ELI5 what is the meaning of the phrase “it’s a weird hill to die on”?


It’s a phrase I’ve seen often on Reddit

In: Culture

I don’t know the origins, but to die on a hill is usually meant to defend an unpopular opinion ‘to the death.’ Hope that helped!

“I will die on this hill” is the original phrase here, meaning that you will defend this viewpoint to the last. A related and possibly alternate origin is calling an opinion or viewpoint someone’s “hill to die on”.

The variation you’ve brought up is a humorous/sarcastic way of saying that someone has made an odd choice of opinion or viewpoint to defend so vigorously.

For example, being a militant supporter of putting toilet paper on one way or another would be a weird hill to die on.

It’s a choice to defend a position, the hill, which makes no sense to expend all your effort on. It’s a generic reference to the idea that some territory would be worth dying over. If it’s a strategic important place then sure, defend it to the last man. Say if it’s your insistence that democracy or communism or something impactful is the right choice and the argument impacts whether or not it happens, it’s a sensible hill to die on. A weird hill to die on is something like getting into a heated argument over Star Trek vs Star Wars to the point it hurts your friendship with the other person.

I don’t know the exact origins, but the Korean War and the War in Vietnam (hamburger hill being a good example) often involved soldiers dying on hills without significant strategic significance. Some battles over hills were taken at great cost only to be abandoned shortly thereafter because their only military significance had been the presence of enemy soldiers on them, so they hold/take the hill regardless of the cost and/or the benefit.

A hill is a highly defensible position. In Ye Olden Dayes, it was very common to build one’s fort or city on top of a hill. The hill would be the last point of retreat, the position from which you would fight to the death.

If someone says, “that’s a weird hill to die on,” or “that’s a bad hill to die on,” it means the subject has chosen a position that is not worth defending. It implies that (a) the result will be ruinous to the person’s health, reputation, career, or whatever, and also (b) the thing they are fighting for is petty, foolish, silly, or otherwise unworthy of sacrifice.