I’ll eat my hat is an idiom that is hundreds of years old. 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 I’ll eat my hat, where it came from, and some examples of its idiomatic usage in sentences.
I’ll eat my hat is an exclamation that means one is certain of a fact or an outcome or that one is confident in one’s opinion. The expression I’ll eat my hat has been in use at least since the latter-1700s, though it’s popularity swelled in the mid-1800s. There are two dubious theories for the origin of the phrase I’ll eat my hat. The first traces the origin of the phrase to Charles II and the phrase “I’ll eat Old Rowley’s hat,” a reference to an unfortunate nickname given to Charles II. However, the term isn’t seen until well after Charles II’s rein. The second origin story traces the idiom I’ll eat my hat to a certain savory pastry popular in the 1400s called a hatte. However, the idiom was not seen until 300 years later. What is known is that Charles Dickens used the expression in The Pickwick Papers in 1837: “If I knew as little of life as that, I’d eat my hat and swallow the buckle whole.” The term became popular after that time.
For, as more than one accountant and Tory MP has said since the Office of Tax Simplification called for it to be aligned with income tax this week: “If he does that, I’ll eat my hat.” (Evening Standard)
“Also, I’ll eat my hat if we don’t see Instant Pot deals ― they are exceptional and ubiquitous on and around Prime Day and Black Friday.” (Huffington Post)
“If we are even remotely back into doing anything in 2020,” I thought, “I’ll eat my hat.” (San Francisco Classical Voice)