Every source I checked on the idiom Bucket List claims the idiom either came from the 2007 movie called Bucket List with Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson. Well, I remember the idiom from way back so I’m going to set the record straight. No, the screenwriter did not invent this idiom. It has been used for many years and has long been a play on the idiom ‘kick the bucket.’
Since to kick the bucket means to die, a bucket list is a list of things to do before you kick the bucket. I remember hearing people talk about their bucket lists when I was a child, and I grew up in the 70s and 80s. An easy google search for the years 1990 to 2000 proves that it was common during that decade, well before the movie.
Does it go even further back? Sure, I found an example of the idiom being used in its modern sense in a book from 1983 by H J Perry titled Streets Apart and Hearts Apart. I won’t provide the example because it’s about a certain sexual act. You’ll have to trust me or look it up yourself.
So, this idiom was known at least as early as the first half of the 1980s. It does not seem to have been a very common idiom but it certainly existed for decades. The movie did not invent the idiom although it may have re-popularized it.
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