Learn something new every day
More Info... by email
The English idiom “chop and change” refers to a situation where change happens more than once, often in the context of a person altering his or her intentions. In fact, this phrase is used in several different ways in English-speaking communities where it is still popular, especially in the U.K. Modern usage is derived from older origins of the phrase, most of which refer to the idea of a set of changes, but may have done so in varying contexts.
One of the main uses of “chop and change” refers to a change that happens suddenly. The same sense of urgency can be found in a similar phrase, "chop-chop," which has been used for many centuries. “Chop-chop” is a popular exclamation urging listeners to hurry up and do something quickly. Some uses of “chop and change” rely on this original idea of a person changing his behavior, or changing the activity of a group abruptly.
Other uses of the phrase “chop and change” date back to the 1600s. One popular way to understand this phrase is in a trade or exchange. Some English speakers, especially in past times, have expressed a trade or transaction as “changing about,” where two parties exchange items. To put it simply, a transaction includes two changes; both the buyer and the seller “change” their situations vis a vis their personal holdings. “Chop and change” may similarly be used to describe simple or complex transaction, usually done in haste.
Some English speakers also used the phrase “chop and change” to indicate that a certain issue or position keeps changing, whether in its outcome or in deliberation by a responsible governing authority. For example, if planners cannot seem to decide how they stand on a matter, and keep switching it over time, someone might say that they are “chopping and changing.” Other synonymous phrases have become more popular in other English-speaking societies, for example, in American usage, where people might often express this idea as “waffling” or “flip-flopping,” both of which indicate someone is changing their mind on a position or stance frequently. This kind of language has often been used in political situations, where in the modern context, changing one’s mind often is seen as a major detriment to many political campaigns. When critics can charge that a politician is “waffling” or “chopping and changing” on an issue, it can hurt the overall reputation of that individual.
I first heard the phrase chop and change used in reference to Mitt Romney. He has received a lot of criticism for changing his positions on a number of the issues in order to seem more conservative. In that context the phrase chop and change seems to make a lot of sense.