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In the movie "The Mechanic" (2011) I came across the following piece of conversation:

"Liquor fairy paid me a visit last night. Left me a big old bottle of scotch."

(This part is pretty understandable as the movie hero had left his interlocutor a bottle of alcohol, "a fairy" because the interlocutor had been sleeping at the time of delivery.)

But the continuation:

"He even sprung for the good stuff."

I can't understand this.

I would appreciate it if anyone could explain.

  • It's one of many "elevating/uplifting" metaphors for coming up with or putting up the money, coughing [up] for, stumping up for something (often, expensive). – FumbleFingers Dec 28 '13 at 0:02
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“Spring for” is informal English (mostly US) meaning “pay money for”, with the nuance that the subject is paying more than what one might expect. This can be because the thing is expensive in absolute terms, or because cheaper alternatives are available, or because the subject is paying for other people (often in addition to himself).

It's common to say that one springs for a more expensive model. “He even sprung for the good stuff” means that not only did the unnamed person buy scotch for the narrator, but that person even brought good scotch, which presumably costs more. Spring for can have a connotation that the person is indulging in a luxury.

Some dictionaries (for example the Oxford Advanced American Dictionary list spring for as specifically meaning paying for someone else. But this is in fact not always the case, and I think it is not the primary meaning of the expression — spring for only connotes paying for someone else because the person is paying more than the minimum (which would be their share). For example the Camdbridge American English Dictionary gives the example phrase “To increase the radio's performance, spring for a powered antenna”: a powered antenna costs more than an ordinary antenna, but gives better performance.

  • +1 for "Spring for can have a connotation that the person is indulging in a luxury." I don't "spring for" my electric bill, but I might "spring for" my roommate's portion of it, if he's low on funds. Or, I might "spring for" a new sweater – particularly if our power gets shut off ;^) – J.R. Dec 28 '13 at 3:40
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"To spring for" something is an informal/slang phrase meaning to pay for or buy something.

e.g. "don’t spring for the album until you’ve heard it" means don't pay for or buy the album until you've heard it.

So "he even sprung for the good stuff" is indicating that the movie hero bought a good quality bottle of scotch.

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    Note also that standard English has the verb triple spring/sprang/sprung, but it's not uncommon in some dialects to say instead spring/sprung/sprung (or sing/sung/sung, ring/rung/rung, etc.) – hunter Dec 27 '13 at 18:37
  • This appears to be chiefly US usage. Collins tags it as such (Def. #5). Interestingly enough, their British English edition lists 17 verb definitions of spring, but this "buy something for someone" meaning isn't included among them. – J.R. Dec 27 '13 at 19:02
  • Thank you very much. Your explanation is proficient. May I associate "to spring for something" with "to reach for something"? Would that seem correct? Or fetch something would be more correct? – ukna1 Dec 27 '13 at 23:09
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    @ukna1 I would say that neither of those associations is correct. I'm not sure how you've managed to reach that conclusion from my answer. – Nigel Harper Dec 27 '13 at 23:33
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You should say, "he SPRANG for the good stuff." That's in the past tense.

The past participle construction is "he HAS sprung for the good stuff."

Both of these are past forms of "spring," which literally means to "jump" or "reach," but figuratively means "pay." (As in, to "spring" for the check or bill.)

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