You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.

You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours is an idiom that dates back hundreds of years. We will examine the meaning of the common idiom you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours, where it came from, and some examples of its idiomatic usage in sentences.

You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours means if you do me a favor, I will do you a favor in return; the expression refers to a quid pro quo, which is a reciprocal exchange for mutual benefit. The phrase you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours came into use in the early 1700s, though there is some debate as to its origin. Some believe it came from the British Navy; that sailors who were forced to administer floggings to each other promised to but “scratch” the victim. The evidence for this derivation is shaky. You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours may simply allude to the fact that one cannot generally reach every itchy spot on one’s back on one’s own. Like many idioms, only the first part, you scratch my back, is often quoted with the assumption that the listener can supply the rest of the idiom.

Examples

“Regrettably, for too long, an old boys club mentality that promotes a culture of ‘you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours’ has plagued the corridors of City Hall,” she added. (Detroit Free Press)

In a classic case of “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours,” the Ukrainians would gather dirt on the Bidens and help Trump win reelection and Giuliani would use his connections to the president to get them what they wanted, including the removal of the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch. (Chicago Tribune)

There’s the age-old adage of you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours, but that is just not what I want to do with the label. (Decibel Magazine)

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