The phrase queer at­ti­tude used to be com­mon­place, sim­ply mean­ing a strange at­ti­tude or un­help­ful be­hav­ior.

Un­for­tu­nately in the present era, I once used that phrase and sadly of­fended an LGBT per­son, since peo­ple to­day use queer to mean ho­mo­sex­ual.

I can avoid say­ing queer at­ti­tude by just say­ing strange at­ti­tude.

What's a mod­ern al­ter­na­tive to the com­mon busi­ness phrase "queer the deal" that does­n’t risk giv­ing of­fence where none is in­tended?

Other queer- phrases are easy enough to re­place, but I am stumped on this one.

(Fun­nily enough the other day I gave some­one the long-winded al­ter­na­tive: “I’m try­ing not to talk about it to not up­set my ne­go­ti­a­tion so don't find me rude but I’d rather not go in to de­tails, etc.”, and my col­league im­me­di­ately re­sponded “Oh, you don’t want to queer the deal, got it!” Geesh!)

  • 20
    Worth mentioning that queer isn't just homosexual, it's anything under the LGBTQ+ umbrella. Usually it denotes a degree of non-conformity as well. LGBT politicians get elected. Queer ones don't (usually). Commented Dec 11, 2018 at 18:02
  • Thank you for your effort. Please avoid discussion, debate, or giving answers in comments. The comment thread is reserved for helping to improve the post: friendly clarifying questions, suggestions for improving the post, relevant but transient information, and explanations of your actions. A welcoming place for discussion of posts (or anything else) is our English Language & Usage Chat.
    – MetaEd
    Commented Dec 12, 2018 at 21:59
  • 10
    I believe "queer" predates "gay" as slang for homosexual. I wouldn't try to pass off this mistake as some kind of generational misunderstanding. Commented Dec 13, 2018 at 0:11
  • 1
    Subjective questions are off topic unless the request is expert-level, unique, particularly interesting and thought-provoking, shows substantial effort and research, and demands responses that meet the same standards. See: “Good Subjective, Bad Subjective – SE Blog”.
    – MetaEd
    Commented Dec 14, 2018 at 19:20
  • 1
    @MetaEd Are you suggesting that we are being overly reactionary wrt "queer the deal" being politically incorrect these days? Requests for alternatives to idiomatic, but awkward phrases seem like this site's wheelhouse. How would any "political correctness" question not be subjective? This question is answerable. Reputable writers are showing the way.
    – Phil Sweet
    Commented Dec 15, 2018 at 23:00

14 Answers 14


It reminds me of the usage of jinx, an old word which (at least in my experience) has recently become much more popular amongst young people:

to foredoom to failure or misfortune : bring bad luck to

(source: Merriam Webster)

"Don't jinx it" is a reasonably commonly heard phrase nowadays.

  • 2
    How recent is 'relatively new'?
    – Mitch
    Commented Dec 11, 2018 at 14:03
  • 3
    It looks like it was already in use in the 1980s. Commented Dec 11, 2018 at 14:05
  • 10
    I've heard jinx used in this sense for as long as I remember. +1 Commented Dec 12, 2018 at 0:45
  • 3
    It's a very common term everywhere I've lived in the US (mainly Midwest and California). So far as I can tell the "bad luck" sense of the word dates back to early twentieth century US sports superstition.
    – 1006a
    Commented Dec 12, 2018 at 19:09
  • 2
    Jinx has been in use in the US with a meaning pretty similar to the contemporary one for over 100 years, and has a prior usage meaning a spell or curse dating back to the 17th century. It ain't new.
    – barbecue
    Commented Dec 14, 2018 at 14:40

Queering the deal means to have some (usually last minute) new condition or circumstance to contend with, which threatens the delicate balance of (a perhaps not altogether above-board) negotiated arrangement. Last minute demands of facilitators who want to increase their cut of the deal are typical examples. The ability to queer a deal is the essence of pork barrel politics. The phrase was established by 1900.

