phrases, sayings, idioms and expressions at

"Beauty is only skin deep, but...."

Posted by Smokey Stover on October 01, 2007

In Reply to: "Beauty is only skin deep, but...." posted by pamela on October 01, 2007

: : I have always heard my father use this phrase - "Beauty is only skin deep, but ugliness is to the bone." The first part of this phrase, "Beauty is only skin deep" is listed in your archives but I could not find the last part of the phrase, "...but ugliness is to the bone". Can you tell me what the origin of this phrase is?

: The Trivia library ([Dead link removed - ed]) has the original saying and say the other version ("an old jingle") is "author unknown":

: "Beauty is but skin deep,
: ugly lies the bone;
: Beauty dies and fades away,
: but ugly holds its own."
: (© 1975 - 1981 by David Wallechinsky & Irving Wallace Reproduced with permission from "The People's Almanac" series of books.)

: I don't know whether the "ugly lies the bone" is a typo (something seems to be missing). Pamela

As regards the first part, which everyone has heard:


Who Said It: John Davies of Hereford

When: 1616."

You will find Davies' poem, and a discussion of its origin, at:

[Dead link removed - ed]

You will also find there:

There is also an old jingle, author unknown, which parodies the famous beauty line. It reads: "Beauty is but skin deep, ugly lies the bone;/ Beauty dies and fades away, but ugly holds its own."

There's our old friend Anonymous once again. When a beautiful person dies, the beauty is the first to decay, leaving the bone, ugly by comparison. "Lies" is a usefully one-syllable verb meaning to remain behind, if you stretch it a little.

I can't help thinking of Marc Antony's famous speech in Shakepeare's Julius Caesar:

Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears;
I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.
The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones;
So let it be with Caesar.