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buckley's chance


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  • There used to be a department store in Melbourne - Buckley and Nunn. You've got Buckley's means - "you've got two chances, Buckley's and none."

    February 17, 2007

  • The most popular eponym for the phrase would seem to be William Buckley (1780–1856), the British convict transported to Australia. He escaped from custody in 1803 and lived with the Wathawurung people near Geelong for thirty-two years, becoming so much a member of the tribe that when he was found by John Batman in 1835 he could no longer speak a word of English. He was known popularly as ‘the wild white man’: and this popular perception is caught in an engraving which depicts him as heavily bearded, with hair long and unkempt, dressed in skins, and carrying a club and spears. He received a pardon on condition that he acted as a liaison between settlers and local Aboriginal groups.The phrase Buckley’s chance is also used in New Zealand and is first recorded in 1906. A correspondent to a New Zealand newspaper in 1934 makes the point: ‘A correspondent ... writes that Buckley was one of the earliest convicts ... to escape from Botany Bay and take to the bush. It was then thought impossible to do this and live. ... Any other convict who talked of escaping was invariably told that he would have “Buckley’s chance�?—hence the saying’ (Press (Christchurch), 27 Jan. 1934, p. 15).

    May 8, 2009