“pay attention!”

Why is it “pay attention” not “give attention”?

I’ve often wondered at this phrase.

To “pay” implies a transaction or an obligation. And attention has never really felt like something that should be demanded. I mean you can tell someone to “pay attention” all you want, and you may receive at the least the illusion of attention, but at the end of the day is always in the hands of the observer on whether they choose to give their attention.

Attention seems more like a gift. It is a gift because it is a choice. The choice of the observer on whether they will attend to what is being presented to them. I think something is lost when we demand something that can only be given.