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Hoping against hope

March 17, 2014

Hoping against hope. That’s a strange expression, isn’t it? What does it mean? Well, I know what it means – it means hoping desperately, when there are very shaky grounds for doing so. But the question is, why does it mean that? It doesn’t make sense.

I remember when I first encountered the expression as a child, I thought it meant hoping not to hope – not daring to hope, trying to stifle hope before it began, so as not to experience disappointment. But that’s too convoluted, and anyway isn’t how people actually use it. When someone says they’re hoping against hope, what they mean is hoping when despair might seem the more realistic attitude. But then why don’t they say hoping in the face of despair, or something like that? 

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