beer and skittles

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Found as early as 1837, in Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens, where it appears in the form, “It’s a reg’lar holiday to them—all porter and skittles”. The most common form, as a negative admonition, appears to have been popularized by Thomas Hughes in Tom Brown's School Days (1857, see quotation below).


beer and skittles pl (plural only)

  1. (chiefly Britain, idiomatic) Fun times; pleasure and leisure.
    • 1857, Thomas Hughes, Tom Brown's School Days, part I, chapter 2:
      Well, well, we must bide our time. Life isn't all beer and skittles—but beer and skittles, or something better of the same sort, must form a good part of every Englishman's education.
    • 1911, Anthony Hope, chapter 22, in Mrs. Maxon Protests:
      Being a soldier's wife isn't all beer and skittles.
    • 2012 Mar. 24, John Walsh, "The perils of reviewing restaurants," The Independent (UK) (retrieved 24 July 2015):
      His plight reveals a truth that's often obscured by the envy of newspaper readers; that it's not all beer and skittles in restaurant-critic land.

Usage notes[edit]

  • Often used in the negative, "not all beer and skittles".