chalk » chuck

Chiefly in:   chuck (it) up (to)

Classification: English

Spotted in the wild:

  • “When there’s irritability and high maintenance in a child, most people may just chuck it up to normal childhood.” (Tina Benitez,, Oct. 7, 2007)
  • I think you want to be able to chuck it up to him being young and stupid. I know it would help me think of the world as less of a scary place if that were the case. (alh63, Salon letter to the editor, Mar. 26, 2009)
  • And he collected these winnings in no more than a six month period, which he chucks up to good luck. (Punter's Hero, May 23, 2011)
  • “Overall, we played with some effort we had energy; we played hard it just wasn’t as good of quality as we needed and a lot of it I will chuck up to (lack of) experience.” (Troy Maroney, Brookings (S.D.) Register, Aug. 25, 2011)

Analyzed or reported by:

In the Eggcorn Forum, kem writes:

If our plans misfire, we can chalk it up to experience and go on. “Chalk it up to” means to attribute to, with overtones of bringing the matter to closure. The idiom, which has been with us for several hundred years, may derive from an early alehouse custom of writing customer tabs on a slate with chalk.

Hundreds of web sites think that the idiom is “chuck it up to” (See examples below.). But what is it about “chuck” that licenses its substitution for “chalk” in this idiom? Some possibilities:

  • To “chuck up” can mean to vomit. I don’t think this is in view in “chuck it up to.”
  • An old sense of “chucking” is throwing. We still use it in sport contexts to refer to throwing a ball (“Just chuck the pigskin in his direction: the new wide receiver can vacuum up anything.”).
  • An extension of this sense of “chucking,” sometimes phrased as “chucking up,” gives us the meaning of throwing over, giving up, discarding. (“If the boss says one more word I’m going to chuck this job.”). To “chuck it up to experience,” then, might refer to giving up on (=chucking) an effort by consigning it to (=chucking it into) one’s basket of bad experiences.

There may also be some cross-fertilization from the idiom “chucking in the towel,” a circumlocution for quitting.

See also chalk » chock, chock » chalk(ed).

| link | entered by Ben Zimmer, 2011/09/03 |

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