I’ve heard people use the phrase “hard and fast,” and I know that it means they are not going to change their ways on how something is done. I’ve never wondered about the origin or asked about it, though. I could guess that hard was similar to strict. However, I don’t know why fast would be used. Perhaps things went quickly because they were done the known way, so this was “hard and fast.”
It seems like this as the origin of the phrase “hard and fast” is a little strange, but it makes enough sense to me. I’ve learned that there are plenty of odd phrase origins.
Yet, like most of the time, I’m wrong. Hard has nothing to do with strict and fast has nothing to do with quickly. Instead, the phrase “hard and fast” originated in the nautical world.
The phrase “hard and fast” is a nautical term. The phrase was used exactly to mean a ship that was beached.
However, there is no print record why the phrase “hard and fast” meant a beached ship. The phrase is recorded many times in works about ships. These include a story in a January 1820 London Times and the 1867 book, The Sailor’s Word-Book by William Henry Smith.
A web search for “hard and fast” gives no information on why the phrase was used for stranded ships, either. The word “naval” or “ship” can be included, and the majority of results are still the figurative use of the phrase.
Martin, G. (n.d.). Hard and fast. The meanings and origins of sayings and phrases . Retrieved February 7, 2011, from http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/hard-and-fast.html