Throw up the sponge. Give up; confess oneself beaten. The
metaphor is from boxing matches.
“We must stand up to our fight now, or throw up the sponge. There's
no two ways about the
matter” —Boldrewood: Robbery under Arms, chap. xxxi.
“We hear that the followers of the Arab chief have thrown up the
sponge.” —Newspaper paragraph, April 2nd, 1888.
Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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