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Just wondering where the expression comes from and who is considered responsible for coining it.

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3 Answers 3

There is no deep mystery here—nor, I think, any especial history to be uncovered, either. A poor man’s substitute is no more mysterious in meaning or origin than is a rich man’s game, a fat man’s curse, or a short man’s bane.

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I only ask out of curiosity, but the origin in place and time of this particular expression may for instance indicate when and where poverty became primarily synonymous with subpar quality, as opposed to virtue in the christian tradition. All expressions could be given a deeper meaning, so I disagree. –  Ярослав Рахматуллин Apr 7 '13 at 2:52
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I agree with @tchrist. I suspect what happened was not the best over time morphed into among the worst: Two vendors A and B do the same job, but A does it significantly better; B reduces his price to compete. B is then the "poor man's" version of A. As more vendors (say, C and D) came, the worst one would lower his prices most. I opine the same process stigmatized cheap. (Google changed "cheap hotel" search to "budget hotel.") But you're right. It needn't always mean sub-par: Take "poor man's copyright," a legal process where one uses postal timestamps to demonstrate possession. –  dingo_dan Apr 7 '13 at 6:42

The Online Etymology Dictionary says that "poor man's something" is from 1854.

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It was initially meant to reference any item in Poor Richard's Almanack. The publication appeared continually from 1732 to 1758.

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Would you mind sharing a reference for that? –  teylyn Apr 7 '13 at 9:00

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