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Hard to lick honey out of a marble stone

Posted by ESC on January 12, 2003

In Reply to: proverb posted by Bob on January 12, 2003

: : : What does " you cannot get blood from a stone means"

: : That you can't force people to do things that they are incapable of doing - you can't MAKE most people run 100 metres in 10 seconds. To try to get blood out of a stone is equally fruitless.

: It's a proverb most often used to describe the futility of collecting on a debt from someone who has no funds.

YOU CAN'T GET BLOOD OUT OF A STONE - "The stone here is a metaphor for a person who simply does not have (or would never give up) what is being sought - usually money. Over the centuries, various objects, such as a stone, a turnip, and even a wall, have been used in versions of the saying. The earliest known rendering, which appeared in John Lydgate's 'Minor Poems' (c 1435), mentioned marble - 'Harde to likke hony (honey) out of a marbil stoon.'.Charles Dickens first rendered the saying as 'Blood cannot be obtained from a stone,' in 'David Copperfield' and then recorded the exact wording of the modern version in 'Our Mutual Friend' ." 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).

That is a great little book, by the way. It always had more complete information than some of the other (more expensive) references.