"A good cigar," said the dealer, "and you can have it now if you want it." The coachman was wrath. Whenever his employer purchased a horse, he said he had always gotten a "rake off" of $25 from the dealer and he now demanded $75 as his commission for inducing his employer to buy an automobile. If money wasn't forthcoming, he declared he would "queer the deal."

enter image description here

The Horseless Age: The Automobile Trade Magazine, Volume 8, 1901.

So the alternatives should preserve this sense of meddlesomeness.

The first that comes to mind is "scotch the deal", but I rather think this doesn't solve the problem so much as impune the Scots. However it is surviving in the news just fine, at least in British news. Scotch the deal generally implies somebody benefits from the deal not happening at all, while queer the deal is normally used where all parties need some sort of deal to go through to benefit.

"Stymie the deal" is close and has some currency.

In handing down his ruling, federal judge Richard Leon said the Justice Department -- whose antitrust chief, Makan Delrahim, brought the rare case -- failed to provide sufficient proof that the deal would harm competition or consumers. He also warned the U.S. government against bringing an appeal if the purpose was to try to stymie the deal, though the DOJ has not indicated its next steps.

AT&T-Time Warner merger approved, setting stage for more consolidation, Daily Herald, 6/13/2018. https://www.dailyherald.com/business/20180612/att-time-warner-merger-approved-setting-stage-for-more-consolidation

"Muddle the deal" seems like a good option.

While the Reynolds-Lorillard deal shakes up the lucrative but slowing U.S. market, it doesn't alter the global picture dramatically. That makes it unlikely Philip Morris, the global leader in cigarette sales excluding China, or Japan Tobacco, would feel the need to swoop in and try to muddle the deal with any counteroffer, industry watchers said.

Amid U.S. Tobacco Merger, Is the Global Deal Making Done?, The Wall Street Journal,Jul 15, 2014. https://blogs.wsj.com/moneybeat/2014/07/15/amid-u-s-tobacco-merger-is-the-global-deal-making-done/

  • "No, it doesn't mean that." Yes, it does, Phil. Words/phrases change meaning over time. (There's a discussion up top about "Apocryphal!") However this is great info.
    – Fattie
    Commented Dec 11, 2018 at 21:08
  • (Can trivially google, Phil. Note though that generally you can't google spoken figures.)
    – Fattie
    Commented Dec 11, 2018 at 21:21
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    Trivially googled. I'm with Phil. Urban dictionary, reddit, quora, netlingo, and oxford don't mention a meaning involving superstition or mental poise. And Google runs out of entries involving the full 'queer the deal' phrase by the end of the first page ...
    – mcalex
    Commented Dec 12, 2018 at 9:47
  • 7
    ... additionally, "crossing over between superstition and mental poise" isn't what i'd call a very specific, clear, meaning. This is nebulous and vague at best.
    – mcalex
    Commented Dec 12, 2018 at 9:50
  • 2
    This is the only sense of queer the deal I’ve ever heard as well. And a very good answer, too! Commented Dec 12, 2018 at 16:03

Don't sour the deal

One of the definitions at oxforddictionaries.com is:

(verb) Make or become unpleasant, acrimonious, or difficult.
[with object] ‘a dispute soured relations between the two countries’

As I'm not superstitious, I can't comment on that meaning.

I'm flattered by OP's suggestion that only younger people today use "queer" as homosexual. I'm retired and have always understood it that way. Perhaps it's BrE that's only recently entered AmE.

  • 1
    I think this answer fits better than Jinx and certainly closer to the context than most of the other answers. Sour has a much more linear meaning than Jinx, implications of Good turning Bad as consequence, rather than superstition per-say. Good job, got my vote Commented Dec 12, 2018 at 10:49
  • I hadn't heard soured on used causally, so I looked it up. MW says "US : to stop liking or being interested in (something) or to cause (someone) to stop liking or being interested in (something)." And offers the following example:The disappointing result of the election soured her on politics. There are several excellent examples of "soured the deal" from notable historians. Including a couple would improve your answer.
    – Phil Sweet
    Commented Dec 15, 2018 at 22:30

The answer by Glorfindel identifies "jinx" as a very good option, which I agree with for the "superstition" meaning; it seems to substitute well in the form "jinx it", such as "I don't want to jinx it". However, I don't think it's appropriate for more material concerns over what you call "mental poise".

