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(See also POVERTY.)
boil the pot To make a bare subsistence living. This self-evident expression appeared in William Combe’s The Tour of Doctor Syntax in Search of the Picturesque (1812):
No fav’ring patrons have I got,
But just enough to boil the pot.
See also potboiler, LETTERS.
keep body and soul together To survive economically; to make enough money to take care of basic needs and thus stay alive, death being viewed as the separation of soul and body. This picturesque expression dates from the mid-18th century.
By never letting him see you swallow half enough to keep body and soul together. (Jane Collier, The Art of Tormenting, 1753)
keep one’s head above water To barely manage to keep out of debt; to remain financially solvent, however slightly. The allusion is to a swimmer too tired to go on who treads water to keep from going under altogether. The expression has been in figurative use since the early 18th century.
Farmer Dobson, were I to marry him, has promised to keep our heads above water. (Alfred, Lord Tennyson, The Promise of May, 1882)
keep the wolf from the door To ward off starvation; to prevent want and necessity from becoming all-consuming; to struggle to provide the basic necessities. The rapacious wolf has long been a symbol of a devouring force, such as poverty, which deprives an individual of the basic necessities. Recorded use of this expression dates from the middle of the 15th century.
Endowe hym now, with noble sapience
By whiche he may the wolf werre frome the gate.
(John Hardyng, Chronicle, 1457)
make both ends meet To live within one’s means, to pay one’s expenses, to stay in the black financially. A longer version of the phrase is to make the two ends of the year meet, i.e., to live within one’s means from January to December. The expressions carry the connotation of struggle and mere subsistence living. The French equivalent expressions are joindre les deux bouts and joindre les deux bouts de l’an. Use of the phrase dates from the latter half of the 17th century.
Her mother has to contrive to make both ends meet. (The Graphic, August, 1884)
make buckle and tongue meet To make both ends meet; to earn enough money or produce enough food to survive; to get by, to manage. This puzzling colloquial Americanism was in print by the mid-19th century. The image is confusing. It may derive from either belts or shoes, but neither possibility casts much light on its relevance to financial survival.
All they cared for was “to make buckle and tongue meet” by raising stock, … and a little corn for bread. (Fisher’s River, 1859)
An even earlier British equivalent is hold or bring buckle and thong together.
My benefice doth bring me in no more
But what will hold bare buckle and thong together.
(Weakest Goeth to the Wall, 1600)
tighten one’s belt To implement austere measures during a time of financial uncertainty; to endure hunger with fortitude. This expression alludes to the weight loss and subsequent reduction in waist size of an underfed person. The phrase enjoys common use in the United States and Great Britain.
A travelling troupe who quoted Corneille while tightening their belts. (Observer, April, 1927)
|Noun||1.||subsistence - minimal (or marginal) resources for subsisting; "social security provided only a bare subsistence"|
|2.||subsistence - a means of surviving; "farming is a hard means of subsistence"|
|3.||subsistence - the state of existing in reality; having substance|
means of subsistence → medios mpl de subsistencia
subsistence economy N → economía f de subsistencia
subsistence farmer N campesino que se dedica a la agricultura de subsistencia
subsistence farming N → agricultura f de subsistencia
subsistence level N → nivel m mínimo de subsistencia
to live at subsistence level → vivir muy justo, poderse sustentar apenas
subsistence wage N → salario m de subsistencia