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Chance, Additional Subthemes

Subthemes: Non-Quantified Language, Quantum Probability, Risk Aversion Expressions

The previous four posts considered associations with “Chance”: the agony of Russian Roulette, religion and churches, the absence of vengeful gods and only crass chance, and unimagined divorce. Here we consider a few other observations about chance.

Non-Quantified Language: When people describe the likelihood of something they typically use terms that are not quantified. “It’s likely to rain” is said more commonly than “a 70% chance of rain.” Or “Our team has a good chance of making the playoffs” as compared to “Our team has about a 60% chance of making the playoffs.” The same non-quantified term can mean widely different prospects to different people. “We’ll probably win” means to the optimistic fan an 80% or higher likelihood; to a less sanguine analyst, it might mean just a shade over a 50-50 proposition. In general, expectations of an outcome become more reasonable and converge on a similar view to the degree that people setting the expectations attach numbers to their prediction.

Quantum Probability: In the atom in Wonderland world of quantum weirdness, the Heisenberg uncertainty principle applies to everything physical a fundamental probability, aka chance. For example, the more precisely one knows a particle’s position, the less one can know about its momentum, and vice versa. According to quantum physics, electrons don’t exist in any one spot, but rather exhibit probabilistic locations. Down in the tiniest innards of particles, interactions and existence display probabilistic chance.

Risk Aversion: Behavioral economists have demonstrated repeatedly that most people fear a loss of a given amount more than they welcome the reward of the same amount. Humans tend to be less likely to take a chance when we might lose something, than boldly venture to gain the same amount. We don’t perceive symmetric positive and negative chances as equivalents. Most of us won’t accept an offer that amounts to a fifty-fifty chance of gaining one-hundred dollars or of having to pay one hundred. Put briefly, humans have evolved to view chance as a risky proposition.

Expressions: The 91 idiomatic sayings presented alphabetically below refer to Chance in a figurative sense. I exclude direct uses of the theme word and proverbs. The idiomatic expressions come from my own knowledge of English and various online sources:

7esl, befluentnyc, Cambridge, Free Dictionary, ABCEnglish, Learn English Today, MacMillan Dictionary, Phrase-Thesaurus, PowerThesaurus, Reverse Dictionary, Twining English Centres, Using English, Literacy at Work, Your Dictionary. YourDictionary.

a kick at the can (an opportunity)
a sign of things to come (the form or style that is likely to develop in the future)
a storm is brewing (a difficult situation is about to arise in the future)
anyone’s call (difficult or impossible to predict the outcome)
as luck would have it (something that that happens purely by chance)
bank on something (depend or trust on something)
bare possibility (an expectancy)
beginner’s luck (the initial good fortune in a process)
bet the ranch (taking a big risk)
cold hell (an impossible event)
don’t hold your breath (do not expect something to happen)
even break (an equal chance for success)
fair shake (an equitable opportunity or treatment)
fight a losing battle (do something even there is a little chance of succeeding)
figure on something (plan for something that is likely to happen)
fool’s errand (doing something that will never lead to success)
foot in the door (gaining an opportunity to start doing something)
get a free ride (receiving an opportunity or advantage without making less or no effort)
go all in (hazard everything on a result)
golden ticket (an extremely valuable opportunity)
happen on someone/something (to encounter someone or something randomly)
happen across (to discover or encounter someone or something by chance)
have a vested interest (caring about something because of the high probability of success)
in all likelihood (very probably)
in all probability (something is very likely)
in the cards (likely to happen)
in the running (have a chance of being successful)
jto jump on the bandwagon (do something suddenly as it is likely to succeed or fashionable)
knock on wood (a superstitious expression for good luck)
law of averages (the idea of something is sure to happen eventuallyat some time)
lay odds (be sure of something)
leap in the dark (doing something without knowing the consequences)
long shot (something that is not likely to succeed)
lucky streak (concurrent fortunate outcomes)
more by accident than by design (something happens purely by chance)
Murphy’s law (anything can possibly go wrong)
new lease on life (a chance to continue living/ a chance to get more enjoyment)
nick of time (last possible moment)
no such luck (something is unlikely to happen)
once in a blue moon (occurring very rarely)
pipe dream (an idea or plan that is not practical or possible)
pot luck (meals where visitors bring food)
ride one’s luck (avoid failure by good fortune)
rotten/tough luck (bad fortune)
run the risk (possibly be affected by something bad happening)
seize the day (take an opportunity)
shoot the moon (try for a very ambitious outcome)
strike while the iron is hot (make use of an opportunity)
that ship has sailed (missed opportunity)
the luck of the draw (the result of something depends on chance)
to get a second bite at the cherry/apple (get a second chance)
to have something drop/fall into one’s lap (something of great value granted to someone without having been requested)
to luck out (have something good happen by chance)
to make hay while the sun shines (make the most of an opportunity)
to play the waiting game (withholding an action hoping for a better or favorable opportunity)
to push one’s luck (taking a risk, going too far)
tomorrow’s another day (there’s always a chance in the future)
twist of fate (something happening by chance)
viable alternative (a choice or possible situation that might work)
when pigs fly (something that will never happen)
while the going is good (while an opportunity lasts)
window of opportunity (short time for a chance to do something)

another take (another attempt)
beyond the realm(s) of possibility (impossible)
bump into (meeting someone unexpectedly)
by the skin of one’s teeth (barely)
catch someone off guard (surprise someone)
final moment (final chance or opportunity)
hang by a thread (barely surviving or carrying on; at risk)
happen along (to come to or by place by chance)
have an accident (unintentionally do something, with unpleasant consequences)
lap of the gods (not yet decided or certain)
last ditch (a desperate final attempt)
leave open the possibility of something (to not to prevent something)
not a hope in hell (no chance at all)
not have a prayer (to have no chance whatsoever)
out of nowhere (appearing suddenly)
out of the blue (unexpectedly)
second bite of the apple (a second chance or opportunity)
second shot (second attempt)
spring something on someone (announce something suddenly)
taken by surprise (attack or capture by surprise)
thank one’s lucky stars (express appreciation for a beneficial occurrence)
the eleventh hour (the latest possible time before it is too late)
the long arm of coincidence (far-reaching power or influence of coincidence)
third time lucky (the third attempt at something will be successful)
turn up (available unexpectedly)
under the wire (at the last possible opportunity)
up in the air (things are highly uncertain)
wing and a prayer (doing something with hope, but very little chance of success)
wish for the moon (want something that is impossible)
within the bounds of possibility (most likely possible)

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