A Miss is as Good as a Mile

Meanings of “A Miss is as Good as a Mile”

The phrase means almost winning is still a failure even if you are closer the goal. In other words, it doesn’t matter whether you are good or bad; if you have missed the target after almost winning, it is still a miss. Similarly, it also means that when you fail, and there is no question of how close you were to success.

Origin of “A Miss is as Good as a Mile”

This proverbial expression is stated to have originated from Remaines of a Greater Worke Concerning Britaine by William Camden published in 1614. It was originally published as “An ynche in a misse is as good as an ell.” Later it was modified by James Kelly in his collection of Scottish Proverbs published in 1721 as A Complete Collection of Scottish Proverbs where it goes as “An Inch of a miss is as good as a span.”

It is further stated that this proverb or saying dates back to the 18th century when it was first used in The American Museum, a journal in its third volume in 1788. It states the proverb as “a miss is as good as a mile” in the same word, as it appears today.

Examples from Literature

Example #1

As Bad as a Mile by Philip Larkin

Watching the shied core
Striking the basket, skidding across the floor,
Shows less and less of luck, and more and more

Of failure spreading back up the arm
Earlier and earlier, the unraised hand calm,
The apple unbitten in the palm.

This is a complete poem by Philip Larkin titled as “As Bad as a Mile.” It almost explains the same point as this proverbial expression gives. That is why its title is nearly the same. The major point given in this poem is that the poet has eaten the apple and tried to throw it in the basket nearby. However, he keeps on missing again and again. The poet does not lose heart and starts it again, but it is again a miss, which points to the failure. The proximity of the basket explains that it does not matter whether the distance is a mile or an inch; the poet has missed it.

Example #2

From Collected Letters of Joseph Conrad Volume 4 by Joseph Conrad

“I perceive you have been moving briskly about this distract realm, but as it was in the interest of the justice, I won’t lecture you on these new gad-about habits. Nothing, however, can excuse motor-car collisions. It’s all very well to say that a miss is as good as a mile but it’s a nerve shaking experience. Did Ada feel it at all afterwards? Some years ago, we had an accident of that sort, in a modest way. We ran merely into a baker’s cart on a slant and took it backwards into the hedge. The road was covered with bread. After that first scare, it was rather funny (the baker’s man was a stutterer) but I could not sleep for three nights afterwards.”

This passage has been taken from the letters of Joseph Conrad, the famous novel writer. He has used this phrase in this passage in the meanings of an accident. He is stating how habits sometimes save people. He happens to meet with an accident in his vehicle that has shaken his nerves as he says using this phrase that “a miss is as good as a mile.” He means that he has saved his life whatever situation it might have been.

Example #3

Extract from – Clothes, Friends and Close Calls by Ron Harvey

“Back to Justin, the Nick of Thyme. Justin was always flipping nickels with his knuckles. One day, a not-so-sharp shooter of arrows of the crossbow crossed Beaux (the river between Bye and Thyme) and saw Justin beneath the bridge knuckle-flipping nickels. Well, it just so happened that the not-so-sharp shooter was a miss. A miss couldn’t resist taking a shot at one of the flipping nickels. Smiling as she drew back the bow, she put away the pencil and paper and let the arrow fly (an arrow fly is a small fly lost in Thyme). I’m sure you’ve heard that a miss is as good as a smile.”

The phrase has been used in this passage taken from the story “Clothes, Friends and Close Calls” by Ron Harvey, but with a slight twist in the “mile” which has been put as “smile” instead. However, this phrase starts unfolding from the third line, where a not-so-sharp-shooter misses something. Justine, by the end, realizes, that it is not “as good as a smile.”

Example #4

From Popular Saying Dissected by A. Wallace

“It has been pointed out that in the old volumes of Romances, two knights, Amys and Milles, were described as being of equal prowess. This fact may have given rise to the saying, “Amys is ass good as a Milles,” ultimately adapted to the requirements of our every-day phrase in the shape of “a miss is as good as a mile.” Opposed to this solution, however, stands the fact that there has always existed the proverb in the form, “An inch in a miss is as good as an ell,” in the latter part of which phrase the word mile has later been substituted for “ell,” induced by a slight similarity in the sound of the two words, together with the obvious gain in alliteration. We have more than once in the preceding pages had occasion to point out the force of the latter factor in phrase making. This phrase doubtless became later abbreviated into the form – “A miss is as good as a mile.”

This passage is the explanation of how this phrase might have been formed. This tells the story of two knights named Amys and Milles, which were later twisted into “miss” and mile” and transformed into this phrase.

Examples in Sentences as Literary Devices

Example #1: “He has failed to hit an elk during hunting by a little margin, but for him, it is a miss as good as a mile.” Here the phrase itself is a metaphor. It could be a double metaphor as well, but in both, it is compared with the miss. The first miss is of the hunter while the second it is compared with the miss in the phrase.

Example #2: “He could not hit the ball when his stumps went flying during the match. This is a miss as good as a mile.” The phrase has again been used in a metaphorical sense with the miss.

Example #3: “Like a miss as good as a mile, he loses his heart and throws away the gun.” In this sentence, the phrase is given as a simile as the word ‘like’ suggests.

Example #4: A miss is as good as a mile has taught him that he cannot win wherever he may hit unless he hits the bull’s eye.

Example #5: “A miss is as good as a mile, and a mile is as good as a miss” is almost the same thing.” Here the phrase has been reversed and used as chiasmus for impacts.