In the book Journey by James A. Michener, I read this:

"Across the United States and Canada, men who had suffered sore deprivation during the great financial panic of 1893 cried: 'Gold to be had for the picking! Fortunes for everyone!'"

The online Cambridge dictionary:

be had = to be tricked

How would you say in English this "Gold to be had for the picking!" without idiom "be had"?


2 Answers 2


I would say the gold was "there for the taking", or "there for the picking", but taking would be a more natural word choice.

This be had is not that be tricked meaning. It's just saying that you could have gold by picking it (like flowers).


The idiom "to be had" states that the subject was conned or tricked. It is one of several meanings of the phrase.

In the Michener quote, "gold" was the subject of "to be had". Since gold is not animate, it cannot be tricked. Thus, we need to look for another meaning for the phrase.

As SamBC points out, the literal meaning of the phrase is correct.

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