Image Description

Throwing in the Towel & Ducks in a Row

This lesson is a part of an audio course English Phrases and Idioms by Robert Davey

Hello and welcome to lesson 8 of the 'English Phrases and Idioms' course. In this lesson, we will be looking at the origin and meaning of 'Throwing in the Towel & Ducks in a Row.'

– Our first phrase for today is, 'Throwing in the Towel.' Now, you might be able to guess where this phrase comes from.

– Does this come from boxing?

– Yes, indeed, it is, of course, an old boxing phrase which has been used since the early 1900s. In the sport of boxing, when one fighter is losing heavily, his or her coach might throw a towel into the boxing ring to signal that they want to end the fight.

– What does It mean outside of boxing?

Well, when we use it in everyday situations, it simply means to give up or to quit. Often when we don't want to take anymore punishment. For example, 'I have been working on this book for over a year, and I am getting nowhere with it; I just want to throw in the towel.' Or 'It's a bit early to throw in the towel, you have only just started your new job.'

The second phrase for today is, 'Ducks in a Row.'

– Another one of those phrases that uses an animal.

– Yes, previously we looked at 'An Elephant in the Room' now we have 'ducks in a row.' This phrase has a few different origins; one origin is that it comes from bowling and setting up small fat pins, which are sometimes referred to as ducks, in a row before you throw your ball to knock them down.

Another is from the USA in the 1920s. There is a famous hotel called the Peabody hotel, and since the 1920s, there have been ducks living on the roof of this hotel. Twice a day, they are led through the hotel by a trainer, and the ducks all walk in a row or a line. It's a tradition that continues to this day, and they create quite the spectacle.

– That must be a strange thing to see.

– I agree. When we use this phrase today, it means to get all of your affairs in order and to be prepared. For example, 'Before they implement this, they should get all their ducks in a row.' Or 'When you are applying for your Visa, make sure you have all your ducks in a row first, then there should be no delays.'

So listener, Do you ever feel like you want to throw in the towel? And it's always a good idea to have all your ducks in a row.

This is the end of lesson 8 of the 'English Phrases and Idioms' course.

Image Description
Written by

Robert Davey

Related courses