Posted by ESC on February 18, 2004
In Reply to: Take it or leave it posted by ESC on February 18, 2004
: : : : i'm learning English as a second language and i'm writing a little thesis about the origins of some proverbs. could you help me to find the origin of these proverbs?
: : : : 1-Grasp all, lose all.
: : : : 2-You can't have your cake and eat it too
: : : : 3-to kill two birds with one stone
: : : : 4-There are two sides to every coin
: : : : 5-A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush
: : : : 6-Clothes don't make the man
: : : : 7-Take it or leave it
: : : : 8-There is nothing new under the sun
: : : : 9-The mills of God grind slowly
: : : : 10-To be over the moon
: : : : 11-The grass is always greener on the other fence
: : : : 12-dressed to kill
: : : : i'll be very grateful if you answer me tonight or tomorrow morning
: : : : thanks very much and sorry for my english!!!!
: : : 1-Grasp all, lose all.
GRASP ALL, LOSE ALL - I googled this phrase and came up with some sites referring to a fairy tale. The tale and information about the author are at http://www.online-literature.com/andrew_lang/olive_fairy/21/ (Accessed February 18, 2004.) There are variations on the phrase: Grasp a little and you may secure it; grasp too much and you will lose everything. Grasp no more than the hand will hold. Those were found in "A Dictionary of American Proverbs" edited by Wolfgang Mieder & Others (Oxford University Press, Oxford and New York, 1992).
: : : 2-You can't have your cake and eat it too
YOU CAN'T HAVE YOUR CAKE AND EAT IT TOO -- "One can't use something up and still have it to enjoy. This proverb was recorded in the book of proverbs by John Heywood in 1546, and is first attested in the United States in the 1742 'Colonial Records of Georgia' in 'Original Papers, 1735-1752.' The adage is found in varying forms: You can't eat your cake and have it too. You can't have everything and eat it too; Eat your cake and have the crumbs in bed with you, etc. ..." From the "Random House Dictionary of Popular Proverbs and Sayings" by Gregory Y. Titelman.
: : : 3-to kill two birds with one stone
KILL TWO BIRDS WITH ONE STONE - "Achieve two objectives with a single effort. It would be remarkable indeed if someone slinging a stone at a bird got one bird, let alone two. Ovid had a similar expression in L*tin nearly 2,000 years ago. Related phrases were in English and French literature by the 16th century. Thomas Hobbes used the modern version in a work on liberty in 1656: 'T. H. thinks to kill two birds with one stone, and satisfy two arguments with one answer.'" "Dictionary of Cliches" by James Rogers (Wings Books, Originally New York: Facts on File Publications, 1985).
: : :
: : : 4-There are two sides to every coin
THERE ARE TWO SIDES TO EVERY STORY (COIN) - "There's always a different point of view, which is entitled to be heard. The proverb has been traced back in English to 1742, and is first attested in the United States in the 1802 'Diary and Autobiography of John Adams' and an 1817 letter of Thomas Jefferson. The proverb was first expressed in ancient times, as far back as 485-410 B.C. Protagoras said that 'there are two sides to every question.' In about 428 B.B., Euripides said, 'In a case of dissension, never dare to judge till you've heard the other side.' The word argument, coin, everything, question or quarrel may replace (every) story." From "Random House Dictionary of Popular Proverbs and Sayings" by Gregory Y. Titelman (Random House, New York, 1996).
: : : 5-A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush
: : : A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush - "It's better to possess something real right now than to count on finding something better in the future. The proverb is similar to the thirteenth century Latin: Plus valet in manibus avis unica quam dupla silvis (A bird in the hands is worth more than two in the woods.) It has been traced back to the 'Life of St. Katharine' (c. 1450) by J. Capgrave." From "Random House Dictionary of Popular Proverbs and Sayings" by Gregory Y. Titelman (Random House, New York, 1996).
