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I'm interested in the origin of the idiom:

If "ifs" and "buts" were candy and nuts, we'd all have a merry Christmas.

Furthermore, how should its meaning be interpreted? Are there alternate endings?

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closed as general reference by Hugo, Daniel, simchona, kiamlaluno, Jasper Loy Nov 16 '11 at 0:09

This question is too basic; it can be definitively and permanently answered by a single link to a standard internet reference source designed specifically to find that type of information.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

2 Answers 2

From The Phrase Finder:

"If "ifs" and "buts" were candy and nuts, wouldn't it be a Merry Christmas?" seems to be attributed to Don Meredith (the American football player/ commentator). To rephrase it: if all these reasons why we can't do something were party foods instead of words, we could have a really great party.

It would seem to be patterned after "If wishes were horses, then beggars would ride" and "If I had a 'coin' for every 'something', I'd have 'a lot of money'" (insert your favorite coin, something and amount of money).

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I also enjoy saying things of the form "If I had a 'lot of money' for every 'something', I'd be broke" – jcarpenter Sep 8 '14 at 14:40

It is used to express the fact that "if" and "but" are used too many times, so the speaker of this utterance disapproves of their use.

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I don't think people would often trot out this "ditty" because they think "if" and "but" are used too often in general. They say it when suggesting a possible course of action or explanation to someone who keeps raising objections using these words. – FumbleFingers Nov 3 '11 at 21:51
That's exactly what I meant. Apparently it wasn't clear from the way I wrote it. – Irene Nov 4 '11 at 16:02

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