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An elephant never forgets

Posted by ESC on November 25, 2000

In Reply to: Elephants never forget posted by Holly Barnes on November 25, 2000

: I grew up with the saying "elephants never forget", but I don't know where it came from. It slips out every now and then around my friends, and I'll have to try and make up something, and I really don't know the answer. Can anyone help me?
: Holly

AN ELEPHANT NEVER FORGETS - "First attested in the United States in 'Blue Ridge' by W. Martyn. The proverb is probably of Greek origin. The Greeks sometimes say, 'The camel never forgets an injury,' according to Burton Stevenson. 'To have a memory like an elephant' is used as a figure of speech." From Random House Dictionary of Popular Proverbs and Sayings by Gregory Y. Titelman (Random House, New York, 1996).

A second reference adds to this and has an earlier citation date: "Said of someone with a prodigious memory, usually for slights and wrongs. It was not the memory of the elephant but that of the camel that was renowned amongst the Greeks long ago. A Greek proverb ran 'Camels never forget an injury.' Proverbial reference to the elephant's memory is relatively recent. In 'Reginald: Reginald on Besetting Sins' , the camel is usurped by the elephant: 'Women and elephants never forget an injury.' The author, Saki, was no stranger to elephants having been born in Burma and lived there, and would have appreciated the intelligence of the animal. The working elephant memorises a large number of commands given by the mahout and recognizes many other animals and people, thus remembering both kindnesses and injuries. Since its life-span is 50 or 60 years these memories are long-lived. Usage: Usually said of a person who does not forget injuries, but an 'elephantine memory' could just be a good one." From the "Dictionary of Proverbs and their Origins" by Linda and Roger Flavell (First published in the UK by Kyle Cathie Ltd, Barnes and Noble Inc, 1997, New York).

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