It has also been suggested that this “ditch” actually has no connection to the “trench” sort of ditch but is actually a modified form of the 18th century English slang term “to dish,” meaning “to ruin, defeat, circumvent” (from the sense of food being done and “dished,” i.e., put on plates). The same “dish” is found in the slang phrase “dish it out” and its modern relative, “dish the dirt” meaning “tell gossip.” Interestingly, and perhaps significantly, Steven Keiser at OSU spent some time asking people in and around Columbus about “ditch,” and discovered that people over the age of 40 (in 2001) tended to remember using the term “dish” to mean “cut in line,” while young children used, as you note, simply “D.” While not conclusive, the use of “dish” in this sense by the older generation may well indicate that “dish” is indeed the source of this sense of “ditch.”

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1 comment on this post.
  1. Sam Edwards:

    My dad is in his late 60s, and he contends that the term was “dishing”, and the word was used by analogy with moving dishes on a drying rack by hand, to rearrange them. He’s lived in Central Ohio his whole life.

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