Who’s Got Game?

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“The game is not worth the candle,” a former boss used to say. In context I understood the phrase to mean “the result is not worth the effort,” with some unspoken risk inherent in the “game” for which a “candle” would be too costly. But I never bothered to look up the phrase until today. According to the New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy (here), the phrase “alludes to a game of cards in which the stakes are smaller than the cost of burning a candle for light by which to play.” The formal definition implies a cost benefit analysis that I had intuited, but in a slightly different way. The stakes (risks) of the game are not too high; rather the reward/payoff is too little.

Is this a phrase that was popular at some point? I imagine a Lily Bart-like character musing to herself.

-Bridget Crawford

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