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Do you know where the phrase “buy the farm” comes from? It is actually rather recent in its usage. It started perhaps during WWI but certainly by WWII, having been recorded only in the 1950’s. Professor Jonathan Lighter has compiled the origin in the Random House Dictionary of American Slang. It actually is an Air Force term based on some older Royal Air Force phrases, “Buy the plot” or simply “Buy it”. Obviously, it refers to a pilot whose plane crashes.


Generally, when a plane goes down the pilot tries to maneuver it away from urban areas in order to minimize collateral damage. Normally, the plane will go down in a rural area and hit someone’s farmland. Ordinarily, the farmer whose land was effected by the crash sues the government for damages, claiming that it was his most productive land that was damaged. Because of the jet fuel, the land is now permanently fallow. Therefore, the farmer sues the government for a sum far greater than the remaining mortgage so that, one could say the pilot pays for the farm with his life.

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