rat hole vs. rabbit hole

fenixpollo

moderator
American English
If our discussion gets distracted and goes off on a complex, polemic or unrelated tangent, then people in my company say that we go down a rat hole.

Let's just stick to the matter at hand. The budget is a separate issue, and we don't want to go down that rat hole right now.

If I'm not mistaken, it was Alice who fell down a rabbit hole -- which is the correct expression they should be using.

To me, a rathole is slang for an anus, where a prisoner or a drug smuggler would hide contraband. It's often a verb.

The smuggler ratholed the heroin so that the police wouldn't find it.

I suppose that if my business colleagues meant "rathole" in this way, it would truly be something to be avoided; although it would be something that we wouldn't want to go up. :D

My questions are these: Can anyone corroborate or correct my understanding? and Do you hear the same confusion where you live/work?

Thanks!
 
  • cuchuflete

    Senior Member
    EEUU-inglés
    In this neck of the woods, neither expression is common. We have lots of fox holes, but these don't find their way into figurative language. We do go off on goose chases, but I've never met a goose, figurative or other, that burrows.

    Far northeastern US, going down another deer trail.


    The following may be a reference to wasting money...throwing money down a rathole:

    That doesn't mean Lucasfilm is diving into online distribution, though. "Having had a lot of experience in this area, we're not rushing in," he said. "We're trying to find out exactly where the monetization is coming from. We're not interested in jumping down a rat hole until such time as it finally figures itself out."
    www.rubberductions.com/blog/62+%22rathole%22&hl=en&gl=us&ct=clnk&cd=20

    That's a humdinger of a mixed metaphor. The syntax scramble implies that rat holes can figure themselves out! Gloourp!
     

    dylanG3893

    Senior Member
    CA
    United States
    Your phrase "rathole" does not at all mean anus. It means that it is becoming extremely poor and destitute as if it's home would seem like a rathole.
    Rabbit-hole - I have never heard this.
     

    Bonjules

    Senior Member
    German
    While I'm no expert on the anal connection I agree
    w. Cuchu about the money association (very much like a
    'bottomless pit" - like 'pouring it down a rathole') and with dylang about a lousy, dirty
    place(room/home) being a 'rathole'.
    I have heard 'rabbit hole' in Northern Ireland (visiting
    with a British/Scottish family) in the context of sailing(mnenonic phrases for making some of the knots).
    saludos
     

    fenixpollo

    moderator
    American English
    The following may be a reference to wasting money...throwing money down a rathole:
    I think your example is in the same category of my example -- mixed metaphor. Thanks, cuchu.
    Your phrase "rathole" does not at all mean anus. It means that it is becoming extremely poor and destitute as if it's home would seem like a rathole.
    Rabbit-hole - I have never heard this.
    Thanks for mentioning the use of "rathole" to mean "filthy house". Since it didn't apply to this context, I left it out. My phrase "rathole" does mean "anus"... you just haven't heard people use it in that way. But your post is very helpful in opening the discussion. I wonder if I'm off my nut about the rabbit hole. (whoops... did I just mix a metaphor?)
     

    MissFit

    Senior Member
    In my experience, having gone down a rabbit hole means that the situation has become bizarre and unfamiliar--like Alice in Wonderland.

    Having gone down a rabbit trail means that the course of the discussion/argument/planning has become distracted by an incidental issue--as if someone walking down a path in the woods has turned aside to follow an animal trail. Animal trails are generally meandering and lead nowhere.

    I am not familiar with the term rathole. Considering the previous explanantions, I'm not sorry that I've never encoutered the phrase.
     
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