An African American proverb (?)

Charles Doyle cdoyle at UGA.EDU
Fri Jul 31 15:33:59 UTC 2009

Several scholars have identified as a proverb the expression "What God got lot out for a man he'll get it."

As found in the typescript of reminiscences by an ex-slave for the WPA Writers' Project of the late 1930s, the saying certainly looks as if it was being used proverbially. And the sense is (almost) clear; one scholar has paraphrased it, "If it's for you, you’ll get it."

But what is the grammar of the sentence?  Following the auxiliary "got," is that (apparent) verb "lot" a rare participle of "lay"--or what the transcriber actually heard for "laid"?  Or is it a contraction of "allotted" or some other verb based on "lot" in the sense of 'destiny'?

We should remember, of course, that the transcribers employed for the project were not necessarily well trained for the task--and they were also capable of typos!

Any opinions (or guesses) will be welcome.


The American Dialect Society -

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