Posted by ESC on September 11, 2001
In Reply to: Don't throw the baby out with the bath water posted by sally james on September 11, 2001 at
: please can you tell me what this means
: "A Dictionary of American Proverbs" by Wolfgang Mieder, Stewart A. Kingsbury and Kelsie B. Harder (Oxford University Press, New York, 1992, Page 33). "Don't throw out the baby with the bathwater. Rec. dist: Fla., Miss., N.Y. 1st cit.: 1853 Carlyle, '[N-word] Question'; US 1925 Neverinson, 'More Changes. 20c. coll.: ODEP 220, CODP 225, Stevenson 112:3, Whiting (MP) 24."
: Sorry about the N-word but that's what it says. Some of the abbreviations: Rec. dist. - recorded distribution. 1st. cit. -- 1st citation. ODEP - Oxford Dictionary of English Proverbs. CODP - The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Proverbs.
More information from "Wise Words and Wives Tales" by Stuart Flexner and Doris Flexner (Avon Books, New York, 1993): "Don't throw the baby out with the bath water. (Don't empty out the baby with.) A German proverb of unknown origins, it was current in German at least as early as the seventeenth century, when the astronomer Johannes Kepler included the passage, 'This is a caution.lest you throw out the baby with the bath water,' in Tertius Interveniens' . The saying apparently first appeared in English in the writings of Thomas Carlyle, who reported, 'The Germans say, 'You must empty out the bathing-tub, but not the baby along with it.' George Bernard Shaw used the proverb in the preface to 'Getting Married' , noting, 'We shall in a very literal sense empty the baby out with the bath.'"
Neither source has a meaning so I'll give it a go. Don't take a drastic step to solve a small problem. Don't kill a fly with a sledgehammer. If your son has a messy room but is otherwise a good kid, don't harp and carp on the subject until he totally breaks off communications.
Or how about this, don't try to get a little spot out of a carpet with a gasoline and burn the house down. Don't work overtime so much to support your family that you lose your family.