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Historical Origins of English Words and Phrases

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happy go lucky [May. 3rd, 2008|12:09 am]
Historical Origins of English Words and Phrases



happy go lucky
-In its early life, this phrase was used to describe something that was haphazard or simply left up to chance. Scholars do not have an exact date of origin, but there are records of it being used in England starting at least in the 17th century. For instance, in 1699 CE, there is a recording from Sir Thomas Morgan entitled 'A True and Just Relation of Major General Sir Thomas Morgan's Progress in France and Flanders with the Six English in the Years 1657 and 1658 at the Taking of Dunkirk and Other Important Places' (found in Edward Arber's 1896 An English Garner) that includes the phrase: "The Redcoats cried, 'Shall we fall in order, or go happy-go-lucky?" With its modern sense of 'without any cares, unconcerned,' the phrase was first used in the mid-19th century. One of the first known recordings comes from Herman Melville's famous Moby Dick (1851) in which he writes: "A happy-go-lucky; neither craven nor valiant."

[User Picture]From: brittlepoetry
2008-05-03 05:05 pm (UTC)

intriguing . . .

It seems to have a more adjectival use now: e.g., "He's happy go lucky" or "a happy go lucky person." Yet the example from Melville you use seems to make it a noun.
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[User Picture]From: gwoman
2008-05-03 05:09 pm (UTC)

Re: intriguing . . .

mhmm, it is definitely used as an adjective now. unfortunately, i'm not sure when it made the transition but i can see how it would have happened.
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[User Picture]From: marduk_lok
2008-05-04 04:30 am (UTC)
This makes a lot of sense.
"Happy" (as in happiness) has its roots in "happenstance" or luck.
So a "happy" person was a "lucky" person. Not surprising the word's meaning slowly mutated into its current form.

The US slogan "...and the pursuit of happiness" was never intended to grant the right to "feel good," but rather the right to have luck decide your fate, rather than another person.

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[User Picture]From: gwoman
2008-05-04 08:15 am (UTC)
really? you know, you would think that would be something they'd teach in at least one of all the US history classes we took throughout school. thanks for the tidbit!
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[User Picture]From: ptrick_in_korea
2008-05-04 07:20 am (UTC)
How about "beat around the bush"
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[User Picture]From: gwoman
2008-05-04 08:15 am (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: jestersharley
2008-05-05 02:34 pm (UTC)
oooo! oooo! Can we do "Two shakes of a stick?"
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[User Picture]From: gwoman
2008-05-06 06:50 am (UTC)
good one! added.
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From: (Anonymous)
2015-11-22 10:20 pm (UTC)

Happy go lucky

I was watching Who Framed Roger Rabbit the other day and there was an advertising board in the background that read "Be happy, go lucky". It made me think about the phrase, with the added comma it changes it's meaning a bit. Sounds more like a blessing or a parting wish for someone.
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