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I understand the phrase, "If I had my druthers..." to mean, "If I had my way," as in:

If I had my druthers, we'd all have Mondays off and work a half day on Saturdays and Sundays.

EtymologyOnline.com gives the following note for druthers:

1895, from jocular formation based on I'd ruther, Amer.Eng. dialectal form of I'd rather (used by Bret Harte as drathers, 1875).

But I'm curious how this morphed into, "If I had my druthers." It would seem that the saying would be:

Druthers have Mondays off and work a half day on Saturdays and Sundays.

Also, I'm curious as to the etymology / first use of the full phrase, "If I had my druthers..."

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Druthers is taken to be essentially equivalent to preference, and *Preference have Mondays off and work a half day on Saturdays and Sundays wouldn't be acceptable, so it shouldn't seem like Druthers have Mondays off... should be the form of the saying. –  mgkrebbs May 29 '11 at 4:27

3 Answers 3

up vote 2 down vote accepted

The online Merriam-Webster says the first known use is from 1870, and The Phrase Finder quotes the January 1870 edition of Overland Monthly and Out West Magazine as having this:

If I was a youngster, I 'drather set up in any perfession but a circus-driver, but a man can't always have his 'drathers.

I believe that is likely the form that the first usages took, and shows the humorous intent of the phrase, with the "punch" of the humor coming at the end of the line. (It also shows its use in American dialect writing, and perhaps that it hadn't stabilized on the druthers spelling/pronunciation.)

Further research shows an earlier instance, one which shows the same structure. It is from an "Original Dialog" section of the 22 August 1868 issue of Oliver Optic's magazine: Our boys and girls. The piece, Before Vacation by Peregrine Breese, has this passage:

Isabella. I am sure I don't care what any of you like; but Saratoga or Newport I still cling to; there, now.

Susan. There was a queer old lady in our neighborhood, who used to say, "Well, some druther have this, and some druther have that; but all of us can't have our druthers." We shall see!

This seems unlikely to be the earliest use, but perhaps nearly so, and is likely to have something like the style of the original use.

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A still earlier usage, from 1859, is found in Knitting-work: A Web of Many Textures, p. 359. –  mgkrebbs Mar 5 at 22:33

I believe that "If I had my druthers" = "If I had my 'I'd rather'" = "If I had my say" = "If I were to say my opinion".

I think it fits perfectly. Anyone agrees with me?

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Well, here's what NOAD says:

druther |ˈdrəðər| informal noun (usu. one's druthers) a person's preference in a matter : if I had my druthers, I would prefer to be a writer. *adverb* rather; by preference.

ORIGIN late 19th cent.: from a U.S. regional pronunciation of I'd rather, contraction of would rather. Compare with ruther .

ruther |ˈrəðər| adverb nonstandard spelling of rather , used in representing dialectal speech: : I'd ruther walk

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