Going to hell in a hand basket . . . in interesting phrasethat I’ve used offhand with nary a thought most of my life. Unless you’ve lived under a rock your entirelife, I’m sure you’ve heard the expression . . . but just in case you’ve notventured from beyond the boulder, going to hell in a hand basket means to gofrom an extremely bad situation and to a worse one.
We all know what hell is . . . so examine the handbasket; asmall, lightweight means of conveyance. PictureDorothy of Wizard of Oz fame traipsing along with her faithful companion Totoin a little basket. There is nothingsinister about it. Is there? Now that I think about it, everyone is tryingto stuff that poor little doggie in a basket . . . from Dorothy to Miss Gulch tothose creepy flying monkeys to the Wicked Witch of the West. Hmmm.
'Going to heaven in a wheelbarrow' is a much older phrasefrom the 15th century which was a euphemistic way of saying 'going to hell'. Itevokes imagery of sinners being carted off to hell in a barrow . . . . anancient concept.
This could easily be switched around to give us theexpression ‘going to hell in a handcart’ and then, thusly, ‘a hand basket’.
Interestingly, around the same time that these idioms cameinto common usage, carriages that prostitutes used for transport were regardedas hell-carts . . . sending them and their patrons off to purgatory.
I could be wrong but ‘going hell in a hand basket’brings to mind the image of a guillotine and a head thudding into the basketbelow after the fall of the blade.
That, to me, is certainly going to hell in a handbasket most expeditiously.