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(Just) as soon

Posted by Smokey Stover on November 18, 2008 at 06:19

In Reply to: Just as soon posted by Jinxmcc on November 17, 2008 at 10:13:

: "Just as soon" is used colloquially to mean "prefer to" - "I'd just as soon have the apple and let you take the orange." It seems often to serve as an implicit apology for the request.

: Anyone know the origin of the phrase?

It's plain English, used adverbially at least since the time of Shakespeare, who used it several times (though without the superfluous "just"). As far as I know, there's no apology implied. When someone says "I'd as soon [do this] as [that], it's often, though not necessarily, a show of preference. The Oxford English Dictionary distinguishes two common usages for "as soon (as)": "a. As readily; as willingly. Also so soon as, just as soon; as soon as look at you . . . ." and "b. With as much reason or probability."

An example that I like, quoted by the OED, is "1913 W. B. YEATS Hour-Glass in Mask V. 328 I'd as soon listen to dried peas in a bladder as listen to your thoughts."

To illustrate the second definition (b.) the OED gives this example (among others): "1591 SHAKES. Two Gent. II. vii. 19 Thou wouldst as soone goe kindle fire with snow As seeke to quench the fire of Loue with words."