"exchange X for Y"

Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU
Sat Dec 3 04:30:25 UTC 2005

A recent item on Wonkette begins...

     An atheist student group in Texas has set up shop on
     their campus offering to exchange porn for Bibles.

I was momentarily confused until I continued reading the story and
realized that the group was trying to get students to drop off their
Bibles and get porn in return. To me, the sentence reads like it
should be the other way around. Is "exchange NEW for OLD" a new
phenomenon? I know Arnold Zwicky and others have looked at similar
reversals with "substitute" and "replace", but I don't recall
"exchange" being discussed.

The more I think about this the less sure of my intuitions I get, so
just to confirm that "exchange OLD for NEW" is the default, I found
this passage, appropriately enough in a salacious section of the New
American Bible (Romans 1:22-27):

    While claiming to be wise, they became fools
    and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for the likeness of an image
     of mortal man or of birds or of four-legged animals or of snakes.
    Therefore, God handed them over to impurity through the lusts of
     their hearts for the mutual degradation of their bodies.
    They exchanged the truth of God for a lie and revered and worshiped the
     creature rather than the creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.
    Therefore, God handed them over to degrading passions. Their females
     exchanged natural relations for unnatural,
    and the males likewise gave up natural relations with females and burned
     with lust for one another.

Any thoughts on the matter? (Pure and natural ones, of course.)

--Ben Zimmer

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