“Go to ground” Gets a Bump

A few years back I wrote about the expression “go to ground,” which originated in fox-hunting and came to mean “disappear”–not in the “go missing” sense but as a deliberate act, a sort up souped-up lying low (or, as it’s nearly universally rendered in the U.S., “laying low”).

The expression has been picked up by U.S. sources in the past week in reference to Christoper Steele, the former British intelligence officer who put together a dossier alleging bad behavior by Donald Trump and, when the news came out, flew the coop. So the New York Times had this headline:

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While checking out recent uses of the expression, I noticed something I didn’t mention in my original post. In As mentioned in the original post, in British football and rugby coverage, “go to ground” is used more literally–meaning a player who for one reason or another has actually ended up on the ground. As in:

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As Tara McAllister Byum has pointed out on Twitter, a slang expression long favored by doctors  and used in the 1978 novel “The House of God” is “Gomers go to ground.” (“Gomer”–possibly an acronym for Get Out of My Emergency Room.) According to an article in Phramacy Times, “The gomer was often an elderly patient, and one of the ‘laws] of the book was that ‘gomers go to ground,’ referring to their tendency to fall or fall out of bed.”

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5 responses to ““Go to ground” Gets a Bump

  1. The sporting usage of “go to ground” is mentioned in the comments to your 2009 post. In rugby (union), Wikipedia has a comprehensive take on “going to ground” and related matters under the general heading of “Breakdowns”, featuring the three infinitely debatable gradations of Tackle, Ruck, and Maul: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laws_of_rugby_union#Breakdowns

  2. I’ve always thought of this as a fox-hunting term – of the fox goes to ground, it means it has literally gone into its den underground in order to avoid being discovered.

    A propos, this has reminded me of the fabulous novella Rogue Male by Geoffrey Household, in which a man goes into hiding as part of a manhunt. Thrilling!

  3. Me too, Catherine Rose. As soon as I saw the heading, I thought fox. I didn’t know they used it for footballers (I mean soccer) diving or taking a dive, as it’s usually called.

  4. “Lay low and say nuffin” – Brer Rabbit.

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