The most appropriate word I can think of for that meaning is "choke", using the intransitive verb definition 4 from here:

to lose one's composure and fail to perform effectively in a critical situation

Alternatively, if you really need a single word or phrase that mixes superstition with mental poise, the closest I can think of is "psych out" with usage something like "I don't want to psych myself out." It can be used to express this kind of sentiment: "I don't want to worry about a superstition because doing so would upset my mental poise and cause me to fail." This is somewhat tenuous and it would be clearer if you specifically mentioned superstition as well, but I don't know of anything closer.

To reiterate, I don't think a single phrase perfectly aligns, but these each can apply to some of the situations:

  • If you want to avoid a superstition, "I don't want to jinx it."
  • If you want to preserve your mental poise, "I don't want to choke."
  • If you want to preserve your mental poise by avoiding a superstition, "I don't want to psych myself out thinking about it." (With "it" being the superstition.)
  • THIS IS FANTASTIC! Also, very American-sports. Something like "Don't talk about it, you'll make me choke..."
    – Fattie
    Commented Dec 11, 2018 at 21:09
  • "psych myself out" is even better. Bravo!
    – Fattie
    Commented Dec 11, 2018 at 21:18
  • 1
    Also related is the idea of being on tilt, which originates from Poker but has since spread to other competitive games. Commented Dec 12, 2018 at 15:21
  • I have not heard that one, @eyeballfrog .
    – Fattie
    Commented Dec 14, 2018 at 15:02
  • This is the cleverest, most innovative and most spot-on answer, bounty! Thanks. Thanks to you I've already used "don't make me choke!" a couple times! :)
    – Fattie
    Commented Dec 17, 2018 at 18:12

It is related to the panoply of expressions for which queer is used, comprising various markers - often derogatory, some of them such as the association with homosexuality now considered offensive. Another is the British expression queer street, slang for bankruptcy. (A bankrupt person or business is said to be "in queer street".)

As well as noun and adjectival senses of queer,however, two verb senses have entries in the OED. The first is derived from inquire or query and has no relevance here.

However the second, especially sense 2b is exactly relevant to this question.

b. to queer the pitch: (originally) to interfere with or spoil the business of a street vendor or performer (cf. pitch n.2 17a); (later more generally) to interfere with or spoil the business in hand; similarly to queer a person's pitch. Also in similar phrases, as to queer the game, to queer the deal, etc.

1846 ‘Lord Chief Baron’ Swell's Night Guide (new ed.) 47 Rule iv... Nanty coming it on a pall, or wid cracking to queer a pitch. 1866 M. Mackintosh Stage Reminisc. vii. 93 The smoke and fumes of ‘blue fire’ which had been used to illuminate the fight came up through the chinks of the stage, fit to choke a dozen Macbeths, and—pardon the little bit of professional slang—poor Jamie's ‘pitch’ was ‘queered’ with a vengeance. 1875 T. Frost Circus Life xvi. 278
The spot they select for their performance is their ‘pitch’, and any interruption of their feats, such as an accident, or the interference of a policeman, is said to ‘queer the pitch’. 1889 E. Sampson Tales of Fancy 38 They could not understand it when their pitch was queered, and one or two of the gang arrested. 1901 Windsor Mag. Dec. 204/1 I think you and I between us have queered the game. 1912
Chambers's Jrnl. Dec. 795/2 All branches of the administration work sensibly and effectively so long as you do not ‘queer the pitch’ by creating exceptions. 1973 E. Lemarchand Let or Hindrance iv. 31
He's a decent lad... He would never have risked queering Wendy's pitch with Eddy. 1993 Chicago Tribune 19 June i. 14/2 This presumes..that Nolan doesn't queer the deal by holding more press conferences to warn how crime-ridden Chicago will become. 2006 Econ. Times (India) (Nexis) 4 Oct. What queers the pitch for the airlines is the additional capacity entering the domestic market over the next three

