Get rich or die trying

Dear AC,

I would like to ask about the meaning of these words from movie, I guess,‘give it or die trying.’

Looking forward to hearing from you.

Thank you


Dear Thai,

I suspect the phrase you're looking for is “get rich or die trying,” which has most recently found fame as the title of a 2005 movie starring rapper 50 Cent. It means that a person is so dedicated to the goal of making a lot of money that they will never stop trying until they succeed, even if it means they might die.

I couldn't find an exact date for the introduction of the saying, but it was used long before 50 Cent's movie--and you can use “or die trying ”in many other contexts. For example, Michael Scofield, a character on the television show Prison Break, said, “I'm gonna break this guy out of here, or I'm gonna die trying.” In 2007, tennis star Serena Williams told reporters she wanted to win against Daniela Hantuchova “or die trying” at Wimbledon.

As you can see from the examples, the phrase can be used literally or figuratively. Williams does not really expect to die on the tennis court, but Scofield is risking his life trying to help someone escape from prison. That is also the case in 50 Cent's film, in which rival drug dealers and rappers try to kill him as he becomes more successful.

Another example, from a 2004 story in the Daily Star (UK), gives a humorous spin to the idea that the goal may cause death. The subject is “the world's hottest curry,” served at a restaurant called Rupali in Newcastle. Restaurant owner Abdul Latif gives the meal for free to customers who can finish it. However, he jokingly explains, “if you die trying, I expect someone else to pick up the bill.”

Your pal,


A. C. Kemp

July 2, 2009

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