If Ifs and Buts were Candy and Nuts – Meaning, Origin and Usage

Did someone just mention the phrase “if ifs and buts were candy and nuts” to you? What one earth are they going on about, and how does that apply to your situation? This post unpacks the meaning and origin of this idiomatic phrase.

Idiom Meaning

If ifs and buts were candy and nuts” is an idiomatic saying and a shortening of the original, “If ifs and buts were candy and nuts, we’d all have a Merry Christmas.” The phrase means that if you got value from hearing the words “if” and “but” in a person’s excuses, you would have enough to enjoy a better position in life.

The idiom appears in entertainment, usually on TV shows. You might have heard Sheldon Cooper from the “Big Bang Theory” use it when he talked to Dr. Neil DeGrasse Tyson about his exclusion of Pluto from the known planets in the Solar System.

Example Usage

Neil DeGrasse Tyson: “But I didn’t actually demote the planet, Pluto…”

Sheldon: “If ifs and buts were candy and nuts, we’d all have a Merry Christmas. Think about that, Dr. Tyson.”

Idiom Origin

The saying “if ifs and buts were candy and nuts” first appeared in the old nursery rhyme, “if wishes were horses.” The verse was popular with parents and their kids in the 17th century, and it would often feature the addition of “We’d all have a Merry Christmas” at the end of the phrase for added effect.

Typically, the phrase’s meaning would refer to replacing excuses with something we want, and candy and nuts were luxuries at the time and a signifier of a comfortable life. The saying never really gained traction in modern language until quarterback Don Meredith uttered the phrase during his commentary.

The former quarterback would coin the phrase in modern media back in 1970, where it started to catch on with the US population, especially those who watched Monday Night Football.

Meredith’s original use of the phrase occurred during his commentary of a Los Angeles Raiders game. During the game, his fellow commentator said, “if Los Angeles wins…” with Meredith responding, “If ifs and buts were candy and nuts….

Meredith went on to secure the saying as his commentary catchphrase.

Phrases Similar to If Ifs and Buts were Candy and Nuts

  • If I had a dollar for every time, I heard someone say (insert word here).
  • If wishes were fishes, we’d all swim in riches.
  • If wishes were horses, then beggars would ride.
  • If ifs and buts were apples and nuts.

Phrases Opposite to If Ifs and Buts were Candy and Nuts

  • I don’t want excuses.

What is the Correct Saying?

  • If its and buts were candy and nuts.
  • If its and buts were candy and nuts, we’d all have a great Christmas.

Ways People May Say If Ifs and Buts were Candy and Nuts Incorrectly

Some people may use the phrase incorrectly, using it out of context to describe something other than missed opportunities. It’s also an outdated phrase, and most people will use the idiom, if I had a dollar, quarter/nickel for every time I heard someone say that.

Acceptable Ways to Phrase If Ifs and Buts were Candy and Nuts

You can use “if ifs and buts were candy and nuts” in situations where you’re trying to impress a point on someone in a polite manner. There are many ways to phrase this idiom, and they all suit polite use.

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