I’m drawing a blank


I'm having trouble trying to remember right now

TRANSLATION

I'm drawing a blank = es fällt mir im Moment nichts ein

STATISTICS

IN THE PRESS

"I would have said (the answer) was something to do with finance, but that's just a vague feeling! ... Sorry, I must admit "I'M DRAWING A BLANK" on that one."

BBC Learning English

Did you
know?

I'm drawing a blank
informal phrase

(1) to be unable to remember or think of something in the moment:

"I'm sorry, I'm drawing a blank—what's your name again?"

(2) to be unable to find something which is missing:

"I've looked everywhere for my car keys, I'm just drawing a blank."

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ORIGIN

This interesting phrase originates from the lottery that was established in Tudor England.

Elizabeth I, like the monarchs of other European countries at the time, was short of money and decided to copy rival nation states by instituting a national lottery in 1567. The money so raised was intended to go towards the 'reparation of the havens and strength of the Realm and towards further public works'.

Lotteries at that time worked by putting tickets with the participant's names on them into a 'lot pot'. An equal number of notes, some with the prizes written on them and some of which were blank, went into another pot. Pairs of tickets were drawn simultaneously from the two pots. It is easy to see how a failure to succeed came to be associated with drawing a blank.

The first tickets cost ten shillings each - at a time when labourers were paid about a shilling a day, but prizes included silver plate and tapestry.

Although the first time that someone 'drew a blank' was in the 16th century, the phrase wasn't recorded in print until the 19th century, in Washington Irving's Tales of a Traveller, 1824, in which the plot involves a character being given credit for something he hadn't done:

"It is like being congratulated on the high prize when one has drawn a blank."

Soon after that date the phrase began to be used in hunting circles and later in the 19th century it became used in a general figurative sense to mean to be unsuccessful in a venture or search of any kind.

(adapted from Phrase Finder)

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TALKING POINT
practice OWAD in a conversation today

"The English phrase TO DRAW A BLANK goes right back to the first national lottery in 16th century England. Do you ever play lottery?"

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