If You Scratch My Back, I'll Scratch Yours (Origin)

What Is the Origin of the Saying "If You Scratch My Back, I'll Scratch Yours"?

The term if you scratch my back, and I'll scratch yours means to do someone a good deed if they do one for you. This term has a nautical derivation. In the English Navy during the 17th Century, the punishments for being absent, drunk, or disobedient were severe. One punishment would see the offender tied to the ship’s mast and flogged with a lash (known as a cat o' nine tails) by another crew member. Crew members struck deals between themselves that they would deliver only light lashes with the whip (i.e., just "scratching" the offender's back) to ensure they were treated the same should they ever found themselves on the receiving end at some time in the future.

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If You Scratch My Back, I'll Scratch Yours (Origin)

Examples of Use:

  • "If you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours" implies a reciprocal arrangement where mutual favors or support are exchanged.
  • Successful partnerships are often built on the principle of "if you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours", ensuring that both parties benefit.
  • Colleagues who abide by the concept of "if you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours" foster a collaborative work environment.
  • By embracing the idea of "if you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours", individuals can cultivate strong relationships based on mutual assistance.
  • The philosophy of "if you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours" promotes a culture of reciprocity and encourages teamwork.

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This page was written by Craig Shrives.