from pillar to post
Possibly originally from post to pillar, perhaps a reference to the rapid movement of the ball in real tennis; The Wordsworth Dictionary of Proverbs (1993) notes that from post to pillar dates to at least the 15th century.
- Hyphenation: from pil‧lar to post
- (idiomatic) From one place (or person, or task) to another; from post to pillar, hither and thither.
1832 July, “A Novelty in Posting”, in The Annual Register, or a View of the History, Politics, and Literature of the Year 1832, volume LXXIV, London: Printed for Baldwin and Cradock [et al.], published 1833, OCLC 759776678, page 81:
- Mr. [Charles] Babbage, in his work on the Economy of Manufactures, suggests a new plan of forwarding the mail. […] Mr. Babbage proposes the erection of pillars along each line of road; these pillars are to be connected by inclined wires, or iron rods, along which the letters, inclosed in cylinders attached to the rods by rings, are to slide; persons stationed on these columns are to forward the cylinders from each point, after having extracted the contents belonging to their own station. In this manner it is calculated that a letter might be sent (from pillar to post), to the farthest limits of the land in the course of a very small portion of time; […]
1872, Testimony in Relation to Alleged Frauds in the New York Custom-House, Taken by the Committee on Investigation and Retrenchment (United States Senate, 42d Congress, 2d Session; report no. 227), volume III, Washington, D.C.: Government Printing-Office, OCLC 853127571, page 181:
- Q. You applied to Secretary [George Sewall] Boutwell because you had ascertained you could not get redress anywhere else?—A. No; we were sent from pillar to post, and from post to pillar, and we got no satisfaction any way.
1874 May, “From Pillar to Post”, in Sarah J[osepha] Hale and Louis A[ntoine] Godey, editors, Godey's Lady's Book and Magazine, volume LXXXVIII, number 527, Philadelphia, Pa.: Published by Louis A. Godey, N.E. cor. Sixth and Chestnut Sts., OCLC 8276428, page 421:
- All these things, and others of like nature, are in their minds floating possibilities; in consequence of which they are sent from pillar to post in the realms of opinion, and are never anchored anywhere.
- 2003, Joan Steinau Lester, Fire in My Soul: Eleanor Holmes Norton, New York, N.Y.: Atria Books, ISBN 978-0-7434-0787-8; republished New York, N.Y.: Atria Books, January 2004, ISBN 978-0-7434-0788-5, page 263:
- We campaigned like hell. On election day we went from pillar to post begging people to support us.
2011 March 28, “Bihar assembly passes bill for time-bound government services”, in Daily Bhaskar, archived from the original on 21 June 2016:
- When the bill becomes an act, it will provide a big relief to people who now run from pillar to post and are forced to pay bribes to get their work done in government offices.
The term normally implies a harassing situation.
- ^ G[eorge] L[atimer] Apperson (2006) The Wordsworth Dictionary of Proverbs, new edition, Ware, Herfordshire: Wordsworth Editions, ISBN 978-1-84022-311-8, page 457: “Pillar to post, From. Often From post to pillar. c.1420: Lydgate, Assembly of Gods, 34 (E.E.T.S.), Thus fro poost to pylour was he made to daunce.”
- Oxford English Dictionary, second edition, 1989.