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sing for one's supper

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Work for one's pay or reward, as in Entertaining visiting scientists is part of the job; you know I have to sing for my supper. This metaphoric term alludes to wandering minstrels who performed in taverns and were paid with a meal. First recorded in 1609, it gained currency with the familiar nursery rhyme, “Little Tommy Tucker, sings for his supper” (c. 1744).

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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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