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"Preaching to the choir"

Posted by R. Berg on January 30, 2001

In Reply to: "Preaching to the choir" posted by ESC on January 29, 2001

: : : : Can anyone tell me the origin of this phrase? Alt spelling for "quire" is "choir"
: : : : Thanks,
: : : : Joanne

: : : The phrase makes sense with "choir" but not with "quire," because it refers to a church choir, whose members are already believers. I don't know where or when it originated. "You're preaching to the choir" means "You're wasting your time trying to convince people who already agree with you instead of going out and talking to the people who need to be convinced."

: : I'm hoping that someone can identify the author of this one. Have found suggestions that it might be Frederick the Great or his biographer
: : Carlyle but haven't been able to pin this down. Help appreciated.
: : Thanks,
: : Joanne

: PREACH TO THE CONVERTED (THE CHOIR) - Propound an argument to people who already support it. Thus in 1867 John Stuart Mill wrote in one of his many books: 'Dr. McCosh is preaching not only to a person already converted, but to an actual missionary of the same doctrine." From "The Dictionary of Cliches" by James Rogers (Ballantine Books, New York, 1985).

: It doesn't say that Mr. Mill was the first to use that expression.

I had thought a quire was only a quantity of paper, but what did I know? (Nod to marcus.) I haven't found who originated this saying. Maybe would help. It has a free searchable Bartlett's Familiar Quotations and other good literary stuff.