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Thanks for your understanding.
Chris -- 2018-04-11
When I first moved to the UK over eight years ago, I thought the British expression “swings and roundabouts” was actually “swings in roundabouts” – the American equivalent to “what goes around comes around”. I thought “swings” was being used as a verb, making my version plausible but slightly different from the actual saying.
Nice. The and/in switch shows up in a good many already-reported examples, but the noun-verb switch is enjoyable.
I don’t understand entirely, though. (I don’t know this phrase at all, myself.) Are you saying you have now come to understand that the phrase means ‘swings (n.) (are showing up) in roundabouts (n.)’? Did you earlier understand it to be ‘(it) swings and (it) roundabouts’?
And, btw, welcome to the forum!
*If the human mind were simple enough for us to understand,
we would be too simple-minded to understand it* .
Thanks for the welcome!
The expression has to do with the back-and-forth movement of swings and the circular shape of a roundabout (I think it refers to the kind you drive on rather than the American English equivalent of carousel – or the smaller ones you get in playgrounds – though they’re all circular).
So if you think of the movement/shape of these things, you can see how it works in the following sentence:
If you never buy a parking ticket in order to save money, you are more likely to get fined, so it’s all swings and roundabouts really.
My initial understanding of the phrase was that things (events, circumstances, etc.) swing in roundabouts, as an observation of the cyclical nature of things.
The original was apparently, “What you lose on the swings, you gain on the roundabouts.”
I’ve heard that as well – I think it relates to fairground games, i.e. what you lose on one, you may make back on the other.
Went searching for the origin of this phrase and came across this:
The poem ‘Roundabouts and Swings’ is by Patrick Chalmers and here are the appropriate lines, after the poet asks the fairground-man what his work is like:“Said he, ‘The job’s the very spit of what it always were, It’s bread and bacon mostly when the dog don’t catch a hare, But looking at it broad, and while it ain’t no merchant kings, What’s lost upon the roundabouts, we pulls up on the swings.’”