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If I walk into a restaurant and order a sandwich that comes with lettuce, and say "easy on the lettuce", would that mean that I wanted no lettuce at all, or simply less than normally comes with the sandwich?

I'm primarily referring to American usage, but would be curious about other locales as well.

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    FYI: Note that, normally, you would only use "easy on" regarding, let's say, "strong" ingredients. Easy on the chili! Easy on the ketchup! It sounds rather funny to say "easy on the lettuce" -- you'd perhaps go so far as to say that is "incorrect". It would almost sound like you were making a joke you know?
    – Fattie
    Sep 26, 2014 at 6:44
  • @JoeBlow Are you categorizing ketchup with strong ingredients? It sounds like you're making a joke.
    – DCShannon
    Sep 26, 2014 at 7:09
  • Hi DC -- ketchup is a very strong food. It's more or less as strong as sugar, which is the strongest food. divabetic.wordpress.com/2013/01/23/… Anyway, it's a strange point to get hung up on. Surely you would agree that "lettuce" is not in any way strong, it's not like say "hot sauce". Typically you'd say "easy on...." regarding things you add, where indeed you may prefer to go "easy" on the "power". Similarly, for example, you would not likely say "hit me!..." with the lettuce; you'd say "hit me!" with the whisky, hot sauce, etc. Cheers
    – Fattie
    Sep 26, 2014 at 7:40
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    Note too (as Frank raised) you would probably not say for example in a hamburger .. "go easy on the meat". A hamburger "is" meat, so it doesn't sound right. You say "go easy on..." the "accessories" (again, like the sauce, sugar, pickles, onions, etc). Similarly you couldn't really say "go easy on the bun", it would sound silly. (You'd have to say, maybe, "use less bread" or "only one slice of bun" or "with the bun very thin please", of example. "easy on the bun" doesn't work.)
    – Fattie
    Sep 26, 2014 at 7:42
  • Note that the expression is not limited to food. Go easy on the gas = "Don't drive so fast." Sep 26, 2014 at 8:57

3 Answers 3

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It would mean you wanted less than normally comes with the sandwich.

'go easy' definition from Cambridge Dictionaries Online

I can't offer detailed evidence to support this, but I think it's quite a universal phrase. The link suggests it is common in British English and I know from experience it's also common here in Ireland.

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  • You can also say this when they're in the process of adding the condiment and you think they're adding too much or might add too much (whether or not it's for you; it could be theirs, for that matter, although the condiments may or may not be yours, and you might want to preserve some; or you might suspect they're not aware of the amount). It's common in the USA, too. It seems they use this phrase in movies once in a while. It's sometimes about preventing them from adding too much, rather than always about ensuring less than normal (but it is about that too in some common contexts, of course). Jan 18, 2018 at 14:15
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Go easy on the X means Do not add too much X.

Someone who likes mayonnaise but does not want a lot of it might say Go easy on the mayo.

Someone who likes a little bit of pepper, but not too much, might say Go easy on the pepper.

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I too believe that "easy on the..." means less. But I have now had several experiences, both in the US and abroad, where I said "go easy" and it was interpreted as "GIVE ME A BUNCH OF THAT." No clue how this misinterpretation comes about, but I recommend saying something like "a little bit of mayo."

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