Quip in the news: Heads I win, tails you lose (antedating 1739)

Garson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Mon Oct 17 23:44:26 UTC 2011

The heads-tails idiom with a flavor of banking chicanery caught Barry
Popik's eye also.

The Big Apple: "Heads, I win; Tails, the government will bail me out"
February 01, 2010

<Begin excerpt>
When flipping a coin to decide an outcome, it’s usually "Heads, I win;
tails, I lose" or "Heads, I win; tails, you win." The dishonest saying
is: "Heads, I win; tails, you lose."

By the late 1980s, the following saying developed regarding banks with
losses protected by the government: "Heads, I win; tails, the taxpayer
<End excerpt>

On Mon, Oct 17, 2011 at 6:46 PM, George Thompson
<george.thompson at nyu.edu> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       George Thompson <george.thompson at NYU.EDU>
> Subject:      Re: Quip in the news: Heads I win, tails you lose (antedating
>              1739)
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> I thank Garson for doing this research.
> The form that provoked me to ask him about the phrase was  "It's heads the
> bankers win, tails the taxpayers lose."
> No doubt there have been other such riffs on it in previous crises.
> (I supposed I had seen this in the NYTimes, but it doesn't turn up in a
> search of their website.)

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

More information about the Ads-l mailing list