A Kick at the Can: Definition, Meaning, and Origin

Last Updated on
November 7, 2023

The phrase "a kick at the can" refers to making an attempt at something or giving something a try, even if just for the sake of trying. When someone says they want to take "a kick at the can" at something, they want to give it a shot and see what happens, just for the experience, even if the likelihood of success is slim.

In short:

"A kick at the can" signifies an opportunity or an attempt to accomplish something.

What Does "A Kick at the Can" Mean?

"A kick at the can" generally means giving something another try or taking another opportunity to achieve a goal. It implies you have a new chance to succeed at something you've attempted.

  • You can use this phrase when discussing second chances or new opportunities in various contexts, such as work, relationships, or personal endeavors.
  • The phrase is often used in casual conversations and sometimes in professional settings to highlight the idea of not giving up and seizing new opportunities.
  • Some synonyms for "a kick at the can" include "another shot," "a second chance," and "another go."

Where Does "A Kick at the Can" Come From?

The phrase “a kick at the can” is an idiom primarily heard in Canada. It seems to be a variation or misparsing of "Another kick at the can (or tin)," for which printed references date back to 1909. The phrase is related to children's games in Orkney, where they would "Kick the tinnie."

The phrase "kick the can down the road" is more commonly discussed and originated in the U.S. Congress around the mid-1980s. It refers to delaying a decision or action. This phrase is believed to have roots in a game played during the Great Depression, where children would kick a tin can down the road due to a lack of access to other games.

Historical Example

Sadly, the Department has chosen to kick the can down the road yet again by choosing to build an $8.5 billion program and spread its funding over 2 fiscal years.

- Organization, Structure, and Decisionmaking Procedures of the ..., Part 1, 1983

10 Examples of "A Kick at the Can" in Sentences

Understanding an idiom becomes easier when we see it in action.

Here are ten sentences that demonstrate the varied use of the idiom:

  • After failing the first time, Jake wanted another kick at the can to prove himself.
  • Everyone deserves a kick at the can when it comes to pursuing their dreams.
  • She felt she never got a fair kick at the can during the auditions.
  • Before giving up on your goals, ensure you've had your kick at the can.
  • They're introducing a new policy, and employees are getting a kick at the can to voice their opinions.
  • With the new coach, every player gets a kick at the can during practice sessions.
  • It's only fair that both teams get an equal kick at the can.
  • After years of waiting, he finally got his kick at the can to lead the project and move forward with his career.
  • She's asking for one more kick at the can before the final decision is made.
  • Despite his mistakes, he hopes the community will give him another kick at the can.

These examples highlight the versatility of the idiom, showcasing its use in various situations and contexts.

Examples of "A Kick at the Can" in Pop Culture

Idioms often find their way into popular culture- movies, songs, or literature. Here are some instances where the idiom has made its mark:

  • In the movie "Second Chances," a character mentions wanting a kick at the can to relive certain moments of his life.
  • The popular TV series "Opportunity Knocks" had an episode titled "A Kick at the Can," emphasizing the theme of second chances.
  • In the song "Try Again" by The Hopefuls, there's a line that goes, "Give me just one more kick at the can, I promise I'll get it right."
  • The book "Life's Turns" by J.D. Evergreen has a chapter where the protagonist reflects on missed opportunities and wishes for another kick at the can.

These examples from pop culture underscore the idiom's widespread recognition and its resonance with themes of opportunity and redemption.

Synonyms: Other/Different Ways to Say "A Kick at the Can"

Idioms often have equivalents or similar expressions in the English language.

Here are some alternative sayings:

These expressions, like "a kick at the can," emphasize the idea of getting an opportunity or making an attempt at something.

10 Frequently Asked Questions About the Idiom "A Kick at the Can":

  • What does the idiom "a kick at the can" mean?

The idiom generally refers to an opportunity or attempt to achieve something or solve a problem.

  • What is the origin of the idiom?

The exact origin is unclear, but it's believed to be derived from the idea of kicking a can down the road, symbolizing an attempt or effort.

  • How is the idiom used in a sentence?

For example: "I'd like to have another kick at the can to prove my skills in the next competition."

  • Is the idiom commonly used in everyday language?

Yes, it's a fairly common idiom in English, especially in contexts where someone wants another opportunity or attempt.

  • Are there any variations of this idiom?

Some people might say "a kick at the bucket" or "another shot at it," but "a kick at the can" is the most recognized version.

  • Can the idiom be used in formal contexts?

While it's more casual in nature, it can be used in formal contexts, provided the audience is familiar with its meaning.

  • Are there similar idioms in other languages?

Many languages have idioms that convey the idea of a second chance or another attempt, though the exact phrasing and imagery might differ.

  • How has the usage of this idiom evolved over time?

Like many idioms, its usage might have shifted slightly, but the core meaning of seeking another opportunity remains consistent.

  • Is the idiom used globally or is it specific to certain regions?

While it's commonly understood in English-speaking countries, its recognition might vary in regions where English is not the primary language.

  • What's the best way to learn and understand idioms like "a kick at the can"?

Engaging with native speakers, reading diverse literature, and context-based learning are effective ways to grasp idioms and their nuances.

Final Thoughts About "A Kick at the Can"

The beauty of language lies in its idioms and expressions, which often capture profound meanings in just a few words. "A kick at the can" is no exception. It's a testament to the human spirit's resilience, hope, and desire for opportunities.

  • It reminds us to seize opportunities when they come our way.
  • It emphasizes the importance of perseverance and not giving up after the first attempt.
  • It encourages us to be hopeful, believing that another chance might be just around the corner.
  • It's a call to action, urging us to take the initiative and make the most of our chances.

Using such idioms enriches our conversations in everyday language, making them more colorful and meaningful. "A kick at the can" is a beautiful reminder that opportunities are precious, and we should cherish and make the most of them.

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