Bet the farm?

中国日报网 2014-03-11 10:39



Bet the farm?

Reader question:

Please explain “bet the farm” in this sentence: However, I would not bet the farm that the housing market would always be going up.

My comments:

Here, the speaker isn’t so sure that housing prices will always be going up. If he were very sure, he would be betting the farm on that.

Betting the farm?

This homespun American idiom might indeed have been invented, or at least inspired by farmers, judging purely from its down-to-earth plainness and simplicity, along with the unmistakable foolhardiness that’s in it.

When people play the betting game, they tend to bet a small sum when they’re unsure. And when they are sure, they place a bigger bet. Human nature.

When farmers play, more or less of the same thing happens, of course. When they’re unsure about it, they put, say, two cents on it, saying for example “for my two cents, I bet the housing market in New York will collapse within a week.”

Clearly, they don’t know what they’re talking about here.

When they’re certain about something, however, they’ll be much bolder. They’ll raise the stake, as some people say, or up the ante, as others say. For example, they’ll bet a chicken or all of their chickens in the backyard that it’ll rain tomorrow.

And when they’re really sure about something, they’ll do something crazy, like, betting the house that the family live in or the farm, meaning the whole farm they own.

Hence, you see, by betting the whole farm they own, they’re willing to risk everything – risking losing everything, that is.

Foolhardiness for sure, but we’ve got to like the farmer’s attitude.

Anyways, when people say they’ll bet the farm that something will happen, they’re willing to risk losing everything they own if their prophecy fails to deliver. In other words, they must be extremely sure about the outcome.

In our example, the speaker takes a cautioned approach. Even though housing prices seem to have always been rising, he won’t bet the farm that they’ll always be doing so, for ever and ever more.

If you ask me, and about Beijing I’d say, for my two cents’ worth, that housing prices here will keep rising due to, one, rising demand because people from the provinces and abroad keep coming in; two, the local government will not want to sell any land they own in the name of the people at a cut price; three, the price of money keeps getting watered down because there’s be more and more of it in circulation.

Fourth, never mind the fourth, fifth and nineteenth. Housing prices in Beijing will rise.

Still, I wouldn’t bet my or anybody else’s house on it.

Alright, here are media examples of people who are willing or not willing to bet the farm on this and that:

1. Tom Willey is so concerned about food safety he is willing to bet the farm on it.


Willey and his wife, Densesse, own an organic farm just outside of Madera in the central San Joaquin Valley, where they grow lettuce, carrots, cabbage and nearly 50 other hand-harvested vegetables. They supply 800 local families and West Coast retailers with a year-round supply of fresh produce.

But in the last three years, a dark cloud has gathered over Willey’s farm. He and other organic farmers say stricter food-safety regulations, developed after a cluster of outbreaks of bacterial contamination in spinach and lettuce in 2006, threaten the principles upon which their farms are based.

While Willey already adheres to the voluntary food-safety regulations deemed necessary by the organic farm community, he feels that many of the rules — which include cutting bare buffer zones around crops, using poison to kill rodents and washing produce with chlorinated water — run contrary to growing healthy and safe food.

“Healthy produce cannot be grown in sterile environments,” Willey said. “That’s both ignorant and dangerous.”

Moreover, opponents of the regulations say that the new measures are threatening the livelihood of small-scale and organic farms. Willey, who refuses to adhere to regulations he believes are ultimately harmful, runs the risk of not being able to sell his crops. Other small farms that do comply face burdensome costs.

But supporters of the regulations, part of the California Leafy Green Marketing Agreement, argue that all farms should comply in the interests of food safety.

“For the smaller growers, I don’t think it is reasonable to throw up their hands and say it doesn’t apply to us, or we are not the problem or we can never be the problem,” said Trevor Suslow, a food-safety expert and plant pathologist at UC Davis whose research helped form the basis of the regulations.

- New food-safety rules threaten small, organic farms,, May 26, 2010.

2. What difference does it make outside Germany that Angela Merkel has taken an abrupt turn against nuclear power?

Perhaps not much. You’re much more likely to be concerned if you’re part of Germany’s mighty industrial machine, in which case you now risk being left with a power supply gap, and a fear that the wind will drop and leave your machining lathe a bit deficient in elektrische leistung.

That fear of the lights going out is the response from much of Scottish business when facing a government that doesn’t want a renewal of the country’s nuclear power plants, but does want to bet the farm on renewable power.

- Saying Nein to Nuclear,, June 6, 2011.

3. When history catches up with Democrat’s hand picked nominee for 2016, the country will be immersed in racial rhetoric, voting rights and women’s empowering, which is the script being written as we visit. Democrats have a thirst to nominate Hillary Clinton in 2016, that’s un-quenchable.

Democrats will bet the farm on Clinton’s chances. She will bet the farm on her Southern theatrics. True lies never dissipate, they recreate in the most unusual places. Clinton is supposedly undecided, but she’s testing the waters, building support among minorities, women and less we forget, contributions.

The script she’s spinning offers a symphony of lies that overshadow a CIA gun running operation that cost four Americans their lives. Not one sentence in the script will mention family, friends and love ones of those Americans, who are still seeking answers from a book, her State Department wrote.

When she offers, ‘Human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights, once and for all,’ many souls will be delighted, somebody will write a script for that, hoping the country will ignore, Benghazi was about 400 missiles, that are now missing just because, it doesn’t make a difference.

- Campaign 2016: The script indoctrinated voters accept,, August 15, 2013.




About the author:

Zhang Xin is Trainer at He has been with China Daily since 1988, when he graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University. Write him at:, or raise a question for potential use in a future column.



Cooking the book?

Left out to dry?

Push the envelope

Loan shark rate?

Mean street, mean city?


(作者张欣 中国日报网英语点津 编辑:陈丹妮)


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