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Something is better than nothing proverbial saying, mid 16th century, meaning that even a possession of intrinsically little value is preferable to being empty-handed. The expression is recorded earlier (early 15th century) in French.

you don't get something for nothing proverbial saying, late 19th century, meaning that something has to be given up for anything that is worth having; in his novel Sybil (1845), Disraeli expresses a related idea, ‘To do nothing and get something formed a boy's ideal of a manly career.’

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