by the each

Passed on by Ken Rudolph on Facebook, this image from the Bro My God website:


As Chris Ambidge noted on Facebook, by the each is something of a surprise, though it turns out that there are other examples in commercial settings. Normally you’d expect just each or apiece, or per item. At least one site suggests that it might be a calque on an idiom in another language.

(The specific link that came with this image no longer works for me. The website is mostly about “bro stuff”, especially busty women.)

8 Responses to “by the each”

  1. Mar Rojo Says:

    Somehow, I don’t see you and busty women mixing well, Arnold. Even if they appear “by the each”. 😉

  2. Arnold Zwicky Says:

    From William Brewer on ADS-L:

    Looks like a blend of two English constructions, extending (1) to cover (2):
    (1) buy/sell bananas by the pound, bunch, boatload
    (2) buy/sell bananas 33 cents each

  3. Arnold Zwicky Says:

    Jeff Shaumeyer on Facebook:

    Mightn’t it be the result of a not very sophisticated computer program for making the labels that offers “each” as a not-quite-right option in a unit pricing form: “by the ___” : “pound”, “ounce”, “dozen”, “box”, “carton”?

  4. Arnold Zwicky Says:

    Another computer suggestion, from, Benjamin Barrett on ADS-L:

    It seems odd to me.

    It could even come from a failure to change the settings on the label printer properly. For example, it said, “By the dozen” and the operator changes just “dozen” to “each.” (And the operator might even judge by analogy that “by the each” is correct groceryese and set it that way without ever having actually heard the formulation.)

    The first hit on Google is
    which dates it to 14 September 2000.

  5. Arnold Zwicky Says:

    Another vote for a computer source, from Victor Steinbok on ADS-L:

    I’ve seen this regularly at some stores and not others. At other stores you might see “per” instead of “by the”. Different databases, different labels. My guess would be that it’s just a database artifact. Rather than programming different text for different types of labels based on different packaging/weighing options, there is a single code system for those and the text “by the” is printed with all the units. So you get, “by the lb”, “by the oz”, “by the each”, “by the 2-pack”, “by the case”, etc. This reduces database entries to short labels, or, potentially, single numbers that represent those labels, e.g., 0=each, 1=lb, 2=oz., etc. The clue is that this is the kind of thing you might see at Walgreens.

    My personal views that this has little, if any, linguistic significance.

  6. Walt slocombe Says:

    What ever its source, it has the advantage of being totally unambiguous.

  7. Arnold Zwicky Says:

    Jeff Prucher now reports on ADS-L, from DARE:

    each, by the. adv phr Individually, singly.
    1969 DARE (QR p52) Inf IL97, Buy them [=individually wrapped candies] by the each.

    DARE only includes one citation, from the DARE questionnaire, by
    informant IL97 (white female homemaker with college education from Arlington Heights, IL; born 1923, interviewed in 1969). But I’m sold that it’s a regionalism, or at least a non-standard Americanism.

    It is of course possible that it had more than one source.

  8. Kim Darnell Says:

    An “each” is also apparently a base unit for shipping:

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