A caller from Long Beach, California, says hell for leather describes “a reckless abandonment of everything but the pursuit of speed.” But why hell for leather? The expression seems to have originated in the mid-19th century, referencing the wear and tear on the leather from a rough ride on horseback at breakneck speed. But similar early versions include hell falleero and hell faladery. There’s also hell for election, which can mean the same thing and appears to be a variation of hell-bent for election. This is part of a complete episode.

2 Responses

  1. Old60sHippie says:

    When I was learning to tie knots the term bend was used as the name for a part of a knot or a whole knot. For example, a sheet bend. I always took bend to mean knot. If one bends a rope to a spar that just means to tie it on. So bent would be like tied. Also as a horseman I know that saddle straps are called leathers. This leads me to speculate that the phrase might mean something like, hell being used to fasten ones self to the horse. I suppose the term leathers likely applies to other situations like soldiering.

  2. Robert says:

    Old60sHippie said  hell being used to fasten ones self to the horse. 

    Yeah, that, or hell as in   to hell with saddle, ride bareback!