  • "queer the pitch!" GREAT thinking!
    – Fattie
    Commented Dec 11, 2018 at 21:08
  • It's fascinating that pitch now means "business pitch"
    – Fattie
    Commented Dec 14, 2018 at 15:06
  • This is awesome, and I've upvoted it for all of the historical references and the definition of "queer" in the sense in which it is used in the OP's phrase, but unfortunately, "queer the pitch" as a substitute for "queer the deal" still contains the part of the phrase that is perceived as questionable.
    – shoover
    Commented Dec 14, 2018 at 16:12

The 'deal' could be considered a complicated and multi-faceted operation. For this, I would offer,

Don't throw a wrench in the works.

This instills vivid metaphoric imagery of halting the machinations of a complex transaction or process through one's actions or inactions.

  • nice suggestion!
    – Fattie
    Commented Dec 12, 2018 at 2:28
  • 2
    Though "spanner" is more common than "wrench" in my experience, and Google agrees. Commented Dec 12, 2018 at 21:14
  • @JohnMontgomery depends on how you search. The British "spanner" is more common combined with "in the works" but "throw a monkey wrench" outdoes "throw a spanner." One of the reasons why ngrams isn't always the best tool.
    – barbecue
    Commented Dec 14, 2018 at 14:47
  • @JohnMontgomery - As a native EN-CA, I often find myself torn between EN-UK and EN-US regional mannerisms.
    – user150753
    Commented Dec 20, 2018 at 14:33

It sounds like you want to use classical meaning of "queer" not because it is the most "Simple English correct" term, but to add color and dimension to your language. Any of a huge variety of slang terms for "breaking it" will suffice.

Don't scotch the deal

Don't flub the deal

Don't zorch the deal

Don't botch the deal

Really, that list is pretty endless.

You can also throw a little "Darmok & Jilad at Tenagra" (or more precisely, "Shaka, when the walls fell") in there, by adapting a cultural reference- someone who "snatched defeat from the jaws of victory", facepalmed, or let loose lips sink ships. That's trickier, and subject to context. "don't Kee Bird the deal" would play among airplane restorationists.

  • 7
    'Zorch'? Are you Mad Magazine from 1965?
    – Mitch
    Commented Dec 11, 2018 at 19:16
  • 2
    Also, the 'scotch' may be problematic.
    – Mitch
    Commented Dec 11, 2018 at 19:21
  • @Mitch lol Indeed... But "dated" is definitely what OP is going for, not that there's anything wrong with that! Commented Dec 11, 2018 at 19:50
  • 5
    "common business phrase" ? I think the OP is from 1965.
    – Mazura
    Commented Dec 12, 2018 at 8:09

I checked three dictionaries of British idioms, and none of them has an entry for "queer the deal." However two of them do have entries for "queer someone's pitch" which WS2 raises in his answer. From John Ayto, Oxford Dictionary of English Idioms,third edition (2010):

queer someone's pitch spoil someone's chances of doing something, especially secretly or maliciously. British

This phrase originated as 19th-century slang; early examples of its use suggest that the pitch referred to is the spot where a street performer stationed themselves or the site of a market trader's stall.

[Example:] 1973 Elizabeth Lemarchand Let or Hindrance He's a decent lad....he would never have risked queering Wendy's pitch with Eddy.

