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"Great oaks from little acorns grow"

Posted by Victoria S Dennis on July 29, 2005

In Reply to: "Great oaks from little acorns grow" posted by Smokey Stover on July 29, 2005

: : : : : I would like to use the phrase "Great oaks from little acorns grow" for the 'motto' of the nursery school I am opening. I need to know whether it has a copyright law on it and therefore whether I could use it.

: : : : You're on safe ground. From archives and elsewhere on this site:

: : : : GREAT OAKS FROM LITTLE ACORNS GROW - "Great people begin as small children. Great successes often develop from something very small. The proverb is similar to the L*tin: Parvis e glandibus quercus ('Tall oaks from little acorns grown'). It appears in Chaucer's 'Troilus and Criseyde' (c. 1385). First attested in the United States in 'Life of Jefferson S. Batkins' . The phrase may take different forms." Including "mighty oaks from tiny acorns grow." From Random House Dictionary of Popular Proverbs and Sayings by Gregory Y. Titelman (Random House, New York, 1996). Page 125.

: : : : Meaning
: : : : Great things start with small beginnings.
: : : : Origin

: : : : The word acorn doesn't come from 'oak' and 'corn', as is popularly supposed, but from the Old English 'aecern', meaning berry or fruit. The tree genus Acer comes from the same root.

: : : :
: : : Safely PD, as they say, in the Public Domain and free of the copyright laws. Use it with impunity. Be careful singing "Happy Birthday to You," however. Many a filmmaker has been rudely surprised to find that that little ditty is still protected.

: : The Hill sisters from Kentucky wrote it. I'm claiming credit for my adopted state.

: Two comments. ESC is right about the origin of Acer. However, the word is the name of the maple genus, not oak (which is Quercus). About Happy Birthday, I may be mistaken but I believe that only the words are in copyright. Play the tune as much as you like. SS
Or you could sing it to the Hill sisters' original (out-of-copyright) words:
Good morning to you,
Good morning to you,
Good morning, dear children,
Good morning to all.
They actually wrote it as a morning greeting song for a kindergarten, so that would be absolutely appropriate. (VSD)

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