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hanged for a sheep as a lamb, might as well be

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Might just as well be punished for a big misdeed as a small one. For example, I might as well be hanged for a sheep as a lamb and have a third piece of cake—I've gone off my diet anyhow. Already a proverb in John Ray's 1678 collection, this expression alludes to the old punishment for stealing sheep, which was hanging no matter what the age or size of the animal.

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The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.

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