ENGLISCH/860: Questions to Mrs Gobbledygook (169) It's a long lane... (SB)


169. Long lane without turning

Dear Mrs Gobbledygook

... Do you know what the following expression (which sounds like an idiom in my opinion) means:

It's a long line, that has no winding.

I tried to look it up in my dictionary, but I couldn't find it. I would be glad, if you could help me.


Angela D. (from Hamburg/Germany)


Dear Mrs D.

No wonder you couldn't find this idiom, because there is no idiom like this in the English language. I think the expression you really meant is this proverb:

It's a long lane that has no turning

And this one is quite easy to understand: A "lane" is a kind of path or a very narrow road. For example: "You shouldn't drive fast along these country lanes, because if you meet someone coming in the opposite direction, there is very little room (for you) to path."

Now this gives you an idea what a lane is. And a "turning" is either a place where a lane winds, where it's not straight, or it can be a place where another lane joins the first lane. A turning to the left or to the right.

It's a long lane that has no turning

So the literal meaning of that expression is, that every lane has a turning sooner or later. And as a proverb it means that bad things do not continue for ever. If things are not going well at the moment they will not always continue like that. They will get better.

I will give you an example how it is used in a simple English conversation. Just imagine someone who had bad luck meeting an old friend who will comfort him:

"Hello Tom" - "Hello Stuart" - "How are things?" - "Oh, awful. First I fell of my bike and was in hospital for a couple of month. Then someone broke into my flat and stole a lot of valuable things. Now I am very worried about my job. It's not at all secure at the moment." "Oh, dear you are going to a bad patch aren't you?. But it's a long lane that has no turning. You'll see. Things will start to get better again." - "I hope you're right."

Tom is obviously having a difficult time. Stuart describes it like this: You are going to bad patch. A bad patch! And he encourages him with the words: "It's a long lane that has no turning". In fact, we could also say: "It's a long road that has no turning". But it is not as foreign users of English sometimes mean an expression for a hopeless situation.

Actually the expression is not used very often these days but is quite acceptable, so you can use it. Thanks for writing,


Mrs Gobbledygook

6 July 2009