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Sticks & stones

Posted by ESC on October 14, 2005

In Reply to: Sticks & stones posted by Victoria S Dennis on October 14, 2005

: : Hi. My wife has been asked to do an assemmbly at the local school, The subject is Sticks & Stones. Can someone help us with the origin of this, where it first appeared.
: I presume you mean the rhyme "Sticks and stones wil break my bones, but words wil never hurt me"? The first occurrence I know of this rhyme is in a collection of English proverbs ("Folk-phrases", by G F Northall, published 1894). However, this general concept has been a proverb for much longer; in the form "hard words break no bones" it was in use in English at least from the early 18th century,and a mediaeval mystery play has "Thise grete wordis shall not flay me", which is much the same idea.

STICKS AND STONES MAY BREAK MY BONES, BUT WORDS (NAMES) WILL NEVER HURT ME. - "Although a physical attack may harm me, I am not bothered by cruel words or name-calling. I don't care what you're saying. This children's taunt was first listed in 'Folk Phrases of Four Counties' by G.F. Northall and is first attested in the United States in 'Miss Lindsey' by S.G. Gibbons. The proverb is found in varying forms: Sticks and stones may break my bones, but hard words cannot hurt me; Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me; Sticks and stones will break my bones, but lies will never hurt me." From Random House Dictionary of Popular Proverbs and Sayings by Gregory Y. Titelman (Random House, New York, 1996).

Morris Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins by William and Mary Morris (HarperCollins, New York, 1977, 1988) also says that "Folk Phrases" is the first use of the phrase they could find.

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