Linda G. Hill is an energetic blogger and the founder of Just Jot it January (JusJoJan).  This month she’s been providing a daily one word prompt and inviting folks to write on the subject if they feel inspired. It’s a lovely gesture as bloggers, like writers, ofttimes need inspiration.

I generally don’t get my act together in time (and today is no exception) but a few days ago her word jjj-2016was “ghost.”

My first thought was “ghost of a chance,” a phrase we writers hear all too often.

But what do mortals know about ghosts and their shenanigans in the afterlife?


In one of my favorite movies (The Ghost and Mrs. Muir) the ghost has the chance to come back, write a successful book and win the heart of a beautiful widow!

My first impulse was to search online for the source of this peculiar phrase. Guess what?  No one seems to know.  According to it could have originated in the1880s when Chinese laborers arrived in U.S. by the thousands willing to work for less than their counterparts.  American workers reacted by using the phrase “A Chinaman’s chance” to describe a futile endeavor, thereby reducing the Chinese to insubstantial shadows, or ghosts.  Today the phrase “Chinaman’s chance” is considered derogatory.

My search did unearth an impressive list of movies, books, songs and even video games inspired by the phrase. A small sampling follows:

  • A 1991 song by the group Rush
  • A 1987 TV movie staring Dick Van Dyke and Red Foxx 


    Ghost of a Chance – Red Foxx, a pianist killed accidentally by Dick Van Dyke (a wayward cop), has a chance to come down from heaven to help his son. Something tells me this movie was a stinker!

  • William Burroughs’ 1991 novel Ghost of Chance described as a “take off on the Book of Revelations” full of a “whimsical hodgepodge of corrosive wit and edgy desolation.” I have to point out other reviewers were far less impressed with Burroughs’ opium fueled visions.

As for me, today I don’t even have a ghost of a chance of convincing Pretty Kitty to get off my lap so that I can work. Any suggestions?


8 thoughts on “Ghost

  1. Ghost of a chance is good phrasing, someone wise must have said it. I believe there is equal wisdom in sitting still with Pretty Kitty ^_^

  2. Fascinating research Jan. The first thing that came to my mind when you wrote about Linda’s one-word prompt was a novel narrated from beyond the grave: SHADE by Neil Jordan. Another kind of ghost-writing!

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