Posted by ESC on November 12, 1999
In Reply to: What is the origin of throw the baby out with the bathwater? posted by Hilda on November 12, 1999
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: In days of yore, when homes had baths which were portable (for both adults and children) a necessary activity at the end of bath time was to 'throw out the bath water'. A father who had observed his overworked, and invariably tired, wife struggle with a wilful child, would, as the small child's bath was carried to the back door to disposed of the waste water in the back yard, cry "Don't throw the baby out with the bath water". This expression came to mean that even when frustration with a situation or a malfunctioning device drives you to distraction, and you feel that you must be rid of it, you should pause, and consider if a valuable, or maybe irreplaceable, element would be lost by precipitate action, i.e., "Don't throw the baby out with the bath water".
EXCUSE ME in advance for the title of this book. "Don't throw out the baby with the bath water. Don't throw out the essentials while getting rid of the dregs. The proverb has been traced back to '[N-word] Question' by Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881), British essayist and historian. First attested in the United States in 'More Changes' by H.W. Nevinson. The proverb is found in varying forms: Don't throw the baby out with the bath; Never throw out the baby with the bath water, etc. To throw out the baby with the bath water is always used metaphorically. It has its counterparts in other languages too: Das Kind mit dem Bade ausschutten..." German and Russian. From "Random House Dictionary of Popular Proverbs and Sayings" by Gregory Y. Titelman.