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What does the expression "The devil with you" mean in this paragraph?

“Yes, yes, I know all about it. Your dear sainted mother is the only woman you’ll ever let into your heart, more’s the pity. Let me tell you, boy: yes, I loved your mother, in the end, but it didn’t start out like that. It was a good match from the beginning, a smart and practical one. That’s all one can hope for when securing a legacy. And I’ll be damned if I go to my grave knowing…” Lord Berkeley blustered, and then fell into a fit of coughing, which ended whatever impassioned speech he was about to give. He clicked his fingers, and a  servant rushed over with a glass of water. Eventually, he calmed himself, his fit of pique subsiding, and he waved a hand at his son. “The devil with you,” he said, quietly.  “Maybe when I’m gone, you can ask this one here all the questions you never asked me in life.”

(Sherlock Holmes - The Red Tower by Mark A. Latham)

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3 Answers 3

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It's an idiom (old-fashioned):

Go to the devil
in British English

: b. (interjection) used to express annoyance with the person causing it

(Collins Dictionary)

Compare the structure of the phrase with the familiar "Off to bed with you!", which is a modification of the (established) phrase "Off with you!".

"Go to the devil" would become "Off to the Devil with you".

Similarly, "Go to hell" would become "Off to hell with you".

Boiling them down would result in:

  • "[To] the devil with you"
  • "To hell with you"
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    In America, by the way, “The Devil with you!” is both uncommon and not as rude as “To Hell with you!” Or the even more common, “Damn you!” When I was growing up, “Hell” and “Damn” were two of the seven dirty words you couldn’t say on American TV, at least not as a curse or intensifier, but “Devil” wasn’t.
    – Davislor
    Feb 17 at 0:40
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    And in most other European languages: "va' al diavolo!" in Italian. "Bíodh an diabhal aige!"/"Téigh i dtigh diabhail!" in Irish.
    – smci
    Feb 17 at 7:40
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    The phrase "Go to the devil" was memorably used by Captain Kirk in a 1968 episode of Star Trek, so it had some currency in American English as well. Feb 17 at 7:56
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    @smci Or «Чёрт возми!» ("The devil take it!") or «Иди к черту!» ("Go to the devil!") in Russian. I would imagine that much the same applies in most traditionally Christian parts of the world. Feb 18 at 21:47
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    ...so do satanists say "Go to Heaven!"? It doesn't have the same kick.
    – smci
    Feb 19 at 1:02
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@Justin gives the etymology of the phrase but to explain it a bit more...

It's a colloquialism for deciding to remove himself from any further parental responsibility for his son's future and assume an ambivalent demeanour.

A longer way of saying the phrase with a better understanding of it's intent would be along the lines of "for all I care, the devil can take you [to hell]", or the more familiar "To hell with you"

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This a contracted form of "go to the devil with you". The Free Dictionary provides a few definitions (including "used in the imperative to express anger or impatience") and cites an example from Anna Karenina (I'm unsure of which translation):

And I will let you alone! and it's high time I did, and go to the devil with you!

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    This doesn't make the expression any clearer than the original. Who is supposed to 'go to the devil with you'? The addressee ('you')? If so, what does it mean to go anywhere with oneself?
    – jsw29
    Feb 16 at 15:55
  • You are being told to goto the devil. equivalent to being told to goto hell. The devil with you = to the devil with you = you goto the devil = you goto hell. The "with you" construction is similar to "what will we do with you" Nobody else is being referenced, despite the use of "with" Feb 16 at 16:04
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    @EricBrown-Cal, yes, and all this has already been well explained in Justin's answer. It is, however, not something that can be discerned from this answer.
    – jsw29
    Feb 16 at 16:25
  • Maybe your comment should have made it clear you wanted the above answer elucidated, as opposed to one that could be confused for a genuine confusion?? Feb 16 at 17:01
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    Oh, come on! "To the devil with you" means "Go to the devil." The words "with you" were needed to lend sense to that different form of expression. "Go to the devil with you" is at best clumsy enough to spoil its value. Feb 18 at 0:12

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