Posted by ESC on October 14, 2001
In Reply to: Forest posted by Thomas Bodtke on October 14, 2001
: Here seems to be one that is hard to find the origin of:
: can't see the forest for the trees
UNABLE TO SEE THE WOODS FOR THE TREES - From "Heavens to Betsy"
by Charles Earle Funk (Harper & Row, New York, 1955): "Too beset
by petty things to appreciate the greatness or grandeur; too wrapped
up in details to gain a view of the whole. In America we are likely
to use the plural, 'woods,' or possibly to substitute 'forest,'
but 'wood' is the old form and is preferable. Yes, the saying is
at least five hundred years old, and probably a century or two could
be added to that, for it must have been long been in use to have
been recorded in 1546 in John Heywood's 'A dialogue Conteynyng the
Nomber in Effect of all the Prouerbes in the Englishe Tongue.' He
wrote 'Plentie is no deinte, ye see not your owne ease. I see, ye
can not see the wood for trees.' And a few years later, in 1583,
Brian Melbancke, in 'Philotimus: the Warre Betwixt Nature and Fortune,'
wrote: 'Thou canst not or wilt not see wood for trees.' The saying
has cropped up repeatedly from then to the present, becoming, in
fact, more frequent with the passing years."
DEVIL IS IN THE DETAILS - The "Random House Dictionary of Popular Proverbs and Sayings" by Gregory Y. Titelman (Random House, New York, 1996) shows this phrase as a variation of "God is in the details - Whatever one does should be done thoroughly; details are important. The saying is generally attributed to Gustave Flaubert (1821-80), who is often quoted as saying, 'Le bon Dieu est dans le detail' (God is in the details). Other attributions include Michelangelo, the architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, and the art historian Aby Warburg. 'The Devil is in the details' is a variant of the proverb, referring to a catch hidden in the details. 'Governing is in the details''and 'The truth, if it exists, is in the details' are recent variants. Listed as an anonymous saying in the sixteenth edition of Barlett's 'Familiar Quotations,' edited by Justin Kaplan."