fun with phrases

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Wed Oct 19 23:25:29 UTC 2011

On Oct 19, 2011, at 4:43 PM, Victor Steinbok wrote:

> If I understand Friedman's version correctly as a foreign policy
> commentary, then the correct version should be, "If you fix it, you own
> it."

I don't see that.  I thought Friedman's point was that we did break Iraq ("Stuff happens"), and so now (2003) we owned it, and it was our responsibility to fix it, and so on.  But the breaking did come first (even though he was gung-ho for the invasion before he was against it, to not coin a phrase).


> There would be enough subtleties in that phrase to fill a
> book--which, of course, proves that Friedman could not have said /that/.
> H's just not that smart--or subtle.
>    VS-)
> On 10/19/2011 10:32 AM, Laurence Horn wrote:
>> "You broke it, you bought it"
>> This just turned up as part of a dialogue taking place in 1938 in a =
>> recent novel, _Rules of Civility_, and I was wondering if it was =
>> anachronistic.  I didn't see much pre-1990s in Google Books for this, =
>> and the fact that this dictum is sometimes referred to (e.g. in NYT =
>> op-eds a while back about the Iraq war; see below) as "the Pottery Barn =
>> rule" makes me wonder if it could really have been around in the 1930s.  =
>> Of course it has variants, none of which I tracked in GB, and what's =
>> relevant here is the metaphorical use--as applied in current love songs =
>> to the narrator's heart (directed to ex-lover) or political contexts =
>> like the U.S. economy (e.g. in Occupy Wall Street posters, directed to =
>> bankers).  The wikipedia site, =
>>, notes that
>> 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.
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society -

The American Dialect Society -

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