Date: Wed, 13 Dec 1995 21:43:57 -0500

From: "Dennis R. Preston" preston[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]PILOT.MSU.EDU

Subject: Re: Proverbial Knowledge

The universality of proverbs is pretty well-known among folklorists (e.g.,

Mieder), and even some linguists have had a look at the universality of

idioms (although the 'big' works on this point leave me at the moment).

I have your proverb in the 'changed' (or 'variant') form. I guess I thought

it was the original. I always folk-ethymologized it be a sort of gambling


What is it really (since you seem to have a handle on the original form)?

Dennis (always had it wrong but still a native speaker) Preston


Part of communicative competence includes a knowledge of proverbs. Thus,

many English speakers have heard the following proverb: "You pays your money

and you takes your choice." This is listed in the Oxford Dictionary of

Quotations, 3rd ed., 1979:9. Today I heard a variant of this from a native


in which the word "chances" occurred for "choice." How many have heard this

version? Are there any other permutations with this proverb? Does anyone

have other examples of proverbs with variations in English or in any other


My theory is this. Proverbs are universal, and native speakers change them

according to well-defined rules ("chances" is monosyllabic and begins with

a voiceless affricate, etc.).

I will post a summary of examples sent to me or the network + reasons/

explications of the phenomenon.

Does anyone know of any research on this?

--Alan Kaye--


Calif. State Univ., Fullerton --- akaye[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]