they that dance must pay the fiddler

Cf. he who pays the piper calls the tune, where the emphasis is reversed. To pay the piper (fiddler, etc.) means ‘to bear the cost (of an enterprise)’. The proverb is now predominantly found in US use.

1638 J. TAYLOR Taylor’s Feast in Works (1876) 94 One of the Fidlers said, Gentlemen, I pray you to remember the Musicke [musicians], you have given us nothing yet... Alwayes those that dance must pay the Musicke.

1837 A. LINCOLN Speech 11 Jan. in Works (1953) I. 64 I am decidedly opposed to the people’s money being used to pay the fiddler. It is an old maxim and a very sound one, that he that dances should always pay the fiddler.

a 1957 L. I. WILDER First Four Years (1971) i. Laura was going to have a baby... She remembered a saying of her mother’s: ‘They that dance must pay the fiddler.’

Proverbs new dictionary.

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