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Can't see the woods

Posted by ESC on October 24, 2002

In Reply to: "Can't see the forest for the trees." posted by Adrian on October 24, 2002

: : How about the saying "I can't see the forest for the trees.". If this is even still close to the original saying.

: Even though the wood (or the forest) is technically the trees, this refers to being too close to the problem to see the solution.

UNABLE TO SEE THE WOODS FOR THE TREES - From Heavens to Betsy! and Other Curious Sayings 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."

To access further discussion, do an archives search under "forest."

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