Question about "Have it in for "

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jasonchaoth

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Is there anyone who can tell me why "have it in for" means "hold a grudge" ?
It's very difficult to memorize a phrase without understanding its true meaning or where it comes from. So please help me. Thank you.
 

stuartnz

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I'm not a teacher, but I would suggest that many idioms have no connection with their component parts, and that the ONLY way to learn them is as complete units, through hearing and using them. Asking why a particular idiom, or indeed any idiom, means what it does, will most likely lead to the answer "nobody knows, it just does".
 

David L.

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It does not mean "hold a grude' as such.
We have a simple phrase, 'in for'
as in "We're probably in for some rain", meaning due for, in line for; about to receive.
We might then say, "You're in for a belting when Dad gets home" (because he's been naughty, broken something etc - pre-child abuse laws!)
Thus, the person on the receiving end is 'in for it' when Dad gets home.
If then, John does something to enrage Paul, and Paul is going to unleash his anger on John in some way next time he sees him, whether in words or bashing him up, we say that "Paul has got it in for John." or "He has it in for John."
 

BobK

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I'm not a teacher, but I would suggest that many idioms have no connection with their component parts, and that the ONLY way to learn them is as complete units, through hearing and using them. Asking why a particular idiom, or indeed any idiom, means what it does, will most likely lead to the answer "nobody knows, it just does".

:up: The other thing about wanting to know the derivation is that it invites what's called "folk etymology" - plausible stories about derivations that just aren't true*. I could say 'have it in for' refers to daggers/knives, but I don't believe it for a moment. ;-) Stuart's right.

b
* A recent example of this was a news item I saw on the TV a few days ago. The presenter was asking people in Gravesend about the derivation of that place name. Many of the people asked said - confidently and plausibly - that at the time of the Black Death the bodies of Londoners were buried as far from the centre as Gravesend; there was a law - they said - that stipulated that that settlement should mark the End of the Graves of plague victims. That sounds pretty likely, except that manuscripts dating from several centuries before the Black Death show the same place name being used. The 'Black Death' story may have helped to fix the vowel-sound, but that's the limit of the Black Death's involvement in the etymology.
 
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