ghost » goat

Chiefly in:   give up the goat

Classification: English – idiom-related

Spotted in the wild:

  • My old 14″ monitor went completely wrong and after a few years trusty service it finally gave up the goat, hence my need to find a new monitor for my little machine. ( review, Feb. 18, 2001)
  • The INS had finally given up the goat, and we were standby gauges only. (Naval Safety Center, Approach Magazine, 2004)
  • Canon mp760 gave up the goat. (TGForumz, Sep. 22, 2005)
  • One could argue that since he’s focused his practice largely on documentary filmmaking since the Eighties … he might as well have given up the goat for all the attention given to the form in theaters in the media until recently. (Reverse Shot Online, Winter 2006)
  • Luckily our old Toyota just got us through and then gave up the goat. (ABC Rural, SA Country Hour, Jan. 11, 2006)
  • Stay calm, collected, and don’t give up the goat. (Paul Davidson, Ten Rules for Making Rules, Apr. 16, 2006)

Analyzed or reported by:

  • Jeanette Winterson (The Times, May 13, 2006)

Jeanette Winterson writes:

The other day my elderly country neighbour asked for a bit of help to get his new washing machine into the kitchen. That generation never use “it”, always, “he” or “she”, so I wasn’t surprised to hear the washing machine called “he”, but I was surprised by what followed: “My old washing machine, he’s given up the goat,” he said, in a broad Gloucestershire accent.

“The goat?” I replied. “Are you sure?” “Oh, yes,” said my neighbour, “ain’t you never heard that expression before, given up the goat?” “Well, not exactly . . . where does it come from?” “Ah well,” said my neighbour, “in the old days, when folks didn’t have much, and mainly worked the land, a man would set store by his animals, especially his goat, and when he come to die, he would bequeath that goat to his heirs, and that is why we say, ‘he’s given up the goat’.”

I am thrilled with this and from now on there will be no more ghosts, only goats.

| link | entered by Ben Zimmer, 2006/05/20 |


  1. 1

    Commentary by BabyCharmander , 2006/08/21 at 7:18 pm

    Isn’t “given up the ghost” a refrence to the Bible passage in which Jesus dies? I recall the verse saying something along the lines of “gave up the ghost.”

  2. 2

    Commentary by Roy Jacobsen , 2006/08/21 at 7:42 pm

    Actually, the King James version of the Bible has several passages with “gave up the ghost:”…

    There are a couple for “give up the ghost” as well:…

  3. 3

    Commentary by Minos , 2006/10/02 at 9:32 pm

    I think that “give up the goat” is what you do when someone “gets your goat”.

  4. 4

    Commentary by Shara , 2006/10/17 at 5:15 pm

    Actually folks, if you read that paragraph of explanation just a bit closer, you might see that Winterson knew that the original expression was “give up the ghost.” She was simply saying that she liked the old man’s explanation better because it was rather funny that he explained it so matter-of-factly, even though he was entirely incorrect.

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