“Going to hell in a handbasket” … say, what?

This week, a poll finally asked a question that really cuts to the chase:

Which better describes how you feel about the way things are going in the world these days?

  • a) Things are going to hell in a handbasket
  • b) Everything will be alright
  • c) Don’t know





Started me wondering:

What’s up with a goofy idiom like “going to hell in a handbasket”?


According to several sources

Everybody knows the meaning: “To be ‘going to hell in a handbasket’ is to be rapidly deteriorating – on course for disaster.”

“The thought behind the phrase is 17th century, but the precise wording ‘going to hell in a handbasket’ and its alternative form ‘going to hell in a handcart’ originated in the US around the middle of the 19th century”.

There’s spotty evidence that the phrase was originally to hell in a handcart.

And, there’s some conjecture that handbaskets caught the heads of people being guillotined fell into a basket that was (obviously) heading for hell.

There seems to be broad based agreement that:“Going to hell in a handbasket’ seems to be just a colourful version of ‘going to hell’, in the same sense as ‘going to the dogs’. ‘In a handbasket’ is an alliterative intensifier which gives the expression a catchy ring.”

Nothing more … it just has a catchy ring to it.


Back to the survey:

A whopping 58% responded that they thought the world was going to hell in a handbasket.

That’s a big number, but makes sense given ISIS, EBOLA, a roller-coaster stock market …

In fact, I wonder why the number isn’t higher …



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2 Responses to ““Going to hell in a handbasket” … say, what?”

  1. John Milnes Baker Says:

    How can there possibly be 42% who are optimistic in today’s world?
    Maybe they are the ones wandering the streets – and class rooms – in complete ignorance of what’s happening in the world – and this country. Then again the 42% are in all likelihood the proverbial “low information voters.” If such is the case, I’m surprised that the 42% isn’t higher. We’ll have to wait and see hoe Hillary makes out in November – if she isn’t indicted.
    (You should ask your readers what they think about her chances.)

  2. John Carpenter Says:

    Count me firmly in the 42%. Facts only please on this. Stop looking at the bumps and scan the road. Not since the end of WWII has America been stronger relative to the rest of the world in most areas that matter.
    – Militarily the US could defeat any other country on earth using only a fraction of our real power. Few non-military people really understand what that means. They point to Afghanistan and Iraq as military issues when in fact they are not. ISIS? Amateurs. Ever hear of the Viet Cong? Russia? Are you kidding me? Georgia fought them to a standstill. North Korea? Their army mostly farms. Our current military power is a significant improvement over the Cold War years and it comes at a reduced cost as a percentage of our GNP and with no draft.
    – Our economy is still the most dynamic and innovative of any economy on the planet or for that matter combinations of economies (EU). How many investors not looking for a 1 week doubling of their money really feel like the US stock market will not continue to grow? Do you think the guys in China feel the same way or the places that do not even have a freaking stock market.
    – Looked at the price of gas lately? Each year we grow more energy independent which is a far cry of how it was in the 70’s. And this comes with a declining US carbon footprint. US industry will continue to move to safer and more environmentally friendly energy production no matter what happens in Congress.
    – Race relations, still a problem but do you think anyone likes the KKK? Seen any “white only” drinking fountains around the neighborhood? The race problems we have seen in the last few months need fixed but they would have been addresses by burning down multiple city blocks or killing kids on campus in the 60’s.

    There is work to be done but all it requires is work and a clear-eyed assessment of the situation in the US relative to anything except Trump’s silly world view and Bernie’s possibly drug induced flashback to the 60’s. If we stop trying to fix things that are unfixable and don’t do stupid things like get involved in international quagmires that have no real effect on US security or elect some radical left or right winger for president then we will continue the upward trend. That is realistic optimism.

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