Go to pot

Go to pot is an idiom that has been in use for hundreds of years. An idiom is a commonly used word, group of words, or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. Often using descriptive imagery or metaphors, common idioms are words and phrases used in the English language in order to convey a concise idea, and are often spoken or are considered informal or conversational. English idioms can illustrate emotion more quickly than a phrase that has a literal meaning, even when the etymology or origin of the idiomatic expression is lost. An idiom is a metaphorical figure of speech, and it is understood that it is not a use of literal language. Figures of speech like an often-used metaphor have definitions and connotations that go beyond the literal meaning of the words. Mastery of the turn of phrase of an idiom, which may use slang words or other parts of speech common in American slang or British slang, is essential for the English learner. Many English as a Second Language students do not understand idiomatic expressions and idiomatic language such as hit the sack, spill the beans, let the cat out of the bag, silver lining, back to the drawing board, barking up the wrong tree, kick the bucket, hit the nail on the head, face the music, under the weather, piece of cake, when pigs fly, and raining cats and dogs, because they attempt to translate them word for word, which yields only the literal meaning. English phrases that are idioms should not be taken literally. In addition to learning vocabulary and grammar, one must understand the phrasing of the figurative language of idiomatic phrases in order to know English like a native speaker; it is helpful to maintain a list of phrases, common expressions, colloquial terms, and popular expressions to memorize that are used figuratively or idiomatically. We will examine the meaning of the common saying go to pot, where it came from, and some examples of its idiomatic usage in sentences.

Go to pot means something that has been ruined or something that has deteriorated, usually because of neglect. The expression go to pot was first used in a fairly literal sense in the 1500s, to describe meat that had been cut up in order to cook it in a pot. By the 1600s, go to pot gained its figurative meaning, describing something that has deteriorated or has been ruined. The imagery is of an animal that would soon be butchered for food; a journey to the food pot that could not be mitigated. Related phrases are goes to pot, gone to pot, went to pot, going to pot.


“I can’t see them letting us open up before Christmas time for it all to go to pot again, it will be January, I’m sure, before we will open.” (Northhampton Chronicle & Echo)

Harrod said the city has too much money invested at the expo to let it go to pot; that’s what he said he thinks has happened to it. (The Shawnee News-Star)

Then, by 1745 the formerly busy seaport of Joppa became a kind of backwater and the family fortunes went to pot. (The New Bern Sun Journal)

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