And from Longman Dictionary of English Idioms (1979):

queer someone's pitch coll[oquial] to cause trouble for a person, e.g. by ruining or upsetting his plans or arrangements: it will really queer their pitch if it rains on the day of their trip to the sea Also: queer the pitch for Pitch here refers to the place, e.g. in the street or a market, where a person stands and arranges his goods for sale. Originally someone was said to queer a person's pitch if he established his pitch close by, selling the same goods

If we take "queer the deal" as meaning roughly the same thing as "queer the pitch" (or "queer someone's pitch"), then a comparable phrase might be "put the kibosh on". Here is the entry for that phrase in Christine Ammer, The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms, second edition (2013):

put the kibosh on Restrain or check something, as in The rain put the kibosh on our beach party or The loss put the kibosh om the whole project. The word kibosh has been in English since the first half of the 1800s, but its origin is unknown.

Longman Dictionary of English Idioms has an entry for "put the kibosh on," too:

put the kibosh on coll[oquial] to spoil or prevent (a plan, idea, etc.) from happening or being successful: the rain has put the kibosh on our plans for doing some gardening this afternoon {V: Pass 1} Also (coll[oquial]) put the mockers on

...as does Ayto's Oxford Dictionary of English Idioms:

put the kibosh on put an end to; thwart the plans of. informal

The meaning and origin of kibosh is uncertain. 'Put the kye-bosk on her' is used by 'a pot-boy' in Charles Dickens's Sketches by Boz (1836).

To judge from the example sentences in which rain is said variously to "queer their pitch ... on the day of their trip to the sea" and "put the kibosh on our beach party" and "put the kibosh on our plans to do some gardening this afternoon," there is considerable overlap in the application of the two terms.


As a bonafide queer person myself, I've never even heard this particular turn of phrase.

I would either use jinx, as Glorfindel suggests, or potentially curse or hex as all of those terms explicitly evoke the superstitious nature that you were looking for. I do think jinx is the most common, however.


Mom: Oh, you're done with your degree, congratulations!

Me: Don't say that yet, you'll curse me!

In my case, I was fully aware that odds were very good that I would graduate (and I did!), but the illogical part of my brain was convinced that if anyone congratulated me on it, I would fail.

  • In your example quoted, "jinx" would work very well!
    – Fattie
    Commented Dec 11, 2018 at 21:07

The Jewish or Yiddish word "Kinehora" might work. To my untutored ear it sounds like "KAN - UH - HARA." I hear Americans including my wife's Jewish family say it. It means don't jinx it by anticipating it before it's completed.

For example, " Five years and my Ph.D. is almost complete, only weeks to go!" Or celebrating an offer of work or a deal before the contract is signed. People then say, "Don't put a kinehora on it."

Here's a reference: http://www.jewishanswers.org/ask-the-rabbi-category/miscellaneous/?p=1855

  • 2
    Isn’t this pretty much just the same as a jinx? I’ve only ever heard the word used once (by Grace in an episode of Will & Grace, when Will says nothing can go wrong now as they’re in a cab on their way to a fertility clinic), so I don’t know it’s exact connotations, but it felt pretty jinx-cursy to me in that context. Commented Dec 11, 2018 at 19:47
  • @Janus I agree it is pretty much the same as "jinx." But it gives us an alternative.
    – Flynn
    Commented Dec 11, 2018 at 19:51
  • fascinating answer!
    – Fattie
    Commented Dec 11, 2018 at 20:11
  • "It means don't jinx it by anticipating it before it's completed." thats a perfect summary of the sense ...
    – Fattie
    Commented Dec 11, 2018 at 21:07
  • 4
    Only if you're both Jewish. Perhaps awareness of Yiddish is wider in the US, but this certainly isn't a word used by any other English speakers elsewhere in the world. Not recommended if you want to communicate in English.
    – Graham
    Commented Dec 11, 2018 at 23:17

I am certainly aware of the meaning of the phrase "queer the deal" but can't remember ever using it.

A bit more long-winded, but what I usually say is snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, which Collins Dictionary defines as:

phrase [VERB inflects] If someone snatches victory from the jaws of defeat, they win when it seems that they are certain to lose. If someone snatches defeat from the jaws of victory, they lose when it seems that they are certain to win.


