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I've never really understood the meaning and origin of the phrase "what have you".

Examples:

You can use a pencil, a sharpie, a ballpoint, what have you.

The display room is full of stereos, TV's, and what have you.

This site says …

[…] this expression uses an archaic form of putting a question (using have you instead of do you have) as a noun clause, and what in the sense of “anything that.”

But still, this phrase does not even sound like correct English to me. Shouldn't it be "what you have" instead?

Also, since when is this phrase common, and where is it used? Is it a regional thing or generally used in all English speaking countries? Also, "Your Dictionary" says it's been first recorded in 1920, but it doesn't even say where.

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2 Answers 2

up vote 5 down vote accepted

It’s true that this expression is in an interrogative form that is not normally found in contemporary English. It uses inversion rather than the auxiliary verb do. We would normally expect What do you have? (or, in the UK at least, What have you got?) It’s a colloquial way of saying, in the Oxford English Dictionary’s definition, ‘anything else (similar) that there may be, or that one can think of’, or even, simply, etcetera. It’s of US origin, and the Oxford English Dictionary’s earliest citation is from the 'New Yorker' magazine in 1925.

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I am selling a horse. For what have you?

I am selling a horse. If you are interested then what are you willing to pay for it?

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