fun with phrases

Garson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Wed Oct 19 17:26:20 UTC 2011

There is a match for "If you break it you bought it" in GB in the
periodical "Hobbies" with a GB date of 1963. The phrase is visible in
the snippet. A search for "1963" in the volume shows that it contains
a September 1963 issue (header visible in a snippet). So the date
provided by GB is plausible.

Hobbies: Volume 68, Issue 7
International Philatelic Association, Rutherford Stamp Club, Society
of Philatelic Americans - 1963 - Snippet view
<Begin excerpt>
A good rule, though sometimes impractical of enforcement, is, "If you
break it you bought it." Now just a word for the exasperated buyer who
is sent an article which does not meet his explicit specifications and
which the seller knows ...
<End excerpt>

Below is a precursor in 1956 that does reflect a rule of civility, and
therefore may be relevant to the example in the fictional 1938 setting
mentioned by LH.

Date: 1956 November 15
Title: Parent Tips
Location: South Dakota
Page: 9
Column: 1
Paper: Aberdeen Daily News
Database: GenealogyBank
<Begin excerpt>
Mother: "You knew you should not play with Dad's lighter and since you
broke it you must buy him a new one with your own money."
<End excerpt>


On Wed, Oct 19, 2011 at 11:52 AM, Ben Zimmer
<bgzimmer at> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Ben Zimmer <bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU>
> Subject:      Re: fun with phrases
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> On Wed, Oct 19, 2011 at 10:32 AM, Laurence Horn wrote:
>> "You broke it, you bought it"
> [...]
>> New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman claims to have coined the
>> term, having used the phrase "the pottery store rule" in a February 12,
>> 2003, column. He has said he referred to Pottery Barn specifically in
>> speeches.
>> But this is clearly wrong, although perhaps he's the first to (almost)
>> coin "the Pottery Barn rule" to name the dictum. One of the GB hits is
>> for a 1972 script for the New York Shakespeare Company, but it appears
>> to be a literal usage:
>> SALESMAN:   "That machine is yours, lady."
>> MOSSIE:         "I cain't work it!"
>> SALESMAN:   "You broke it, you bought it."
>> But there are certainly pre-Friedman metaphorical uses [...]
> One important variant to track is present-tense "You break it, you buy
> it" -- on GB from 1965 (in snippet view), with metaphorical use from
> at least 1976. The 1994 example below seems like an important
> precursor to Friedman's use.
> ---
> _The American Life Collectors' Annual, Vol. 5_, 1965 (snippet)
> Various dealers tell me the thing they dread most in taking valuable
> items to a show is their fumbling by individuals who really have no
> intention to buy. Even when the sign says "You break it, you buy it,"
> they are not stopped.
> ---
> _Our National Passion: 200 Years of Sex in America_, 1976 (snippet)
> Marriage was based on the "you break it, you buy it" principle of
> sexuality. A man paid, with marriage, for the privilege of defiling a
> good woman. A bad woman was one you didn't have to marry.
> ---
> _Communicate with Confidence!_, Dianna Booher, 1994, p. 135
> Tip 389: Apply the "You Break It, You Buy It" Principle.
> Never be the one who tears up everybody else's ideas and then has none
> of your own to offer. If you criticize the best solutions others have
> tossed out, you're obligating yourself to present substitutions.
> According to author Milo Frank, this idea originated with Larry
> Kitchen, retired chairman of Lockheed. Based on the frequent sign in
> curio shops "You break it, you buy it," Mr. Kitchen applied the
> principle to stop people who continually tossed water on others' ideas
> with their routine negativism.
> ---
> --bgz
> --
> Ben Zimmer
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society -

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