In life, most things require effort. Nobody lands a job as a high-powered CEO without working up the ladder, learning the necessary skills, and kowtowing to the necessary people along the way. On the other hand, once in a while, something amazing and unexpected drops right into a person’s lap. If that unbelievable job or perfect guy vanishes as quickly as it arrived, the perfect response is “easy come easy go.”
The phrase plays with the paired verbs come and go and literally can be translated from slang into everyday English as “things that arrive too easily are as likely to depart as easily.” This idiom displays a kind of laissez faire attitude. Often, there is an unspoken quality that can be translated as “Oh, well,” as though the speaker is neither surprised nor unhappy to see the fortunate event or object turn tail and vanish.
Easy come easy go is often said with a tinge of irony, as well, as though something that comes easily isn’t really worth making the effort to hang onto. A young man who unexpectedly draws the momentary attention of a beautiful, young lady who fairly rapidly then turns around and dumps him might shrug and remark, “Easy come easy go.” The subtext in this case is that, other than her physical beauty, there wasn’t enough of value in the young woman to bother fighting for.
Younger people, especially, are given to using the phrase in a way that suggests the expectation that life will be full of opportunities that will arrive easily. When something presents itself and doesn’t work out, the phrase suggests that there’s no reason to get upset. It must means something even better will arrive a little bit down the line, equally unexpected but of greater value.
No one group of people is more likely to use the phrase than lottery winners. It’s well known that a very high percentage of people who strike it rich, coming into hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars due to nothing other than the literal luck of the draw, aren’t particularly good at working with that money to grow it or preserve it. The tendency is to spend it or give it away as quickly as possible. Once it’s gone, it might not be the lottery winner who remarks, “Easy come easy go,” but rather everyone around who watched lady luck drop into the winner’s lap and then hop right back out again.