Assessing the prospects of a risky business, we usually think: “Is the game worth the candle at all”? Will the benefits from this event pay off the investment in it? This idiom refers to the meager benefits of the affair. But what kind of candles are these, and what do they have to do with the game?
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Where did this expression “the game is not worth the candle”
The word “candles” in the Russian language has several meanings: it is not only a wax product for lighting or treatment, but also a car part. And the very expression “the game is not worth the candle” appeared among card players in those distant years, when there was still no electricity in everyday life. People played cards in the evenings, lighting the table, of course, with candles. If the stakes were low, but played for pleasure, then they talked about the game not worth the candle. The potential gain could not even recoup the cost of candles burned during the evening.
Other phraseological units with a similar meaning are used in everyday life: “the sheepskin is not worth the dressing” or “the skin is not worth the dressing”. There is a version that our expression “the game is not worth the candle” did not appear on its own, but is a borrowed and adapted version of the French phrase: Le jeu ne vaut pas is chandelle. In fact, there are similar expressions in many languages, most likely they appeared on their own, applicable to local realities.
Today, no one remembers the game by candlelight and the value of bets in such conditions, but the expression remains and is widely used.