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May as well

A discussion of word histories and origins.

May as well

Postby Perry » Fri Jun 01, 2007 10:35 pm

Not a word, but still an odd construction. When answering a question this evening with "may as well", I suddenly realized that this is common usage, but does not really make sense.
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Postby sluggo » Fri Jun 01, 2007 11:24 pm

should maybe be under Idioms, but ...
you may do A as well as B
or you may do A as well as not do A (and you'll get the same result) -eh?

Actually the 'as well' element by itself seems somewhat obtuse, either here or in the sense of 'also'. Wonder how that one came about?

There, now it's definitely Etymology (that'll be $26.95).
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Postby sluggo » Sat Jun 02, 2007 11:12 am

From phrases.org.uk bulletin board:

"Might as well, can't dance and it's too windy to haul rocks"... variation: "...and it's too wet to plow."

see also sheep vs. goat origins
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Postby Bailey » Sat Jun 02, 2007 4:47 pm

it's too windy to stack beebees.

And it's: I might as well be hanged for a wolf as a sheep, it's said by an innocent person, saying if they are accused of something they might as well commit the crime. Sheep and a goa/sheep and lamb make no sense.

get it right there bubba.

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Might just as well

Postby Dr. Goodword » Sat Jun 02, 2007 11:42 pm

It makes a bit more sense to when you include just. The current idiom may be a reduction of this longer phrase.
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Postby Stargzer » Sun Jun 03, 2007 2:28 pm

Bailey wrote:it's too windy to stack beebees.

And it's: I might as well be hanged for a wolf as a sheep, it's said by an innocent person, saying if they are accused of something they might as well commit the crime. Sheep and a goa/sheep and lamb make no sense.

get it right there bubba.

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"Might as well hang for a sheep as a goat" implies to me that as long as you're being accused of something, it might as well be for something more serious.
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Re: Might just as well

Postby Bailey » Sun Jun 03, 2007 10:33 pm

Dr. Goodword wrote:It makes a bit more sense to when you include just. The current idiom may be a reduction of this longer phrase.


exactly, Dr. G.

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Postby Perry » Mon Jun 04, 2007 9:25 am

Mais oui! C'est juste, le mot just. :wink:

The example we have been using has the phrase (with or without the word just) at the beginning of a sentence. I got to thinking about this when using the three word phrase as a stand alone answer to a question. At this point we may as well move on to a new discussion topic. 8)
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Postby sluggo » Mon Jun 04, 2007 11:50 am

Bailey wrote:it's too windy to stack beebees.

And it's: I might as well be hanged for a wolf as a sheep, it's said by an innocent person, saying if they are accused of something they might as well commit the crime. Sheep and a goa/sheep and lamb make no sense.

get it right there bubba.


You'll have to talk to the hand (over the link); it was quoting a UK discussion board. Their history* claims to know who the expression's real father is.

from the link (note the optional "might"):
*The older phrasing is "As well be hanged for a sheep as a lamb", or in more modern terms "One might as well be hanged for a sheep as a lamb". It refers to a time in England-less than 200 years ago-when the penalty for any theft of livestock was execution by hanging. If the penalty is the same in either case, you might as well steal a full-grown sheep as the smaller lamb. So it doesn't mean what the writer thought it means, but rather that there's no point in half measures: if you're going to do something, go the whole way or do it in full.

: Thanks, GPP, that's exactly what I wanted to know, although I have only seen the expression with the word goat, not lamb.

In the U.S., the standard form uses "lamb."


Still squeezing the brain brine to remember where I've heard 'it's too late to plow' once before. A floating song lyric somewhere... somewhere... anybody?
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