I Don't want to throw off my groove

(alt. "mess up my groove")

This phrase was made popular by the 2000 movie The Emperor's New Groove, though the phrase it originates from ("get into a groove") predates the movie by quite a bit.

  • what a great suggestion
    – Fattie
    Commented Dec 14, 2018 at 17:16

Alternative to “queer the deal”?

I'd simply suggest "sour the deal".

This is in reference to the souring of wine to vinegar in the brewing process by contamination of the brew with air.


(1) The meaning of "queer the deal"

The comments have shown considerable controversy over the correct meaning of the phrase "queer the deal".

(a) Forfeiture. Can the construction be paraphrased as 'cause a deal to not go through at all?' Then adequate linguistic substitutes could be break the deal, thwart the deal.

(b) Imperil. Does the expression mean, 'do something that might threaten a deal to go through?' In this case we could think about generic alternatives, such as jeopardize the deal, or risk the deal.

(c) Superstition. Does the saying have the specific association of a superstitious fear to ruin a basically done deal last minute? If so, we might consider jinx the deal.

(d) Meddling. Is the phrase connoted with the idea of last minute meddling to increase one's cut of a deal? If this is the case, we might pick a phrase like sabotage the deal, stymie the deal.

(2) Naturally occurring examples

An investigation of naturally occurring examples of "queer the deal" can help us find out which paraphrase reflects current usage. So, I googled the construction, and randomly selected 5 examples from the results list. I did not cherry-pick or exclude examples. I then decided whether they support the forfeit, imperiling, superstitious or meddling interpretations.

Example 1:
Context: American novelist Jack Kerouac wrote a book. Warner Brothers offered $110k for the rights to turn it into a movie. But Kerouac's agent asked for $150k. Warner Brothers declined and the deal did not go through.

"Kerouac was mad at his agent because he thought he had queered the deal by asking too much"
(Source: On the road again, 2005)

(a) Forfeiture: Yes, (b) Imperil: No, (c) Superstition: No, (d) Meddling: Maybe

Example 2:
Context: A restaurant reviewer was at a pub called "Morrissey Pub". He needed to be at another bar at 9.30pm to write a review for it. However, he did not make it to the other pub in time for the following reason:

"[T]he bartender at the Morrissey Pub queered the deal by comping me a beer"
(Source: George Stroumboulopoulos: The Truth on TV, 2010)

(a) Forfeiture: Yes, (b) Imperil: No, (c) Superstition: No, (d) Meddling: No

Example 3:
Context: Blogger trying to sell their home

"[W]e already sold this house, last Sunday. Here we are again this Sunday, ZERO showings. You see, our buyer's investor group queered the deal. So that leaves us looking for a NEW buyer.
(Source: Looking Ahead, 2018)

(a) Forfeiture: Yes, (b) Imperil: No, (c) Superstition: No, (d) Meddling: No

Example 4:
Context: A 1930s religious group took offence at certain liberal Hollywood movies. The religious and Hollywood agencies have negotiated a deal that still needs to be passed. Hollywood was nervous and definitely wanted to pass the deal.

"Scared straight by Legion boycotts and New Deal threats, the members of the MPPDA Board sent instructions back to the moguls to do absolutely nothing to queer the deal. 'If Joe Breen tells you to change a picture, you do what he tells you.'"
(Source: Hollywood's Censor, 2009)

(a) Forfeiture: Maybe ('do nothing to forfeit the deal'), (b) Imperil: Maybe ('do nothing to imperil the deal') (c) Superstition: No, (d) Meddling: No

Example 5:
Context: The author criticizes hypocrisy in the Democratic party. There is no specific 'deal' mentioned. Rather, there is an abstract idea of pleasing voters, gaining support, becoming popular.

