Hope against hope? 抱一线希望


Reader question:

Please explain "hoping against hope" in this sentence: "I am hoping against hope it will be towards the end of the week and they will be able to be considered for the weekend, in particular Steven who is ahead of Daniel, but I don't know if that is the case.""

My comments:

I have no idea what the speaker is talking about. However, since I know what "hoping against hope" means, I can tell you that whatever the speaker is driving at, he or she knows that they're probably not getting what they want. In the speaker's own words, it's not likely "the case".

Anyways, to hope against hope is literally to HOPE something will happen even though you know that the odds AGAINT that Hope is great.

The odds against? What does that mean?

Odds means chances. So if the odds against something happening is great, it is unlikely to happen. For example, the odds against you winning the million-dollar lottery is high. That means your chances of winning are low. Sorry.

Sorry about that, but I'm merely speaking the truth.

In fact, the chances of anyone winning that lottery are low, okay?

Okay, hope that makes you feel better.

At any rate, the phrase "hope against hope" came straight from the Bible, according to "The Dictionary of Cliches" by James Rogers (Ballantine Books, New York, 1985), via Phrases.org.uk:

To want something keenly even when the odds against getting or achieving it are enormous. The phrase derives from the Bible (Romans 4:18): Saint Paul is writing about Abraham, 'Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations, according to that which was spoken.'

Well, perhaps not straight from the Bible, not directly, not word for word, but you get the point.

And here are media examples of people who are so determined that they would like to keep "hoping against hope":

1. President Trump — calling in live on Boston Herald Radio’s “The Adriana Cohen Show” today — slammed the Massachusetts district attorneys who have been fighting the presence of Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents in state courtrooms.

"These are people that probably don’t mind crime, they don’t mind what’s going on,” Trump said. “You look at MS-13, they say in the world there’s nothing more evil. These are some very very bad people. To try to protect them, I don’t think so.”

Suffolk DA Rachael Rollins and Middlesex DA Marian Ryan on Monday filed a lawsuit to block ICE agents from state courthouses. The same day, ICE agents arrested to gang-linked illegal immigrants in two Suffolk courthouses. Last week. U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling charged Newton District Court Judge Shelley Joseph and a court officer with obstruction for helping an illegal immigrant evade ICE agents.

"They come from a place you can’t understand,” Trump said about the law enforcement officials who shield illegal immigrants. “They are protecting people who in many cases are very dangerous people.”

"We have to stop crime in this country,” Trump said. In defense of ICE, which has been heavily criticized by many Democrats, Trump added, “crime is way down in this country and part of the reason is ICE.”

"ICE, they are heroes. They are doing a job no one else wants to do … they love this country,” Trump said about ICE agents.

Meanwhile, Trump said his wall on the southern border is “going up very rapidly” and he expects to have “400 miles of wall built before the end of next year.”

On former Vice President Joe Biden, who is leading the pack of the 21 Democratic hopefuls for president, Trump said, “Well, he’s a sleepy man. But I just don’t know. Who knows really who can do the best. In many ways, I like him. He’s not as smart as Bernie (Sanders). He’s not as quick.”


Trump said he thinks the Democrats “are very devastated because they looked at the report and there was absolutely no collusion and there’s no obstruction either and they were hoping against hope because that’s the only way they could actually get lucky.”

- President Trump slams DA Rachael Rollins on Boston Herald Radio, BostonHerald.com, May 1, 2019.

2. Up to 40 hotel workers in Cork have been temporarily laid-off following confirmation that its closure has been extended by a month.

Staff at the Blarney hotel and golf resort were hoping against hope that the hotel would reopen tomorrow following its regular January closure.

But the surprise closure of its pool and gym complex earlier this month, affecting 10 staff, fuelled fears for the longer-term future of the hotel business.

The hotel workers’ worst fears were realized on Thursday evening when it was confirmed that the four-star facility will remain closed in February.

Bar, chef and accommodation staff have been put on four weeks temporary layoff. Staff have stressed however that the resort’s golf course remains open for business.

- Forty temporarily laid off at Cork hotel as doubts raised over long-term future, IrishExaminer.com, January 31, 2020.

3. Fifty years ago, when Paul McCartney announced he had left the Beatles, the news dashed the hopes of millions of fans, while fueling false reunion rumors that persisted well into the new decade.

In a press release, on April 10, 1970, for his first solo album, “McCartney,” he leaked his intention to leave. In doing so, he shocked his three bandmates.

The Beatles had symbolized the great communal spirit of the era. How could they possibly come apart?

Few at the time were aware of the underlying fissures. The power struggles in the group had been mounting at least since their manager, Brian Epstein, died in August of 1967.

Was McCartney’s “announcement” official? His album appeared on April 17, and its press packet included a mock interview. In it, McCartney is asked, “Are you planning a new album or single with the Beatles?”

His response? “No.”

But he didn’t say whether the separation might prove permanent. The Daily Mirror nonetheless framed its headline conclusively: “Paul Quits the Beatles.”

The others worried this could hurt sales and sent Ringo as a peacemaker to McCartney’s London home to talk him down from releasing his solo album ahead of the band’s “Let It Be” album and film, which were slated to come out in May. Without any press present, McCartney shouted Ringo off his front stoop.


The album, released on May 8, performed well and spawned two hit singles – the title track and “The Long and Winding Road” – but the group never recorded together again.

Their fans hoped against hope that four solo Beatles might someday find their way back to the thrills that had enchanted audiences for seven years. These rumors seemed most promising when McCartney joined Lennon for a Los Angeles recording session in 1974 with Stevie Wonder. But while they all played on one another’s solo efforts, the four never played a session together again.

- Inside the Beatles’ Messy Breakup, 50 Years Ago, TheConversation.com, April 10, 2020.


About the author:

Zhang Xin is Trainer at chinadaily.com.cn. He has been with China Daily since 1988, when he graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University. Write him at: zhangxin@chinadaily.com.cn, or raise a question for potential use in a future column.

(作者:张欣 编辑:丹妮)

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