buy the farm
US slang, from the WWII era (first printed record in the US Air Force in the 1950's). Similar expressions like buy the plot and buy the lot also existed, although buy the farm is the only one to have survived. When a military pilot with a stricken airplane attempted to crash land in a farmer's field, he would destroy a portion of the farmer's crops for which the US government paid reimbursement to the farmer. If it were a bad crash-landing destroying most of the crops then the crash would cause the buying of the whole farm, shortened subsequently to the current idiom. Probably related to older British slang buy it, buy one or buy the packet, both seemingly ironic references to something that one does not want to buy. May come from the common reflection that once someone had finished his service he would go home and buy a farm to settle on. Also, it may be in reference to the book Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck. Main characters George and Lennie always talk about owning their own farm where they will have to answer to no one and "live off the fatt'a the land".
- (idiomatic, US, informal, euphemistic) To die; generally, to die in battle or in a plane crash.
1995, Steve Allen, “Having a Good Time”, in Ann McDonough & Kent R. Brown, editor, A Grand Entrance, published 2000, ISBN 087129933X, page 212:
- BETTY. Shoot, if I knew you was gonna buy the farm I coulda asked for everything you got in the world... How were you gonna do it? ¶ROGER (takes revolver out of briefcase). With this.
- This idiom is most often found in its past tense and past participle form bought the farm.
- buy it
- buy the plot
- buy the ranch
- kick the bucket
- punch one's ticket
- meet your maker
- See also Thesaurus:die
- “Buy the farm” in Michael Quinion, Ballyhoo, Buckaroo, and Spuds: Ingenious Tales of Words and Their Origins, Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Books in association with Penguin Books, 2004, ISBN 978-1-58834-219-5.
- Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck