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

In yesterday’s post, I again used the expression “going to hell in a handbasket” ….  and got a couple of emails re: its origin and meaning.

So, today we’re reprising a post from the archives …


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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