From a book called Access 2013: The Missing Manual:

At this point, you're probably wondering how much that part in the center of Figure 21-1—the SQL Server database engine—actually costs. Microsoft sets the price using a complex licensing scheme that ratchets up the cost depending on how many people use the database at once. Usually, it runs into thousands of dollars, and it's not uncommon for a big business to shell out $20,000 or more.

But before you skip this chapter in disgust, there's something you should know: A completely free version of SQL Server is out there waiting for you. Amazingly enough, it's almost as powerful as the one that costs thousands of dollars and requires you to pledge your first-born child to Microsoft.

Honestly, I have no idea what that's supposed to mean. Any thoughts?

1 Answer 1


The phrase "pledge your first-born child to" is a sarcastic figure of speech, akin to "sell your soul to". It's saying that someone is asking you to pay too high a price for something, and is often used when you might be getting yourself into a situation that could be hard to get out of later.

In the context of technology, it's often used to say that you'll be tied to a certain platform or system, and switching might be difficult or costly.

For example, say a mobile phone company is offering you a free phone, but you'll need to sign a two-year contract to get it. Some people might think that's too long to commit to one carrier, particularly if you could buy the phone yourself at a reasonable price. In that case, the person who is advising you to reconsider that "deal" might say something like:

Sure, you get a free phone – but, to get it, you have to pledge your first-born child to the carrier.

or, similarly:

Sure, you get a free phone – but you have to sell your soul to get it.

It's very figurative speech to say you might regret something down the road.

  • 5
    It's also a reference to classic fairy tales like Rumplestiltskin in which a wish is granted in return for pledging their first-born child to the wish granter.
    – Jim
    Mar 6, 2015 at 1:06
  • @Jim - Thanks for the footnote! (BTW, I'd upvote that if you left it as an answer, too.)
    – J.R.
    Mar 6, 2015 at 9:12
  • Although be aware that 'sell your soul' has a connotation that afterwards you belong to the buyer, which 'pledge your first-born child' doesn't.
    – dbmag9
    Apr 29, 2015 at 7:48
  • @dbmag9 - Yes, but presumably the love between parent and child is strong enough that the consequences are regarded as nearly equally dire.
    – J.R.
    Apr 29, 2015 at 9:04
  • 1
    @dbmag9 - I see what you're getting at now. Thanks for clarifying. I may end up editing this post if you don't end up leaving a better answer. :^)
    – J.R.
    Apr 29, 2015 at 13:02

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