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Re: Once bitten, twice shy

Posted by ESC on August 30, 2001

In Reply to: Once bitten twice shy posted by Brian Kelley on August 30, 2001

: Does anybody know the meaning/origin of "once bitten twice shy??????

ONCE BITTEN, TWICE SHY -- "William Caxton, the first English printer, gave the earliest version of this saying in 'Aesope' , his translation of Aesop's fables: 'He that hath ben ones begyled by somme other ought to kepe hym wel fro(m) the same.' Centuries later, the English novelist Robert Surtees referred to the saying in 'Mr. Sponge's Sporting Tour' with '(He) had been bit once, and he was not going to give Mr. Sponge a second chance.' The exact wording of the saying was recorded later that century in 'Folk Phrases of Four Counties' by G.G. Northall and was repeated by, among others, the English novelist Joseph Conrad (1920, 'The Rescue'), the novelist Aldous Huxley (1928, 'Point Counter Point'), and the novelist Wyndham Lewis (1930, 'The Apes of God'). 'Once bitten, twice shy' has been a familiar saying in the twentieth century." From "Wise Words and Wives' Tales" by Stuart Flexner and Doris Flexner (Avon Books, New York, 1993).

A variation, "once burned, twice shy," is also traced back to "Mr. Sponge's Sporting Tour." "Once burned" was "First attested in the United States in 'Dead Sure' by S. Sterling." The meaning of the saying is "One who had an unpleasant experience is especially cautious." From the "Random House Dictionary of Popular Proverbs and Sayings" by Gregory Y. Titelman (Random House, New York, 1996).