I understand that there is usually such implication as:

I took what money he gave me. =I took what little money he gave me.

But I also read the following sentence :

What money he could lay his hands on he spent like an Indian rajah.


I doubt that it has such implication , because an indian rajah is very rich.So I want to make sure if this structure necessarily means "there being only a little."

  • You will find numerous examples and explanations of the expression online, eg idioms.thefreedictionary.com/lay+one%27s+hands+on – Ronald Sole Nov 28 '19 at 8:03
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    Even in this example, there is still the implication that he wanted more, and if he could have got even more, he would have spent it. – Colin Fine Nov 28 '19 at 9:55
  • @Colin Fine: I think as a general principle, if there's no explicitly-specified adjective, what X [exists] normally implies there isn't much X. But to me at least, that implication can be much weaker (or entirely absent) with whatever X [exists]. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Nov 28 '19 at 16:33

I think you are almost correct about the implication of the first example. "I took what money he gave me" implies that the money was insufficient, or short for some specific purpose. That isn't quite the same as "little money". For example, $900 is not a small sum of money for most people, but it would be insufficient if you really needed $1000.

The second example is a little harder to explain. "What money he could lay his hands on he spent" is really saying that 'he' spent everything he had. The only implication is that perhaps the money was not sufficient for him, because he spent it "like an Indian Rajah". Overall, I understand it to imply the person spent money with abandon, as if he were rich, even though he was not rich - that he lived beyond his means.

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    Classic example - Mike Tyson. Even with career earnings approaching a billion dollars, he spent what money he had "like an Indian Rajah" and ended up declaring bankruptcy. – J... Nov 28 '19 at 21:02

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