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In Australian parlance we have the expression "He's got Buckley's chance" or "You've got two chances - Yours and Buckley's". Meaning - he o you have no chance at all. Who was Buckley?

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2 Answers 2

William Buckley

(1780 – 30 January 1856) was an English convict who was transported to Australia, escaped, was given up for dead and lived in an Aboriginal community for many years.

Buckley's improbable survival is believed by many Australians to be the source of the vernacular phrase "you've got Buckley's or none" (or simply "you've got Buckley's"), which means "no chance", or "it's as good as impossible". The Macquarie Dictionary supports this theory, although the ANU Australian National Dictionary Centre tends to support a second theory:[2] that the expression was a pun on the name of a now defunct Melbourne department store chain, Buckley & Nunn.[3]

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Thanks for that –  user74494 May 18 at 5:28
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In my view, the truth is a combination, a double play on words enjoyed by many Australians. –  andy256 May 18 at 8:40
    
The William Buckley explanation has always seemed a little strained to me because there'd be no need to ever append the "and none" to the phrase. –  Neil May 24 at 2:18

A comprehensive answer to this question can be found on World Wide Words:

One [theory] points to William Buckley, a convict in the early days of European settlement in Australia, who escaped in 1803 from the short-lived penal settlement at Port Philip Bay (where Melbourne is today) and lived for 32 years with the Aborigines in southern Victoria, gaining the sobriquet of The Wild White Man, before giving himself up and being pardoned. The implication is that, like Buckley, you have no chance of success, it being assumed that you measure success by an escape to a part of Australia colonised by European immigrants. One problem is that Buckley died in 1856, whereas the expression doesn’t appear in print until 1895 (though that isn’t a conclusive objection, since phrases are often transmitted orally for years before they get written down and Buckley’s story became one of the most common anecdotes told about the early days of colonisation). The other possibility links it with the department store in Melbourne run by Messrs Buckley and Nunn, so that the expanded version, “there are just two chances, Buckley’s or none”, is a pun. However, that phrase isn’t recorded until 1953 and you need to have William Buckley’s exploits in mind before the pun achieves its full force.

You must take your choice. At this distance in time our chance of finding out which, if either, is right is roughly Buckley’s.

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