if ifs and ands were pots and pans, there’d be no work for tinkers’ hands

Used as a humorous retort to an over-optimistic conditional expression. ands: the conjunction and ‘if’, of which an is a weakened form, is employed irregularly here as a noun to denote ‘an expression of condition or doubt’.

1850 C. KINGSLEY Alton Locke I. x. ‘If a poor man’s prayer can bring God’s curse down.’.. ‘If ifs and ans were pots and pans.’

1886 Notes & Queries 7th ser. I. 71 There is also the old doggerel—If ifs and ands Were pots and pans Where would be the work for Tinkers’ hands?

1981 J. ASHFORD Loss of Culion xvi. As my old aunt used to say, ‘If ifs and ands were pots and pans, there’d be no work for tinkers’ hands.’

2002 Washington Times 14 Aug. B5 A reader signed ‘Desperate in Ohio’ reported that a verse her aunt told her many years ago was rattling around in her head, but she couldn’t remember the last line. It went, ‘If “ifs” and “ans” were pots and pans...’ My column yesterday was filled with letters from readers eager to provide the missing line, ‘..there’d be no work for tinkers.’


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  • and — see if ifs and ands were pots and pans, there’d be no work for tinkers’ hands …   Proverbs new dictionary

  • Oxford Dictionary of Proverbs, Thematic Index — absence absence makes the heart grow fonder he who is absent is always in the wrong the best of friends must part blue are the hills that are far away distance lends enchantment to the view out of sight, out of mind …   Proverbs new dictionary

  • hand — see one hand for yourself and one for the ship the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world one hand washes the other a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush cold hands, warm heart the devil finds work for idle hands to do …   Proverbs new dictionary

  • if — see if ifs and ands were pots and pans, there’d be no work for tinkers’ hands …   Proverbs new dictionary

  • pan — see if ifs and ands were pots and pans, there’d be no work for tinkers’ hands …   Proverbs new dictionary

  • pot — see if ifs and ands were pots and pans, there’d be no work for tinkers’ hands a little pot is soon hot you cannot get a quart into a pint pot a watched pot never boils …   Proverbs new dictionary

  • tinker — see if ifs and ands were pots and pans, there’d be no work for tinkers’ hands …   Proverbs new dictionary

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