string » sting
Spotted in the wild:
- When my camera got taken away at the door, due to my not being put down for a photo pass, I said, what the heck, I’ll get a T-shirt and that will make up for it. When they were out of the size I wanted at the merchandise table I gave up and decided to enjoy the concert, pure and simple, no stings attached – I propped myself up against the bar and took in the smells, sights and sounds of the Le Tigre show. (The Strand, December 4, 2003)
- Tired of diving by yourself? […] Refer two friends to take an Open Water Diver class at the Peninsula Diving Center. After they successfully complete the class and get certified, we pay you $50 in cash - no waiting, no tricky forms - no stings attached! (Peninsula Diving Center)
- That was very thoughtful he thought to himself. It wasn’t everyday that you got a thank you [from a rejected candidate after a job interview]. And with no stings attached. Classy! (Retail Career)
Analyzed or reported by:
- commenter Andrew Simmonds (on this site)
There are 14,400 Google hits on English pages for _no stings attached_, and 486,000 for _no strings attached_. Many of the occurrences of the non-standard form will be typos — inadvertent slips that the authors would have caught had they proofread more carefully; it is easy to skip a single letter in a word. But a standard/non-standard ratio of 33.75 indicates intentional use in at least some of the cases. As a point of reference, the ratio for _spring_/_sping_ (with the latter often a proper name) is 421.0, and if we check the phrase _in early spring_ (which has, according to Google, about the same absolute frequency as _no strings attached_), the ratio is 2870.
There are two senses of _sting_ that would be logical here. First, in the sense “pain, distress, harm”, it is clearly preferable if human relationships are free from them. Second, if the occurrence concerns a business transaction, _sting_ in the sense of “confidence trick, swindle, cheat” is the likely concept the writer has in mind.