Go Pound Sand - Meaning, Usage and Origin

Has someone told you to "go pound sand"? This odd, slightly humorous insult dates back to the early 20th Century and is still heard throughout the US today, especially in the Midwest. 

If you're looking to add this phrase to your lexicon, here's a closer look at everything you should know, including how it's used, where it originated, and more.

The Meaning of "Go Pound Sand"

Go Pound Sand is typically used as an insult. It expresses annoyance and disdain for the subject.

The speaker is telling someone to go away. Specifically, they're telling the person to engage in a pointless, repetitive activity.

At its most literal, pounding sand refers to the act of hitting sand with the back of a shovel. You aren't affecting the sand in any way. Instead, it's nothing more than a waste of time. You're telling the listener you think their time is worthless.

Plus, pounding sand is a simple activity. Telling someone to pound sand implies you think they're not very intelligent and can only perform menial tasks.

Examples of Usage

The phrase has several nuanced meanings.

You can emphasize that the person's wishes are a pointless waste of time. For example:

  • "The debt collector won't stop calling, but I told him to pound sand and that the law limited how often he could contact me."

You can also use it to tell someone to go away physically.

  • "If you're only going to stand there and criticize how I'm changing this flat tire, why don't you just go pound sand?"

The phrase can also be used as a general way to express annoyance.

  • "I can't believe he asked me to mow his lawn for free – go pound sand, buddy!"

No matter how it's used, the general idea of expressing annoyance is always the main idea.  

The Origin of "Go Pound Sand"

The phrase dates back to the 19th Century. As you'd expect, its exact origins are murky.

One of its earliest print appearances is in the August 1886 edition of The Saint Paul Globe, a Minnesota newspaper. It's used in a humorous article about baseball, where the author talks about sitting in the stands and hurling insults at the umpire.

In 1896, a magazine called Student Slang included the phrase as a popular expression among the youth. However, they defined the term a bit differently from how it's used today. Their use of "go pound sand" refers to someone as hopefully stupid or lacking basic knowledge.

The phrase reappears in a 1948 edition of Southeast Economist, a Chicago newspaper. The article referred to the phrase as a famous wisecrack for an earlier time. Interestingly, the complete phrase used was "go pound sand in your ears," and it emphasized the idea of not listening to someone annoying.

Perhaps the most popular use of the phrase (or, at least, a close variation) occurred in 1969. Max Yasgur, a farmer who rented his land to the organizers of Woodstock, famously told town officials to "go pound salt up your ass, because come August 15th, we're going to have a festival!"

Similar Phrases

The phrase "go pound sand" has a few variations and alternatives.

The original phrase was likely "go pound sand down a rathole." It's the same primary reference to performing a tedious, menial task. However, as people became less familiar with the concept of ratholes, the phrase shortened over time.

One vulgar variation involves the placement of the sand. "Go pound sand up your ass" is often used when the speaker wants to emphasize their annoyance.

Similar phrases include:

  • Go pound salt
  • Go fly a kite
  • Take a hike
  • Go kick rocks

All convey the same basic meaning. You're telling the listener to leave your sight and perform a pointless activity.

What is the Correct Saying?

You can phrase the saying in a few different ways.

  • Go pound sand – The original phrase is issued like an order. "You go pound sand!"
  • Pound sand – The abbreviated version. "Eh, who cares what you think? Pound sand."
  • To pound sand – For example, "I told him to pound sand."

The phrase is relatively flexible and hard to use incorrectly.

Final Thoughts

If you're looking for a novel way to tell someone to get lost, "go pound sand" is a classic alternative. It expresses annoyance marked with disdain. At the same time, it's not overly vulgar or hostile, so it has a broader range of applications than outright swearing.

Plus, even though it's not the most admirable phrase, it's sure to grab the subject's attention!

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