pay the piper

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From the English phrase who pays the piper calls the tune.


pay the piper

  1. (idiomatic) To pay expenses for something, and thus be in a position to be in control.
  2. (idiomatic) To pay a monetary debt or experience unfavorable consequences, especially when the payment or consequences are inevitable in spite of attempts to avoid them.
    • 1831, April 16, Dandy Doricourt, letter to the editors, The New-York mirror, volume 8, issue number 41, page 325:
      [T]he very constitution of society is based upon this volunteer system of paying the piper. Honest men pay the piper for rogues, and full purses for empty ones.
    • 1921, Gertrude Franklin Horn Atherton, The Sisters-In-Law, ch. 10:
      He wanted to get rich too quickly I suppose. . . . He's got to pay the piper.
    • 2006, Candice Millard, "The River of Doubt," Time, 25 Jun.:
      Roosevelt never fully recovered his health, but he refused any regret. "I am always willing to pay the piper," he once wrote, "when I have had a good dance."