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What does it mean to eat your hat? Does it mean to really eat the hat or does it mean you have disagreement to someone?

This expression appeared in the comments of Shawn Mooney's answer to Can we add “more” with an adjective to convert it into comparative degree?:

@kiamlaluno, I want to make peace with you, but maybe this particular post is not the place to do so. I fail to see how your suppositions about what OP might have intended negate my response. However, you and I have butted heads before when it was after midnight my time and afterwards I had to eat my hat, so please clarify. As far as my foggy mind can comprehend, the previous, linked post, together with my answer to this post, sufficiently answers OP's queries; on the other hand, your follow-ups seem but red herrings. I have eaten my hat on stack-exchange before, so...give me more. – Shawn Mooney 4 hours ago

I have never eaten anybody's hat, nor have I eaten @nohat's hat. You open your answer saying that this question is not a duplicate, but what you are supposing asked from the OP is not what the OP is asking. It seems the OP is (wrongly) using comparative for words like taller, and not more beautiful; when he says beautiful doesn't have the comparative, he means beautifuller is not an English word. Then, he is not asking about more taller, but more tall, for which there is already a question, even if that is about bigger. – kiamlaluno 4 hours ago

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  • "If X [which I don't believe] turns out to be true, I'll eat my hat" is a very "dated" idiom that would only be used facetiously these days. But I think the basic format is still "productive", since it's echoed by Bart Simpson's Eat my shorts!. Except Bart never suggests he might eat his own shorts - it's a taunt to others exposed as mistaken or defeated, along the lines of "Up yours!", or "How d'you like them apples?". Feb 19, 2013 at 21:26
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    The other answers have correctly identified the correct meaning of "I'll eat my hat" but I think its worth pointing out that the second bolded sentence---I have never eaten anybody's hat, nor have I eaten @nohat's hat---doesn't really make much sense at all. You only ever eat your own hat, not someone elses! Understanding idioms is hard enough without trying to understand them when they're being misused.
    – FakeDIY
    Mar 12, 2013 at 16:59
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    @FumbleFingers I think the usage of "Eat my shorts" is more like "Kiss my ass" than "I'll eat my hat" to be honest. Feb 21, 2014 at 10:10

2 Answers 2

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It is a "display of confidence", meaning "submit myself to something unpleasant if I prove to be wrong" as in:

If the train arrives on time, I'll eat my hat.

To say "afterwards I had to eat my hat" is to admit that you were wrong.

http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/eat-my-hat.html

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  • Another expression with similar meaning is to "eat crow". (Neither should be taken literally.) Feb 19, 2013 at 20:06
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    In German, you eat a broom.
    – knut
    Feb 19, 2013 at 20:31
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    "I'll eat my hat" is a bit different from "being made to eat crow". The first is a boast of confidence, while the second is something someone else has been [figuratively] forced to do after being proven wrong. No one says, "I'll eat crow if...".
    – Phil Perry
    Jun 10, 2014 at 13:35
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Eat my hat is an English idiom, and is not to be taken literally.

Generally it is used as a way of stating one's confidence in a particular statement, with "or I'll eat my hat" stating that you are very confident that the statement is true.

Its use is now increasingly deprecated (particularly in US english) in favour of the roughly equivalent idiom "I'll be damned":

Well, if they manage to get the contract signed before 5pm, then I'll eat my hat!

Well, if they manage to get the contract signed before 5pm, then I'll be damned!

In both cases the sentiment is the same. The speaker is highly confident that the contract will not be signed before 5pm, and that so far as he is concerned, in the exceptionally unlikely case where the contract is signed before 5pm, he'll be astonished.

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  • There's also "eat one's words". Feb 21, 2014 at 10:13
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    "Its use is now increasingly deprecated..." I don't think you mean that. "Deprecated" means that people (especially those in authority) advise against it. First, nobody has authority over the English language so I'm not sure anyone really can deprecate the use of a phrase. Second, who would advise the use of the mildly offensive (very mildly, these days) "I'll be damned" over the perfectly neutral "I'll eat my hat"? Oct 6, 2014 at 12:47
  • @DavidRicherby - "Deprecated" in this sense means that is has fallen out of common parlance, not that there has been some sort of authoritarian decision to restrict its usage.
    – IconDaemon
    Oct 10, 2018 at 14:29
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    @IconDaemon [citation needed] What you’re describing is “obsolete” or “out of fashion”. “Deprecated” means it is disapproved of, not simply that it isn’t commonly used. Oct 10, 2018 at 15:03

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