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What Does "Chop and Change" Mean?

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  • Written By: A. Leverkuhn
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 08 November 2016
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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.

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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.

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Post 1

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.

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