pay too dearly for one’s whistle To pay more for some desired object than it is worth; to expend a great deal of time, effort, or money for something which does not come up to one’s expectations; to indulge a whim. This expression is based on Benjamin Franklin’s The Whistle (1799), which tells of his nephew’s wanting a certain whistle so much that he paid its owner four times its value. As soon as the whistle had been acquired, however, it lost its appeal of the unattainable, leaving the boy disappointed with his purchase.
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