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Throw the baby out with the bath water

Posted by Victoria S Dennis on November 25, 2007

In Reply to: Throw the baby out with the bath water posted by Stephen Cox on November 25, 2007

: We all understand that. However, recently, in an African local newspaper (where mistakes sometimes occur!) I read "throw the baby out with the birth water". It means the same thing. I wondered which phrase could be said to be the original?

Well, "throw the baby out with the bath water" dates at least from 1512 when it was used in a satire called "Narrenbeschwörung", written by a monk called Thomas Murner. It may already have been a common German proverb; certainly it has been so ever since. From German it made its way into English in the mid-19th century. It gets 93,900 Google hits. By contrast, Google comes up with only 6 examples of the "birth water" version, all of which are very recent and two of which look like deliberate puns. Go figure. (VSD)