I am struggling to get my head around the following:

Hi Andrew, For all our articles we use information from national news organisations (for our sins). Have a look here at the Guardian http://gu.com/p/3xzdk, the BBC http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-24104743 and the CAS http://www.cas.org.uk/node/3330

It's a reply to a comment I made on this blog post.

  • 1
    I looked at it and I haven't a clue.
    – Hot Licks
    Dec 13, 2014 at 14:10
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    @Hot Licks: Your profile doesn't specify "location", but it does imply you're older than the average user here. By my understanding, if you were a 60+ British native speaker, you'd recognise the usage. On the basis of little more than "gut feel", I suspect it's very much a BrE usage that might well have almost no currency in the US. Can you confirm that you're not BrE? Dec 13, 2014 at 15:37
  • I think I flew over the British Isles once on my way from the US to Copenhagen. That's about as close as it gets.
    – Hot Licks
    Dec 13, 2014 at 19:39
  • @Hot Licks: I know we're a gobby lot, but I doubt you'd have picked up much of our vernacular from that one "not-so-close" encounter! :) Dec 13, 2014 at 22:03

2 Answers 2


I haven't come across this usage in years (decades, maybe). It's a facetiously self-deprecating "wry humour" expression. A typical usage context in the UK many years ago might be...

"Hi Tom! I hear you've been promoted in your job at McDonalds"
"Yeah, that's right. They made me deputy branch manager, for my sins"

As regards meaning, there isn't much really. In my example Tom doesn't really think he's guilty of any past moral transgressions - he's just facetiously implying that his "promotion" could be seen as a "punishment" - because he doesn't really like/approve of his current circumstances. See this question on Yahoo Answers for more discussion of the usage (which I'd guess is primarily BrE).

In OP's context, to the extent that it means anything at all, I'd say the writer is just admitting that it's not ideal that he and his colleagues have to use information from national news organisations (in an ideal world they would have their own team of "newshounds").

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    What? It's an everyday idiom in the UK. I have to take the wife shopping, for my sins.
    – WS2
    Dec 13, 2014 at 15:03
  • @WS2: I'm pretty sure in written contexts this facetious usage would be swamped by the "literal" one - even in the UK where relatively few people would give any credence to religious notions like "original sin". So there's no easy way to establish current prevalence. My guess is it's less common than you think it is (your age and location make it likely you use/hear it more often than the average UK native speaker). But I'll freely admit it's probably still more common than my personal experience would suggest. I doubt I'd still say it myself, but it's hard to even be sure about that. Dec 13, 2014 at 15:30
  • I'm not sure it only involves 'original sin'. I'm sure we have all got enough 'unoriginal sin' to cover the idiomatic use.
    – WS2
    Dec 13, 2014 at 15:35
  • @WS2: I did say notions like "original sin". You could mix in allusions to the "personal" sins Catholics admit to in confessionals. Or "karmic consequences" if we don't want to restrict ourselves to Christianity for the "literal" sense. Personally, I think some of my best sins were exceptionally creative and original. :) Dec 13, 2014 at 15:45
  • No good deed goes unpunished. Dec 13, 2014 at 15:55

I've always supposed this phrase derives from Acts of Contrition, as recited by penitent sinners after confession. See, for example, the several forms given near the end of rc.net's Confession page, somewhat as follows:

Oh, my God, I am heartily sorry for my sins. Because I dread the loss of heaven and the pains of hell, but most of all because they offend Thee [...] I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace to confess my sins, to do penance and to avoid the near occasions of sin.

That is, for my sins may be used to suggest (sometimes humorously) that what someone is doing or going to do is a sort of penance.

In the example quoted in the question, it's possible the phrase is being misused, if the speaker does not mean to imply that what they are doing is a penance, but rather a sin in itself.

However, if they have in the past used shady sources, it may be saying they are now required to used the national news sources mentioned.

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