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Thread: Dark horse

  1. #1
    zaffar is offline Junior Member
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    Question Dark horse

    Dear sir,

    What does this sentence mean?

    "He is a dark horse." Please reply.

  2. #2
    English Freak's Avatar
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    Default Re: Dark horse

    A nonentity whose actions surprise people especially one who surprises everyone by surpassing and winning a competition.

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    Default Re: Dark horse

    Quote Originally Posted by zaffar View Post
    Dear sir,

    What does this sentence mean?

    "He is a dark horse." Please reply.

    ***** NOT A TEACHER *****


    (1) The teacher has given you and me an excellent definition.

    (2) The term "dark horse" is often used in the world of politics.

    (3) Next year, the American people will vote for president.

    (4) We have two major political parties: the Democratic Party and the

    Republican Party. Each party chooses a candidate. Then there is

    an election, and one candidate becomes the president.

    (5) We all know that the Democratic Party will choose President Obama

    as its candidate for the 2012 election.

    (6) We do not know who the Republican camdidate will be.

    (7) At the present time, at least 10 people want to be chosen as the

    Republican candidate. Of those 10, the persons who are the most

    popular are: Mr. P., Mr. R., Ms. B., and another Mr. P. Many people say that

    the six other candidates "do not have a chance. They cannot win the nomination."

    (8) But some people are asking: "Is one of those six others a dark horse? "

    That is, is it possible that one of those six others will surprise everyone and

    be chosen as the candidate of the Republican Party? For example, if Mr. P.,

    Mr. R., Ms. B., and the other Mr. P. cannot win the nomination, maybe those four

    people will say: "None of us can win, so let's all agree to support Mr./Ms. X (one of the

    six others)." Then the newspapers and TV stations will announce: BIG NEWS! DARK

    HORSE WINS NOMINATION AS CANDIDATE. (Nobody thought that Mr./Ms.X could

    win. But s/he did! What a shock!"

  4. #4
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: Dark horse

    I think calling them a non-entity is a bit strong- a dark horse is simply not well-known, so we don't know how they will perform. A dark horse could surprise us by doing well,, or do badly- we don't know. A non-entity is an unimportant person without much personality.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Dark horse

    Thank TheParser for the nice context. "Dark Horse" is definitely understandable here.
    And Tdol is pretty right, maybe I'm exaggerating by "nonentity".

  6. #6
    Vidor is offline Member
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    Default not a teacher

    I can't say for sure but I'd guess the term originates from horse racing.

    The first person described as a "dark horse" was James K. Polk. Polk had served as Speaker of the House so he was not a non-entity, but he had since left the Congress and had been defeated in runs for Governor of Tennessee in 1841 and 1843. So it came as quite a shock to most people when the Democratic Party in 1844, after being unable to agree on a candidate at their convention, turned to Polk as a compromise. He got elected President soon after.

  7. #7
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: not a teacher

    I read that a dark horse was an unknown horse and so it was hard to know whether to bet on it or what odds to give it.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Dark horse

    OED: a candidate or competitor about whom little is known but who unexpectedly wins or succeeds: a dark-horse candidate.

    Upon further read, from Wikipedia, it can also be used to describe a little-known person or thing that emerges to prominence, for example: George Harrison was nicknamed the "dark horse" of The Beatles.

  9. #9
    pizza is offline Member
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    Default Re: Dark horse

    Would you describe this noun, i.e., dark horse, as an idiom / expression?

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