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"Hell in a handbasket" came from "Heaven in a handbasket"

The move from Midwest to East Coast

Dear Matthew: Where the heck did the phrase “going to hell in a handbasket” come from? It doesn’t make sense to us and has been bad for business. — Handbasket Makers of America, La Jolla

Dear Mr. M.A.: When we cooingly take unsuspecting Fifi or Fido off to the vet to get them “fixed, ” why do we call it getting them fixed, when actually we’re getting them broken? — David, San Diego

“Broken” only from the pet’s point of view, I guess. “Fixed” if you don’t want to be overrun by kittens and puppies. But nobody seems to care as much as you do about the origin. Solid info is hard to come by. The Oxford English Dictionary quotes D.H. Lawrence from 1930 to illustrate one of the earliest uses of “fix,” in your sense. “ ‘Is he a gentleman or a lady?’ ‘Neither, my dear, I had him fixed! It saves him from so many undesirable associations.’ ” An early 20th-century euphemism? Looks like it.

But we have some good news for you handbasket makers. The original place people were inclined to go in a handbasket was heaven. According to the Dictionary of American Regional English, the expression “to go to heaven in a handbasket” was popular in the upper Midwest in the 19-teens, and it meant to have it made, to have your future secured, or something that is easy to do. (A handbasket is any small basket with an arched handle that, with its contents, can be carried easily in one hand.) Within a few decades, the expression spread to the East Coast and transformed itself into “going to hell in a handbasket,” hell apparently being a more common destination for the average New Yorker.

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Building paradise in San Diego

Mission Valley, Tijuana gardens, Otay Mesa, downtown skyscrapers, One Paseo, Rancho Santa Fe mansion

Dear Matthew: Where the heck did the phrase “going to hell in a handbasket” come from? It doesn’t make sense to us and has been bad for business. — Handbasket Makers of America, La Jolla

Dear Mr. M.A.: When we cooingly take unsuspecting Fifi or Fido off to the vet to get them “fixed, ” why do we call it getting them fixed, when actually we’re getting them broken? — David, San Diego

“Broken” only from the pet’s point of view, I guess. “Fixed” if you don’t want to be overrun by kittens and puppies. But nobody seems to care as much as you do about the origin. Solid info is hard to come by. The Oxford English Dictionary quotes D.H. Lawrence from 1930 to illustrate one of the earliest uses of “fix,” in your sense. “ ‘Is he a gentleman or a lady?’ ‘Neither, my dear, I had him fixed! It saves him from so many undesirable associations.’ ” An early 20th-century euphemism? Looks like it.

But we have some good news for you handbasket makers. The original place people were inclined to go in a handbasket was heaven. According to the Dictionary of American Regional English, the expression “to go to heaven in a handbasket” was popular in the upper Midwest in the 19-teens, and it meant to have it made, to have your future secured, or something that is easy to do. (A handbasket is any small basket with an arched handle that, with its contents, can be carried easily in one hand.) Within a few decades, the expression spread to the East Coast and transformed itself into “going to hell in a handbasket,” hell apparently being a more common destination for the average New Yorker.

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Building paradise in San Diego

Mission Valley, Tijuana gardens, Otay Mesa, downtown skyscrapers, One Paseo, Rancho Santa Fe mansion
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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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