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Re: All that glitters is not gold

Posted by TheFallen on March 13, 2003

In Reply to: Re: All that glitters is not gold posted by jee-an on March 13, 2003

: : : Hi everyone, I am a foreigner to english.

: : : I have just seen the meaning of 'All that glitters is not gold' which is 'a showy article may not nessarily be valuable.' To me that means some showy articles are valuable. So in other words, some objetcs that glitter are gold.

: : : Now my question is if my understanding of that is acceptable, then what is the difference, if there is, between 'All that glitters is not gold', and 'Not all that glitters is gold'?

: : : Thank you.

: : ALL THAT GLITTERS IS NOT GOLD - "The appearance of a thing or person can be deceptive. This proverb is similar to the L*tin: Non omne quod nitet aurum est. ('Not all that shines is gold.') The proverb was used by Chaucer (c. 1374-87), by Cervantes in 'Don Quixote' (1605-15), and by Shakespeare in 'The Merchant of Venice' in 1596. First attested in the United States in the 'Winthrop Papers' ." From "Random House Dictionary of Popular Proverbs and Sayings" by Gregory Y. Titelman (Random House, New York, 1996).

: : There's more discussion in the archives under "gold."

:
: Thank You !Sir/madam.

: So 'All that glitters is not gold' means the same as 'Not all that shines is gold'. But again I found it difficulty to accept that 'All that glitters is not gold' means 'Not all that glitters is gold' since 'all that glitters is not gold' can be understood as everything that glitters is not gold, but when one says 'not all that glitters is gold', one is implying that 'some objects that glitter are gold'(at least).
: thank you again.

You're absolutely right to point out the apparent paradox, and your logic is faultless. The original L*tin proverb quoted by ESC above (Non omne quod nitet aurum est - not everything that shines is gold) expresses things clearly and accurately.

However, at some stage in the evolution of this saying, the "not" got moved and things changed from a "not all x is y" statement, which is simply a qualifying statement (some x will be y), to a "all x is not y" statement, which as you rightly say is an exclusive statement (x can never be y). As you are aware, this is absolutely NOT what the proverb is intended to mean, and I'm afraid it's just one very specific oddity in English.