"If ifs and buts were candy and nuts, we’d all have a merry Christmas” was a proverb of Don Meredith (1938-2010), an SMU and Dallas Cowboys quarterback and Monday Night Football announcer. The proverb (in other forms) is older, but Meredith helped popularize it with his version.
“If ifs and ands were pots and pans, there’d be no work for tinkers’ hands” is a saying from the early 19th century.
[This entry was prepared with research assistance by the Quote Investigator.]
Wikipedia: Don Meredith
Joseph Don “Dandy Don” Meredith (April 10, 1938–December 5, 2010) was an American football quarterback, sports commentator and actor. He spent all nine seasons of his professional playing career (1960–1968) with the Dallas Cowboys of the National Football League (NFL). He was named to the Pro Bowl in each of his last three years as a player. He subsequently became a color analyst for NFL telecasts from 1970–1984. As an original member of the Monday Night Football broadcast team on the American Broadcasting Company (ABC), he famously played the role of Howard Cosell’s comic foil.
11 November 1970, Gastonia (NC) Gazette, “Frady’s Views” by Dwight Frady, pg. 2B, col 1:
I liked it Monday when he used the word “if,” which you can always fall upon discussing something which has just happened in sports or when you’re second-guessing. Dandy said: “If ‘if’ and ‘buts’ were candy and nuts, what a Merry Christmas we would have.”
17 December 1970, Ada (OK) Evening News, pg. 7, col. 1:
Howard: “If Los Angeles wins, it’s a big one, but San Francisco is still very much in it.”
Dan: “If ifs and buts were candy and nuts, we’d all have a merry Christmas.”
Howard: “I didn’t think you’d remember that old canard.”
Dan: “Is that what it was?”
18 March 1971, Chicago
IF IFS AND NUTS were candy and nuts, someone said, Wisconsin would be the N.
C. A. A. track champion.
2 April 1971, Chicago Tribune, pg. C3:
“There’s an old saying, Ernie. It goes something like this: ‘If all the ifs and buts were candy and nuts, what a wonderful Christmas it would be.’”
26 November 1972, Washington Post, pg. C6:
On-the-air and at public meetings, Meredith is the bucolic, puppy-friendly, old-shoe, ex-athlete. He has made a running gag, lasting for three seasons, about his inability to explain pass interference. He is filled with country boy wisdom:
“If ifs and buts were candy and nuts,
We’d all have a Merry Christmas.”
10 March 1974, Washington Post, pg. C10:
“If ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ were candy and nuts we’d all have a merry Christmas,” Meredith said, repeating an on-the-air favorite.