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From BBC News on Airport expansion comes the quote:

But the Gatwick scheme is better for the local environment, and it should be easier to deliver politically and financially. You pays your money, you takes your choice.

What does You pays your money, you takes your choice. mean? It is clearly grammatically incorrect. Googling unhelpfully results in forum posts answered with "just google it". What does it mean, and why is it you pays rather than you pay without an s?

  • books.google.com/… – Tᴚoɯɐuo Jun 11 '15 at 17:16
  • Really? I googled the exact phrase (as used in your post) and the first return is from Free Dictionary, the second from the New York Times article referenced by @Adam, and there are many more sources that are not forum posts. If you search for the same phrase in a Google Book search, you get a lot of returns from books that define idioms. – user6951 Jun 11 '15 at 23:37
  • I'm a bit surprised you didn't ask this on the main site. It would probably be well-received there. – Dog Lover Jun 12 '15 at 5:14
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    @pazzo I leave it up to you. To me, this is a very good question. Even if one finds the exact phrase elsewhere, this question is obvious. The phrase has been used in books, so how is it correct? Just OP did research and could not understand it makes sense, but OP found 'google' not helpful for that makes it close-worthy! I don't buy that. Now since you revert back this, this wonderful question with 7 upvotes(!) will get closed. – Maulik V Jun 12 '15 at 5:52
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    do you see there...that's the reason, I addressed the OP in my last comment? @pazzo and thanks for retracting your vote. This'll be useful for the community especially non-natives like me! – Maulik V Jun 12 '15 at 7:52
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Those who come across this question might find helpful this article in the NY Times.

The origin, as dozens of other Lexicographic Irregulars stepped forward to say, is British, probably Cockney. The first time the saying saw print was in an 1846 Punch. A cartoon entitled ''The Ministerial Crisis'' has a showman telling a customer, ''Which ever you please, my little dear. You pays your money, and you takes your choice.''

The phrase still means ''The right of choice is to the buyer,'' or a more sophisticated ''Power belongs to those who have paid their dues,'' but a much different sense has emerged. ''The phrase is used today,'' writes Edward C. Stephens, dean of Syracuse University's Newhouse School of Public Communications, ''not so much as an invitation to choice as it is a rejoinder to complaint. It seems to be similar in intent to 'You made your bed, now lie in it.' Another variant is 'Look, if you don't like it, you can just lump it.' ''

However in this particular context, I would argue that it's a gambling reference -- you don't know the outcome until you roll the dice. It might work, it might not. You won't know until you make your bet and make a choice.

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It's an idiom meaning that you have several options, and each has advantages and disadvantages. So you pick one, and you put up with the results one way or the other.

The idea is that it is likely being in a store where a variety of similar products are offered. You're not going to buy them all, so you pick one. You pay your money and you make your choice.

Why the deliberately incorrect grammar? I guess whoever said it first just thought it was cute that way. I don't think there's any particular significance to it.

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    Although I have nothing to back it up, I have always thought this comes from the old carnival barkers who stereotypically were not well educated and spoke that way. In that scenario, you paid first to play the game then you got to make whatever choice was offered and you had to live with result- either way your money was gone. – Jim Jun 11 '15 at 17:35
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    Here's a NYTimes piece on the origin: Mark Twain used the saying in 1884, at the end of chapter 28 of ''Huckleberry Finn,'' ...''. . . here's your two sets o' heirs to old Peter Wilks - and you pays your money and you takes your choice!'' The origin ... is British, probably Cockney. The first time the saying saw print was in an 1846 Punch. A cartoon entitled ''The Ministerial Crisis'' has a showman telling a customer, ''Which ever you please, my little dear. You pays your money, and you takes your choice.'' nytimes.com/1988/02/28/magazine/… – Adam Jun 11 '15 at 17:46
  • Best answer I've seen on the internet for this question. For example, this long thread on wordreference doesn't even answer the question and goes into subject/verb number agreement. There are a few answers online linking to the ny times article which seems like too much information for someone just wanting to know what the damned expression means. – Julian Cienfuegos Nov 28 '17 at 14:56
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I think it correct in the sense, as I assume, the word you in question is used as a pure subject without referring to the first speaker, so you can replace it with any proper noun, say Jack. " You" or Jack pays Jack's money, Jack receives Jack's choice.

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