this is elegant, not pretentious (in British English),
    References to a 1943 American popular song by Harold Adamson and Jimmie McHugh about a damaged World War 2 fighter plane are considered "elegant" in British English?

    I never would have guessed. For my part, I would agree with Sdgraham: as the phrase inevitably brings to mind the song from the 1940s, it can seem as dated as a reference to bluebirds over the white cliffs of Dover.
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    "A wing and a prayer" is a little dated (BE) but still in common use. I'm not sure where your definition originated but I see it more as managing to get to a safe destination with the uncontrollable odds against you during the journey (figurative or not.)

    In your case, the move was quite safe but the destination was the thing that could cause problems outside your control, so I'm not sure it fits (unless of course you drove there in a car that was falling apart...:D )
     

    Scholiast

    Senior Member
    Greetings!

    Dated - indeed very specifically dated - the phrase may be: but such catchy epigrams, once conceived and expressed, have a knack of worming themselves into the argot of popular discourse, which endures long after the original context has been forgotten.

    Adamson & McHugh have written themselves into English literary and linguistic history with this splendid phrase.
     

    pob14

    Senior Member
    American English
    For my part, I would agree with Sdgraham: as the phrase inevitably brings to mind the song from the 1940s, it can seem as dated as a reference to bluebirds over the white cliffs of Dover.
    For me, it inevitably brings to mind the theme song from the 1980s TV show The Greatest American Hero. :D Regardless, it is certainly understandable, but definitely a cliche over here.
     

    ewie

    Senior Member
    English English
    References to a 1943 American popular song by Harold Adamson and Jimmie McHugh about a damaged World War 2 fighter plane are considered "elegant" in British English?
    Greetings!

    I've just been listening to Anne Shelton singing the song on (erm) an internet site ... for the first time in my life.
    Okay, it may be a bit of a cliché in BE, but I think it's a pretty one:)
     

    George French

    Senior Member
    English - UK
    In your case, the move was quite safe but the destination was the thing that could cause problems outside your control, so I'm not sure it fits (unless of course you drove there in a car that was falling apart...:D )
    My first car was one of those... I didn't prang it though. I have not used the expression for a long time: the cars that I have had since then have been much better... :)

    GF..

    No real need...
     

    Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    Greetings!

    I've just been listening to Anne Shelton singing the song on (erm) an internet site ... for the first time in my life.
    Okay, it may be a bit of a cliché in BE, but I think it's a pretty one:)
    All cliches start their lives as a very, very catchy way of phrasing things. Old, out-of-use cliches and be brought back and recycled with a fresh charm.

    I suppose "green sleeves" meaning that the couple were joined as lovers, quickly became a cliche. But it sounds fresh to me today.

    On a wing and a prayer is still to current to be resurrected in my opinion. It needs to ferment for another 25 years or so to be brought back to life.
     

    sendintheclowns

    Senior Member
    Norwegian
    Hello everyone,


    I'd like to know if the expression "On a wing and a prayer" sounds correct/idiomatic in the context below. Please take a look.


    "I moved there on a wing and a prayer. I didn't have a job or someone to help me. Things were tough in the beginning, until I got my first job."


    On a wing and a prayer definition: without preparation, money or help. Without much chance of success due to the poor conditions.


    Thank you very much in advance!
    "On a wing and a prayer" means that you barely made it, it doesn't necessarily have to do with lack of preparation or help. You can be well prepared and well assisted and still barely make it (presumably because the Germans are trying to shoot you down! :D) I actually love the expression and I love the song, especially in the version by Ry Cooder on "Boomer's story". But I digress. I think you can say that you got there or that you made it there on a wing and a prayer, but it sounds strange to say that you moved there on a wing and a prayer. Maybe you moved there on a whim.
     

    Parla

    Member Emeritus
    English - US
    References to a 1943 American popular song by Harold Adamson and Jimmie McHugh about a damaged World War 2 fighter plane are considered "elegant" in British English?
    I share your surprise, GWB. Just a small footnote: It was a bomber, returning from a night run. The lyric was centered chiefly on its radio message. The aircraft was literally "Comin' In On a Wing and a Prayer" with "one motor gone", having "really hit our target."
     

    se16teddy

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I agree with sendinthe clouds, and I don't really agree with the definition that Xavier provided. To do something on a wing and a prayer means to do it successfully despite the high risk of disaster, particularly disaster resulting from mechanical failure.

    I moved there on a wing on a prayer
    means something like I moved there despite the high risk of my vehicle crashing and killing me or something similar.
     
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