Posted by Shae on September 05, 2002
In Reply to: Re: Hung for a sheep as a lamb.. posted by R. Berg on September 05, 2002
: : anyone know?
: The Oxford English Dictionary has a quotation from Richardson, "Clarissa" : "In for the lamb, as the saying is, in for the sheep." The saying must be older; I don't know by how much.
'I might as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb.' If the consequence of failure is the same in either case, then go for the option that yields the greatest reward if the venture succeeds.
Until at least 1800 in England, the penalty for stealing sheep, irrespective of the animal's age or gender, was execution or deportation. Since there is more meat and wool on a fully-grown sheep, why bother putting the same effort into stealing a lamb if the consequence of being caught for either crime was the gallows?