: : :
: 6-Clothes don't make the man
CLOTHES DON'T MAKE THE MAN - "Don't judge a person by the clothing he or she is wearing. The proverb has been traced back to about 1500. First attested in the United States in 'Writings of George Washington' ." "Random House Dictionary of Popular Proverbs and Sayings" by Gregory Y. Titelman (Random House, New York, 1996).
: : : 7-Take it or leave it
: TAKE IT OR LEAVE IT - "Make up your mind; the offer stands as is and won't be changed. A version of this phrase can be found in the 'Cursor Mundi' as early as 1300. Shakespeare was closer to the modern usage in 'King Lear.' Lear has decided to disinherit his youngest daughter, Cordelia, who is sought in marriage by the king of France. Lear says to the French king and the Duke of Burgundy:
: Will you, with these infirmities she owes,
: Unfriended, new adopted to our hate,
: Dower'd with our curse and stranger'd with our oath,
: Take her, or leave her?
: The king of France takes her."
: From "The Dictionary of Cliches" by James Rogers (Wings Books, Originally New York: Facts on File Publications, 1985).
: : : 8-There is nothing new under the sun
: : : (Bible verse)
: Ecclesiastes 1:9 The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.
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: : : 9-The mills of God grind slowly
: : MILLS OF GOD (THE GODS) GRIND SLOWLY - "At some point a sinner will be punished; many decisions or events that are important in one's life take time in coming. Some 1,600 years ago the Greek philosopher Sextus Empiricus wrote: 'The mills of the gods grind slowly, but they grind small.' One of Longfellow's translations was a 17th century poem, 'Retribution,' by Friedrich Von Logau:
: : Though the mills of God grind slowly, yet they grind exceeding small;
: : Though with patience he stands waiting, with exactness grinds he all.
: : From "The Dictionary of Cliches" by James Rogers (Wings Books, Originally New York: Facts on File Publications, 1985).
: : : 10-To be over the moon
OVER THE MOON - To be over the moon. "To be highly excited; extremely delight; in raptures about something. An elated person may well feel so 'high' that they could jump over the moon. The expression is routine among sportsman." From "Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable" revised by Adrian Room (HarperCollinsPublishers, New York, 1999, Sixteenth Edition).
: : : 11-The grass is always greener on the other fence
THE GRASS ALWAYS LOOKS GREENER ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE FENCE - "Although the phrase of this familiar proverb is surprisingly recent, sayings centered on the underlying idea of envy date back to the sixteenth century. Richard Taverner's 'Erasmus' Adagies' rendered the saying 'The corne in an other mans grounde semeth euer more fertyll and plentyfull then doth oure owne. By this is noted the lightness, new gangelnesse and constancye of mankynde which estemeth euen straunge thynges better than his own.'.it was not until 1956 that the current version was first mentioned, in a play titled 'The Grass is Greener.'." 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). This reference doesn't lists the authors of the play. But a Goggle search indicates that they were Hugh and Margaret Williams and that "The Grass is Greener" was a popular London stage play. NOTE: another reference states the play was in 1959. From "The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Proverbs" by John Simpson and Jennifer Speake (Oxford University Press, Oxford and New York, Third Edition, 1998).
: : : 12-dressed to kill
: DRESSED (FIT) TO KILL - "Spiffily turned out; nattily or showily attired (often with the implication that one has somewhat overdone it). 'Kill' means no more here than to wow or impress. It is a hyperbolic way of saying one would or might overwhelm someone of the opposite sex by one's good looks, clothes or personality. The expression was in the language by the 18th century, as reflected by Sir Richard Steele in 'The Spectator' in 1711: 'If they (Handsome People) do not kill at first sight, as the Phrase is, a second Interview disarms them of all their Power.' In a letter of 1818 John Keats wrote: 'One chap was dressed to kill for the King in Bombastes.'" From "The Dictionary of Cliches" by James Rogers (Wings Books, Originally New York: Facts on File Publications, 1985).