have one's labor for one's pains

yanming620

Senior Member
China
Hi Everyone,

I read the below from Novel Count Monte Christo ,

"Sometimes Albert would affect to make a joke of his want of success; but internally he was deeply wounded, and his self-love immensely piqued, to think that Albert de Morcerf, the most admired and most sought after of any young person of his day, should thus be passed over, and merely have his labor for his pains."

1, the question is : is have one's labor for one's pains" a fixed phrase ?

2,I also check "for one's pains " in online dictionary, it states:
for one's pains
informal as an unfairly bad return for one’s efforts: he was sued for his pains

To construe one's labor for one's pains as a fixed phrase (1) or only take "for one's pains " as a fixed phrase (2) , and in the (2) case the labor I guess will mean “Physical or mental exertion”,

For 1 and 2 understanding which one is better ? thanks in advance
 
  • wandle

    Senior Member
    English - British
    Unless the context shows otherwise, 'labor' and 'pains' should be seen as effectively synonymous here.
    They really mean the same thing.
    Thus all Albert gets in return for his trouble is his trouble. He gains nothing.
    'To have one's labour for one's pains' is I believe a standard phrase for 'to gain nothing'.
     

    pwmeek

    Senior Member
    English - American
    To construe one's labor for one's pains as a fixed phrase (1) or only take "for one's pains " as a fixed phrase (2) , and in the (2) case the labor I guess will mean “Physical or mental exertion”,
    Yes, I think you have it correctly. "for one's pains" is a set phrase meaning as a result of one's efforts. The whole phrase is not a set phrase.

    "have (only) his labor" is the poor, or unsatisfactory, result in the phrase above.

    Albert has worked for years for some recognition, but all his years of labor have earned him only that: years of labor. He gets no recognition, only the realization that he has wasted all that effort.
     

    redgiant

    Senior Member
    Cantonese, Hong Kong
    Someone has been spending a lot of time and effort building a deal aggregator blog this month. He has been only getting 60 daily unique visitors on average and making $0.3 a day through some advertising campaigns. He has been putting a lot of effort but hasn't gotten much in return. Is it okay to say : "he has been earning peanuts for all his pains"? Is "pains" too dramatic, overblown for your liking?
     

    wandle

    Senior Member
    English - British
    Is it okay to say : "he has been earning peanuts for all his pains"? Is "pains" too dramatic, overblown for your liking?
    Perfectly okay. 'Pains' is a good alternative for 'trouble' in such contexts.
    It has the advantage of vividness and of being a plural.
     
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