"What You See Is What You Get"

Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at RCI.RUTGERS.EDU
Sun Dec 12 05:29:32 UTC 2004

On Sat, 11 Dec 2004 21:23:04 -0500, Douglas G. Wilson <douglas at NB.NET> wrote:

>>Is anyone willing to check ProQuest Historical Newspapers to find the
>>earliest hit there for "what you see is what you get"?  According to an
>>alt.usage.english posting, this phrase appeared in a 1936 Chicago Tribune
>>ad for a home movie camera.  I would be interested in the exact date of
>>the Tribune ad or anything earlier than that.
>_Chicago Daily Tribune_, 2 May 1936: p. 23.

Newspaperarchive doesn't beat that, but I did find an earlier advertising
slogan with a slightly different parallel structure: ""See what you get
and get what you see."

(Greene) Iowa Recorder, May 10, 1905, p. 9
You see what you get and get what you see at Buchholz & Son's when you buy
a carpet there.

(Elyria, Ohio) Chronicle Telegram, February 20, 1922, p. 6
The Peerless Oil Co.
Gasoline, Kerosene, Oils, Grease
Visible Measure Pumps
"See what you get and get what you see"

Syracuse (NY) Herald, June 20, 1933, p. 10
Mobiloil is served to you by the modern FILPRUF method. Filpruf bottles
are glass bottles. You see what you get. You get what you see.

Middletown (NY) Times Herald, June 30, 1947, p. 10
Practical reflex-type camera ... you see what you get and get what you see.

So perhaps SWYGAGWYS was a forerunner of WYSIWYG.

-- Ben Zimmer

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