Explanation for "call it quits" phrase

6

While reading a book I stumbled upon the following sentence:

He was too young to call it quits.

I can perfectly understand the gist, he was too young to be done with something, but what leaves me a bit baffled is the structure of call it quits. I am familiar with the phrase call it a day, for example, but never encountered a verb instead of a noun before. Why is it constructed this way? Are there other examples of call it <verb>?

haunted85

Posted 2013-07-08T09:33:00.493

Reputation: 977

1OED definition of (adjectival) quits as Even or equal with, esp. by means of repayment or retaliation has a first recorded use in 1625. Their first recorded use for exactly OP's call it quits is 1851. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica – 2013-07-08T12:42:04.993

Answers

6

Quits is not a verb, but an adjective. Call it quits (see call) is then an idiomatic expression meaning "to agree to end a contest, disagreement, etc. because both sides seem equal" or "to decide to stop doing something."

As far as I can see on the Corpus of Contemporary American English, call it is never followed by a verb.

kiamlaluno

Posted 2013-07-08T09:33:00.493

Reputation: 20 456

3

I used OneLook's wildcard feature, and found these phrases that begin with call it:

  1. call it a day
  2. call it a night
  3. call it even
  4. call it off
  5. call it quits

(There are more on the OneLook page, but all the others are book, film, or record album titles.)

That leaves two traditional nouns (day and night), two traditional adjectives (even and off), and quits, which you call a verb, but Collins puts that usage into the adjective category.

J.R.

Posted 2013-07-08T09:33:00.493

Reputation: 108 123