Hard and fast

It just occurred to me this morning while I was skimming through a dictionary of English idioms: the “fast” in “hard and fast” has more to do with steadfast and fastener than it has to do with “fast and furious”.

“Hard and fast” rules always gave me the impression of stubborn, inflexible rules that were made in great haste and were therefore poorly considered. In writing the previous statement, it is even more apparent now that the context in which the phrase is typically used rarely suggests poor judgment or haste for that matter – merely a slightly negative connotation. How often do you hear “there are no hard and fast rules” compared to “these rules are hard and fast, stick to them”.

Perhaps the main source of my confusion comes from the relative ease with which one could use the phrase to describe the performance of a 100m sprinter at a race.

Strange how, in seeking to arrive at some form of cognitive coherence, my mind has fabricated its own meaning of the phrase over a word that has multiple meanings.