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First come, first serve(d)

Posted by R. Berg on July 18, 2001

In Reply to: First come, first serve(d) posted by Paul G on July 18, 2001

: : : Although in the dictionary I found the phrase "first come, first served" I have often heard it pronounced
: : : without the "d" at the end. Does anybody know whether this is only a wrong usage or where "first come, first serve" derives from (old english?).
: : : thanks, flavia

: : The dictionary is correct: the "d" belongs in the phrase. Those who come first are the first to be served.

: Still the version without the 'd' appears to be in common usage. A search on Altavista for the exact phrase yielded counts of

: "first come first serve" 80263
: "first come first served" 121214

: Perhaps "first come first serve" could validly derive from something like "Those who arrive first, we serve first."(?)

That may be how speakers and writers who omit the "d" are mentally constructing the meaning, but "come" is a participial adjective in this phrase (compare "Christ is come today" in the Christmas song). Here's the entry from Webster's Second Unabridged, 1934:

first come, first served. Ellipsis for: He who is FIRST COME is FIRST SERVED; --used in stores, restaurants, etc., to indicate service of patrons in the order of arrival.