24

From Pat Hobby, Putative Father by F. Scott Fitzgerald:

He searched the orange pages frantically. Below the form sheets, the past performances, the endless oracles for endless racetracks, his eye was caught by a one-inch item:

LONDON. SEPTEMBER 3RD. ON THIS MORNING'S DECLARATION BY CHAMBERLAIN, DOUGIE CABLES 'ENGLAND TO WIN. FRANCE TO PLACE. RUSSIA TO SHOW'.

Clearly this is a shorthand for something, but what?

  • 21
    Win, place, and show are betting terms, often used in horse racing. – Weather Vane Feb 11 at 22:28
  • 1
    "ENGLAND TO WIN" is likely a reference to the war, nascent at the time. – Guest Feb 11 at 22:30
  • 1
    Not Nascent: on 3rd September 1939 Chamberlain declared war on Germany. Who was Dougie in the book? Why is the message on the sporting page? What is the context? – Weather Vane Feb 11 at 22:36
  • 1
    @WeatherVane The Cambridge Dictionary defines "nascent" as "only recently formed or started, but likely to grow larger quickly." So of course WW2 was nascent in September 1939. – Guest Feb 11 at 22:59
  • 1
    WW2 was nascent in the mid-30's and everybody knew it was inevitable. When war was declared, that was more explosion than nascence, which isn't really the right usage for an outbreak of war. – Weather Vane Feb 11 at 23:03
51

It's a betting term. Win — first place. Place — second or first place. Show — third, second or first place.

Source: oddsshark.com (among others).

Suggesting England would "win," France would finish second and Russia third. That is, someone was setting odds on the outcome of the war.

  • 11
    @Guest it was a cable (or telegram) which was expensive to send, thus in shorthand, from someone with a sense of humour. – Weather Vane Feb 11 at 22:33
  • 3
    @Guest - You are exactly right, and that's much of the point. Think about it. – Hot Licks Feb 11 at 23:18
  • 6
    @guest horseraces often have 10 or more participants in a single race. As such, even showing (third place) is considered an achievement. Being picked to show should not be considered disparaging. – BowlOfRed Feb 11 at 23:57
  • 4
    @Guest The great costs of waging a war, coupled with what is typically a negotiated peace afterwards, will inevitably lead to different nations winning more, losing less, etc. Since we are talking WWII, yes, the Allies won and the Axis lost, but those are sides. Now start counting what each nation had to spend during the war, the losses they took, etc. and you end up with a view that could be close to what was predicted: England was never invaded, France was totally (but very rapidly) occupied and Russia lost about 10 million people. – Falc Feb 12 at 16:11
  • 2
    It seems that the betting terms are not related to winning the war, but to declare war on Germany. England to declare first, and so on. – Stefan Feb 12 at 17:44
6

horse racing term

to place TFD

Games Second position for betting purposes, as in a horserace.

The prediction of the race is for England to win ... Russia to come in 3rd. But without more context ( doubtful horses name's could be England, France and Russia) it could be a political or some such metaphor.

  • 2
    The relevant context is "September 3rd". Britain declared war on Germany on September 3rd. – Eric Lippert Feb 12 at 15:58
3

Below the form sheets, the past performances, the endless oracles for endless racetracks

The context is a newspaper for horse racing bettors.

LONDON. SEPTEMBER 3RD. ON THIS MORNING'S DECLARATION BY CHAMBERLAIN

On September 1st, Germany invaded Poland. As a result, on September 3rd 1939 British Prime Minister Chamberlain declared war on Germany.

See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rtJ_zbz1NyY

DOUGIE CABLES 'ENGLAND TO WIN. FRANCE TO PLACE. RUSSIA TO SHOW'.

As others have noted, this is horse race betting parlance for England will win, France will come in second, Russia will come in third.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.