"Exposure of what they [=Democrats]'re saying among themselves about what they sell to the public threatens to queer the deal."
(Source: The Liberal War on Transparency, 2012)
(a) Forfeiture: Maybe ('threatens to forfeit the deal'), (b) Imperil: Maybe ('threatens to imperil the deal') (c) Superstition: No, (d) Meddling: No

(3) Conclusions

  • There is no evidence that "queer the deal" has a superstitious association in any way. Hence, to jinx the deal is not an adequate alternative. This expression conveys a fundamentally different, mental, psychological rather than factual, efficacious, conceptualization of the cause for breaking a deal.
  • Likewise, I cannot see any consistent evidence for the claim that "queer the deal" somehow involves meddling, the idea of last-minute modifications for one's own benefit, or exploitative strategies. Therefore, one should not replace the expression with sabotage the deal, stymie the deal either.
  • In current English, "queer the deal" seems to be used in a relatively broad, general way - it simply means 'to forfeit a deal'.

(4) Proposed Alternative

Given the most common use of "queer the deal" demonstrated above, I would propose the following PC-alternative for the expression:

to blow the deal

  • The phrase "to blow the deal" has the desired meaning, a forfeiture of a deal.
  • The expression "to blow the deal" already sounds quite natural and idiomatic so that it would not upset speakers too much or sound artificial.
  • The expression can easily replace "queer" in all the cited examples, including the paraphrase mentioned in the question: "I'm trying not to talk about it to not upset my negotiation so don't find me rude but I'd rather not go in to details.""I don't wanna blow the deal."
  • The words "queer" and "blow" share a similar register, both being quite colloquial, informal, slangy.
  • The expressions also have a similar rate of use - both are extremely rare at a frequency of c. 0.1 instances per million words.

The graph from Google Ngram viewer summarizes: enter image description here

  • You don't seem to understand how deals work or who can and can't forfeit a deal. Middlemen can't do that. None of your examples indicate any forfeiture on the part of a principle. Number three is vague and can't be scored. The others all concern meddling in the form of last minute changes to the landscape or demands upon one of the principles.
    – Phil Sweet
    Commented Dec 16, 2018 at 15:59
  • Can you clarify this a bit more? Just claiming something doesn’t make it so. At first sight at least it seems that (2)-(4) do not involve any last minute meddling. Indeed, short of possessing psychic powers, you cannot know if meddling was intended in a phrase like “don’t do anything to queer the deal”. Anyway, would you not agree that “blow” replaces “queer” in all the examples quite appropriately?
    – Richard Z
    Commented Dec 16, 2018 at 16:10
  • Maybe it's more about the term forfeiture than anything else. It usually refers to events after a deal has been struck. Ex 1 isn't clear what happened. Keroac's agent is acting on his behalf and is a principal in the negotiations. Unless we know that Kerouac had instructed hi agent differently or otherwise indicated a different sum would be accepted, we don't know how to score this. In ex 2. The bartendender did nothing to cancel the deal, the critic did that by not showing up. the bartender made it an attractive decision. That's meddling at best.
    – Phil Sweet
    Commented Dec 16, 2018 at 16:54
  • Ex 3 can't be scored based on the extract. In Ex 4, the moguls are not party to the deal, but could easily make a complete mess of it by releasing a movie which would trigger requests for revised standards. They could meddle in, and imperil the deal. In Ex 5, there is an implied contract between the party and the public in the form of the party platform. If somebody exposes secrets of one side to the other, they have meddled with the landscape upon which the deal rests. I don't really understand the difference between imperil and forfeit, imperil seem to cover both just fine.
    – Phil Sweet
    Commented Dec 16, 2018 at 17:05
  • Right. Well, I just intended "forfeiture" as a label for one of the hypotheses about the meaning of the phrase, not as the proposed substitute or synonym for it. "Forfeiture" OED sense 2: "The fact of losing [...] in consequence of [...] breach of engagement" seems general and professional. For (1), we do know that a different sum, $110k, would have been accepted. I agree (2) is odd, but I think mainly for stylistic reasons. The bartender did give the critic a free beer which caused him to be late for his appointment.
    – Richard Z
    Commented Dec 16, 2018 at 17:08