Beer and Skittles (Skittles Two)

Sorry the blog is late this week – busy week.

I have been known to say “That won’t keep me in beer and skittles,” but I have no idea where the saying came from, so I thought I’d try to find out.

The refers to “life isn’t all beer and skittles” as not being able to have fun all the time.  Most of the references I found said just this.  Apparently, it was a phrase coined in the 19th century.  It’s quoted in Tom Brown’s Schooldays, and Charles Dickens used a variation of it in The Pickwick Papers, “They don’t mind it; it’s a regular holiday to them – all porter and skittles.”

The game of Skittles, by the way, has been around since the nineteenth century and is similar to ten-pin bowling.  (Funnily enough, it was also known as Ninepins.)  Apparently, it’s still played.  It was a pub game, with the pins set up in a kind of square pattern and the players were supposed to knock the pins down with a ball.  There is also a table version of the game (and I think I have seen that one on my travels).

Porter is a type of ale – if you see the old pubs with the glazed tiles, you’ll often see a reference to porter imprinted in the tiles.

I was beginning to think I’d made up my expression until I came across a website called  There is a 2010 entry that says, “Sam’s parking fine payments keep the city in beer and skittles.” is a US website, so maybe the original English phrase changed a bit due to the water in between the two countries?  Anyway, I’m happy now that I know roughly how it originated and that I didn’t imagine hearing it somewhere.

Have a good week.

©Susan Shirley 2013

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