Monkey see(s), monkey do(es), 1901, 1893

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Wed Nov 20 00:42:14 UTC 2013

Some of them are also conjunctive rather than conditional in force; cf. our earlier discussion below.  Also note the pidgin form form of the locus classicus, "No tickee no washee", from the same (pseudo-?)dialect as "Monkey see, monkey do".


On Oct 19, 2011, at 2:04 PM, Jonathan Lighter wrote:
> GB affords a "You break it, you buy it" allegedly from 1965. Looks
> persuasive, but the date may be wrong.
> It refers to a sign, as do real exx. from the early '70s.
> Certainly I was familiar with it by 1970.
> The past-tense version sounds strange to me, however.

I'm assuming the present tense version is a reduced conditional ([If] you break it [then] you buy/own it), while the past tense one is a reduced conjunction ("You broke it [and [so]] you bought it", although the conditional reading is also possible: "If you broke it, you bought it", as in some of the GB cites).  The relation between the two is fairly close, as it is with "No X no Y" constructions ("No justice, no peace" or "No tickee no washee" on the one hand and "No smoking, no spitting" on the other, and combined on the third hand as "No shirt, no shoes, no service").


> On Wed, Oct 19, 2011 at 1:37 PM, Victor Steinbok <aardvark66 at> wrote:
>> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
>> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>> Poster:       Victor Steinbok <aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM>
>> Subject:      Re: fun with phrases
>> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
>> The variant I'm most familiar with, aside from the straight "you broke
>> it, you bought it" is "you break it, you /own/ it" and similar variants.
>> I vaguely recall a number of pieces disproving the "Pottery Barn Rule"
>> having anything to do with the Pottery Barn (then division of
>> Williams-Sonoma). I would place those recollections /before/ Friedman's
>> alleged coinage, but I would not be able to prove the dates. Snopes
>> usually dates their posts, so if they have one, it will be dated.

On Nov 19, 2013, at 7:10 PM, Mark Mandel wrote:

> The doublets, at least the ones here, have a clear common structure:
> Mark Mandel
> On Tue, Nov 19, 2013 at 5:26 PM, Geoffrey Steven Nathan <
> geoffnathan at> wrote:
>> It appears to be an instance of a class of utterances that my colleague
>> Ljiljana Progovac has spent the last few years investigating. She calls
>> them 'non-sententials', and English has lots of them. From a (technical)
>> syntactic point of view they generally seem to be tenseless clauses and
>> other defective clauses (that is, they take bare verb forms), and they
>> often come in pairs. She cites examples like:
>> Nothing ventured, nothing gained,
>> No harm, no foul
>> Once burned, twice shy
>> (they also occur as singletons: Case closed. Problem solved. Family first!
>> Me first! John worry? Him happy?)
>> Here's a handy reference:
>> She has a much larger theory behind her analysis, which I find
>> fascinating, but goes beyond ADS topics...
>> Geoffrey S. Nathan
>> Faculty Liaison, C&IT
>> and Professor, Linguistics Program
>> +1 (313) 577-1259 (C&IT)
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society -

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