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I heard the expression being handed your hat being used to mean that you are invited to leave. What is its origin and what are the possible variations?

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It's just a bit more oblique than being shown the door. Not at all current, I would suggest, since we no longer live in a world where gentlemen entering their club would normally hand their hat and coat to the doorman. –  FumbleFingers Nov 5 '11 at 13:43
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1 Answer

The Phrase Finder has the following excellent summary of this phrase's origin, which goes so far as to include a couple variations:

Origin: in more ceremonious days, if someone came to visit you, you would see him to the door at visit's end. Then either you or your butler would hand him his hat, since everyone in those days wore hats, but not inside. Figurative meaning: to be shown the door, to be sent packing. Can be used to mean to be fired.

You can use it in a variety of ways, such as: "He expected another term, but the voters handed him his hat." Or, "I was confident that my actions were for the good of the company, but I was handed my hat anyway." Or: "I offered him first crack at my new invention, the one that would save him thousands annually. I didn't expect to be handed my hat and shown the door."

Of course, the literal meaning is still valid. If you are looking around for your hat, someone is likely to hand it to you in simple politeness.

"Was handed his hat" gets 123 results on Google; using "her" gets 33, "their" gets 14, "being handed his hat" has 97, etc. I'd say it receives a respectable amount of attention, by no means ostentatious. To compare, "was shown the door" gets 560 results.

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When I actually paged through Google's About 328,000 results for "was handed his hat", it petered out at 116 results. But even after paging through several hundred results, Google didn't change its mind re About 7,090,000 results for "was shown the door". OP's version really has no currency to speak of. –  FumbleFingers Nov 5 '11 at 17:23
    
@Fumble: Did you go to page 56? 560 results ends on page 56. –  Daniel Nov 6 '11 at 0:09
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Good Lord! Obviously I didn't! I was getting fed up after a few dozen pages, so I just gritted my teeth and kept going for a round 50. You've shown dilligence beyond the call of duty, and deserve far more recognition than the pitiful little upvote which is all I can offer! :) –  FumbleFingers Nov 6 '11 at 4:27
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