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Does beat it in the title mean run away as fast as you can because you don't want to get into trouble?

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    Yes, although in the song parody Eat It you don't have to eat your food as fast as you can, as long as you just "eat it". – user6951 Dec 4 '14 at 19:01
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"Beat it" in the context of the song means "go away". It is something one person would tell another to do, not something you would say you were going to do yourself.

You could say, "The cops (police) are coming, (you) beat it!" Or "The cops are coming, let's beat it!" but you usually would not say "The cops are coming, I'm going to beat it."

  • Good point about not typically using it for yourself. Someone might say "The cops are coming, I'm going to scram." or "I'm out of here." instead of "beat it". – ColleenV parted ways Jun 24 '15 at 21:34
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Beat it - It's a slang for 'run away or go away' or 'ask somene to run away or go away'

For example

You can say this thing to your juniors in the college like

A. Hey, beat it ! Or I will beat you up.

It's like a bit rude version of 'get lost'.

So obvisouly you can't use this thing on your elders, parents, teachers etc. But you can use this phrase on people who you can afford to be rude with.

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    "Get lost" is also a rude version of "get lost". – mattdm Apr 29 '15 at 19:19
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Yes. I believe it means something like "get yourself out of this situation", "get out of this life", "leave".

I seem to remember that the song is about gangs, violence, street life and the like.

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As to the etymology of "Beat it!" I assume that it is from the military sector, to beat the signal for retreat on the drum or drums. We still have the expression "to beat a (hasty) retreat", and I think "Beat it!" is a shortened version of this expression.

  • I think your assumption on the etymology is wrong. etymonline.com/index.php?term=beat forum.wordreference.com/threads/beat-it.1592079 The source and evolution of idioms is often surprising. How many folks say "Coming down the pipe" instead of "Coming down the 'pike" these days? – ColleenV parted ways Jun 23 '15 at 20:48
  • Why do you think it is wrong? I find beat the retreat more convincing. Etymonline actually gives no etymology. It says first incidence 1906. If you want to derive the saying from an Old English meaning I don't mind. I like Beat the retreat better and find it more convincing. – rogermue Jun 24 '15 at 2:20
  • Do you have anything that supports that it's the beating of drums and not the beating or sound of feet on the pavement ? There are plenty if idioms that we can imagine all sorts of origins for that sound reasonable, but just aren't true. – ColleenV parted ways Jun 24 '15 at 12:37
  • According to Etymonline "Beat it"is first recorded in 1906. It is not very probable that people knew that in old English, about 900 years ago "to beat" could describe the sound of feet on the ground. But "Beat the retreat" is a well-known idiom and for me it seems plausible that this saying was shortenened to "Beat it" and used metaphorical in the sense of "Get lost!". We don't know what sound of feet upon the ground exactly is - dancing, stamping raisins in a large tub? Perhaps it is possible to find it out. – rogermue Jun 24 '15 at 13:17
  • Old English beatan has the sense to beat (with a stick, the fists etc) Bosworth I, and to beat with the feat, Bosworth II, to tread, trample, tramp. ebeowulf.uky.edu/BT/bosworth.htm - Fill in page 73. – rogermue Jun 24 '15 at 13:37

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