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Hedge one’s bets

  • Hedge one’s bets is an idiom that dates back 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 idiom hedge one’s bets, where it came from, and some examples of its idiomatic usage in sentences.

     

    To hedge one’s bets means to mitigate one’s risk; to leave oneself an escape; to counterbalance one’s risk or avoid committing to only one course of action. For instance, a gardener may hedge his bets by planting different varieties of tomatoes in case one variety fails to produce. The expression hedge one’s bets came into use in the 1600s and is derived from a definition of the word hedge that was popular at the time, which was to avoid commitment. In finance, the phrase hedge one’s bets refers to spreading one’s investments among instruments in order to mitigate risk. In gambling, to hedge one’s bets means to make a large bet on one outcome, and then make a smaller bet on the opposite outcome so that one neither wins nor loses a large amount. Related phrases are hedges one’s bets, hedged one’s bets, hedging one’s bets.

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    Examples

    Doubling down on the fusion element, I added a quesadilla stuffed with Chinese Emerald chicken with ginger scallion sauce, and then decided to hedge my bets with acarnitas burrito, which is pure Mexican food. (Arizona Republic)

    “I’ll hedge my bets and say that while it may be weather dependent, this upcoming tourism season will be stronger than expected,” Vasser says. (New Jersey Business Magazine)

    It has to be said that the minister hedged his bets three weeks ago when the UK announced Portugal was the only European destination on the ‘green’ list for quarantine free travel, recalling how the country was ‘scuppered’ by a similar u-turn last summer, coincidentally after only three weeks of what in that era was known as a ‘travel corridor/ airbridge’. (Portugal Resident)


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