Why is someone who has seen better days “gone to pot”?
Time eventually wears everything down. For example, once great downtown department stores declined, went to pot and were replaced by suburban malls. If you’ve ever gone to a high school reunion, you know how just a few years, a few pounds, and a few gray hairs can make old classmates look like they’ve gone to pot, too.
But why the pot? Is something cooking? Whatever counter-culture references the phrase may bring to mind, it actually is about the kitchen. In the Middle Ages, table scraps ended up in a big pot for stew. Once the centerpiece of a big meal, main courses were demoted to leftovers. Eventually “going to pot,” meaning going downhill, would be applied to anything, even the guy who sat behind you in homeroom years ago.