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 (uncountable)

  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, Mrs. Maxon Protests, ch. 22:
      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".