If wishes were horses, beggars would ride

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"If wishes were horses, beggars would ride."
Nursery rhyme
Published 1605
Songwriter(s) unknown

"If wishes were horses, beggars would ride" is an English language proverb and nursery rhyme, first recorded about 1628 in a collection of Scottish proverbs.[1], which suggests if wishing could make things happen, then even the most destitute people would have everything they wanted.[2] It has a Roud Folk Song Index number of 20004.

Lyrics[edit]

Common newer versions include:

If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.
If turnips were watches, I'd wear one by my side.
If "if's" and "and's" were pots and pans,
There'd be no work for tinkers' hands.

... and a shorter version:

If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.
If turnips were bayonets, I'd wear one by my side.[3]

Origin[edit]

The first recognizable ancestor of the rhyme was recorded in William Camden's (1551–1623) Remaines of a Greater Worke, Concerning Britaine, printed in 1605, which contained the lines: "If wishes were thrushes beggars would eat birds".[4] The reference to horses was first in James Carmichael's Proverbs in Scots printed in 1628, which included the lines: "And if wishes were horses, pure [poor] men wald ride".[4] The first mention of beggars is in John Ray's Collection of English Proverbs in 1670, in the form "If wishes would bide, beggars would ride".[4] The first versions with close to today's wording was in James Kelly's Scottish Proverbs, Collected and Arranged in 1721, with the wording "If wishes were horses, beggars would ride".[4] The rhyme above was probably the combination of two of many versions and was collected by James Orchard Halliwell in the 1840s.[3] The last line was sometimes used to stop children from questioning and get to work: "If if's and and's were pots and pans, there'd surely be dishes to do."

Books that use this saying[edit]

Other uses in popular culture[edit]

  • Kenny Rogers and the First Edition recorded the song "If Wishes Were Horses" (composed by group member Mike Settle) on their 1967 debut album. The whole phrase "If wishes were horses, beggars would ride" is used a number of times throughout the songs verses.[citation needed]
  • "If Wishes Were Horses" is the title track of Kris Drever's third solo album. The whole phrase "If wishes were horses, beggars would ride" forms part of the song's chorus.[citation needed]
  • If Wishes Were Horses is the name of the second album of the Canadian glam rock band, Sweeney Todd. The title track was sung by a then 15 year old Bryan Adams in his first band, who replaced Nick Gilder as the front man. Apparently unaware it was more than just a proverb, producer Martin Shaer wrote new lyrics for it:
    If wishes were horses, beggars would ride,
    All dreams and desires would ride alongside,
    Worries and troubles would fall off behind.
    If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.
  • "If Wishes Were Horses" is the title of an episode from the first season of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
  • "If Wishes Were Horses"..."...and all that." is the mentioned by Patrick Jane in episode three from the sixth series of The Mentalist "Wedding in Red"..
  • "Beggars Will Ride" is the title of a song by American band Larry and His Flask from their 2011 album All That We Know, in which the phrase is used heavily in the chorus.
  • At the beginning of "Angel" Season 5, Episode 6 "The Cautionary Tale of Numero Cinco", Spike says to Angel, "If wishes were horses....".
  • Niklaus and Elijah Mikaelson mention the first line "If Wishes were horses, beggars would ride" in season 2 episode 9 "The Map of Moments" of The Originals
  • In the Firefly episode "Objects in Space", Jayne says "If wishes were horses, we'd all be eating steak." [5]
  • In the Orange Is The New Black episode "Take a Break From Your Values", Crazy Eyes says the first line "If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.".

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ "the origin of if wishes were horses". Retrieved 2017-06-20. 
  2. ^ "the definition of if wishes were horses, then beggars would ride". Dictionary.com. Retrieved 2016-04-12. 
  3. ^ a b I. Opie and P. Opie, The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1951, 2nd edn., 1997), p. 427.
  4. ^ a b c d G. L. Apperson and M. Manser, Wordsworth Dictionary of Proverbs (Wordsworth, 2003), p. 637.
  5. ^ ""Firefly" Objects in Space (TV Episode 2002) - Quotes". IMDb.com. Retrieved 2018-03-27.