“Almost Only Counts In Horseshoes And Hand Grenades” – Meaning & Origin

The idiom that we’re presenting in this article is a great way to show how “almost” simply isn’t enough in most situations. We can use it to talk about things that aren’t complete, and we’ll show you what it means and where it comes from.

Close Only Counts In Horseshoes And Hand Grenades”

What Does “Almost Only Counts In Horseshoes And Hand Grenades” Mean?

“Almost only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades” means that “almost” is not enough in most situations. When we want a job completed or want something done, “almost” is never the answer we’re looking for because we want it to be “yes” or “finished.”

What Does "Almost Only Counts In Horseshoes And Hand Grenades" Mean?

We can break up the saying further to help you understand how it works in parts.

Firstly, in the game of horseshoes, you score points by throwing horseshoes over a stake. However, you only need to get the width of the horseshoe within the vicinity of the stake, which is why we only ever need to “almost” make the shot so we gain points.

The same works for hand grenades. We don’t need to throw a grenade at a target directly, and we can “almost” get them instead. The resulting explosion will be more than enough to do the deadly damage that we might expect from it.

However, in any situation that isn’t specifically one of the two we stated above, there are no cases where “almost” should be an acceptable phrase or word in someone’s vocabulary.

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What Is The Origin Of “Almost Only Counts In Horseshoes And Hand Grenades”?

It might help you to learn a little more about the phrase’s origin. Interestingly, the phrase didn’t start with “almost” as the trigger word. Instead, we knew it as “close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.”

Lincoln, Nebraska Daily News, 1914

The first noted iteration of the phrase came from a Daily News article in Lincoln (the capital city of Nebraska).

In the article, the idiom “close does not count… only in horseshoes.” Here, we refer only to “horseshoes” as the game, where we only have to throw the horseshoe “close” to the target.

Decatur, Illinois Daily Review, 1921

Not long after the first iteration, we get another change to the idiom. This time, it comes from Illinois’ Daily Review.

In the Daily Review, the idiom was written as “close counts in horseshoes only.” The wording had been changed, but the meaning was still relevant. There was still no mention of hand grenades here.

Guthrie County, Iowa Guthrian, 1970

It wasn’t actually until 1970 that the idiom took up “hand grenades” as part of its meaning.

In this publication, the idiom became “close only counts in horse shoes and hand grenades.” Now, the meaning of the phrase is identical to the one we know today (although they’re still using “close” in place of “almost.”

The original idea behind the proverb seems to be linked to the idea that “close” never counts. It’s never good enough to be “close” to something. We should instead try our best to be “complete” or “finished” with something.

Examples Of How To Use “Almost Only Counts In Horseshoes And Hand Grenades” In A Sentence

Some examples might help you to see how it might work in context. Usually, we’d reply with this idiom when someone gives us one of the trigger words (i.e., “almost” or “close”).

  • Are you done with the project I set for you last week?
  • Almost, sir.
  • Almost only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades, son.
  • Are you nearly here? I need your presence immediately.
  • I’m close!
  • Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.
  • Are you done yet?
  • I’m almost done!
  • Almost counts in horseshoes only!
  • Have you completed the design that I set for you the other week?
  • Not yet, but I’m very close!
  • Close counts in horseshoes and hand grenades only.
  • I’m almost finished with the story you asked me to develop!
  • Almost only counts in hand grenades, kid.

As you can see, we usually reply with the idiom when the trigger words “almost” or “close” are uttered. That gives us a good chance to use the phrase to show the person we’re talking to that being “close” isn’t good enough in this situation.