Posted by Woodchuck on March 27, 2003
In Reply to: Re: You can lead a horse to water... posted by ESC on March 27, 2003
: : Attributed to Dorothy Parker, but is an obvious paraphrase of, "You can lead
a horse to water but you can't make him drink."
: : Does anyone have an origin for the latter phrase? It means, I think, vainly attempting to help someone.
: YOU CAN LEAD A HORSE TO WATER, BUT YOU CAN'T MAKE HIM DRINK - "Although you may be able to show a person what is best, according to this proverb, you cannot force him to it - even though it is in his interest. An early version of the saying, 'A man maie well bring a horse to the water. But he cannot make him drinke without he will,' was rendered in John Heywood's 'A Dialogue Conteinyng the Nomber in Effect of All the Prouerbes in the Englishe Tongue .The closest wording to the modern version appeared some years later in Frederick Marryat's 'The King's Own' as 'You may take a horse to the water, but you can't make him drink.'." From "Wise Words and Wives' Tales: The Origins, Meanings and Time-Honored Wisdom of Proverbs and Folk Sayings Olde and New" by Stuart Flexner and Doris Flexner (Avon Books, New York, 1993).
Actually, the story is Parker quipped is "You can lead a horticulture but you can't make her think" upon being asked to use 'horticulture' in a sentence.