Posted by Rodney Durn on May 09, 2000

In Reply to: DON'T DROWN THE MILLER posted by Ann Johnson on May 09, 2000

: :
: : What does DON'T DROWN THE MILLER ; mean; my
: : mother used it when she was cooking

The Millers position in local society was crucial to all those who wanted flour to bake their daily bread. Hence "Don't drown the Miller" was intended to convey the value of an asset and, as with the obvious consequences of drowning the Miller (why not just bludgeon him to death I wonder) you would deprive yourself of a vital, possibly even life sustaining, service or other facility if you casually destroyed the asset.

Examples that spring unbidden to mind include that brave little Dutch boy who kept his finger pressed into the Dyke lest all of Holland be flooded in the ensuing disaster should the sea defences be breached. Equally had not the good Lord so conveniently parted the Red sea at just the right moment, allowing the Israelites to cross and then released those vertical walls of water to drown those nasty Egyptians we would have no problems in the Middle East between Arab and Jew. I often wonder at the crass stupidity of the Egyptians in proceeding across several miles of ocean bottom with seething walls of water on either side in the hope of catching up with Moses - it would have made more sense, having seen the tribe which had visited all kinds of disasters on the whole Egyptian nation depart your shores, to simply turn around, heave a sigh of relief, and go home.
So "don't drown the miller" really means to give some thought to the consequences of your actions before embarking on a course which may lead to disaster.