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In the article, "Not nein...but TEN reasons why we should love Germany", the following phrase is being used:

LET’S face it, Britain and Germany have a little form over the past century.

Obviously being some kind of typical British humour (I suppose), what does "to have a little form" mean exactly, where does it come from and is it also used in the US?

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Seems like it means that they both have have had little agreements (so basically, mostly disagreements) on various matters over the past century. –  Mohit Jan 25 '13 at 16:12
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@Mohit: that would be little agreement or few agreements, and really isn't what this means at all. –  TimLymington Jan 26 '13 at 12:29

1 Answer 1

up vote 6 down vote accepted

ODO on form

The relevant entry is 7c; none of the others really fit the context:

7 [mass noun] the state of a sports player or team with regard to their current standard of play:
they are one of the best teams around on current form

  • details of previous performances by a racehorse or greyhound:
    an interested bystander studying the form
  • a person’s mood and state of health:
    she seemed to be on good form
  • British informal a criminal record:
    they both had form

In OED it’s moved down to 16c:

c. slang. (Without preceding article.) A ‘police record’; a criminal conviction.

In this case it doesn't actually mean “a criminal record”; it means “a history of criminality” or “a history of conflict against each other”.

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Shouldn't it then be "had a little form"? It sounds more like "have a little argument about the past century". –  vonjd Jan 25 '13 at 16:19
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No; even a criminal going straight still "has form" -- he's just not adding to it. –  Andrew Leach Jan 25 '13 at 16:21
    
It wasn't our fault, guv. –  Edwin Ashworth Jan 25 '13 at 16:36
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@vonjd: The interpolated "little" is unusual in this context. To have form is pretty much a fossilised term that isn't normally broken by adjectives in this way. But your precise context is indeed an example of "typical British humour", in that the extra word breathes life into what would otherwise be a somewhat stale cliche. –  FumbleFingers Jan 25 '13 at 17:20
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I think the "little" saves the analogy. It takes a rather ridiculous understatement and turns it into an utterly ridiculous one, which makes it clearly humour rather than poor choice. –  Jon Hanna Jan 25 '13 at 18:04

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