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The meaning and origin of the expression: Don't try to teach your Grandma to suck eggs

Don't try to teach your Grandma to suck eggs

What's the meaning of the phrase 'Don't try to teach your Grandma to suck eggs'?

Don't offer advice to someone who has more experience than oneself.

What's the origin of the phrase 'Don't try to teach your Grandma to suck eggs'?

These days this proverbial saying has little impact as few people have any direct experience of sucking eggs - grandmothers included. It is quite an old phrase and is included in John Stevens' translation of Quevedo's Comical Works, 1707:

"You would have me teach my Grandame to suck Eggs."

The notion of advising the young not to offer advice to those who are older and more experienced wasn't new even then. Nicholas Udall, the author of Ralph Roister Doister the first regular English comic play, and the headmaster of Eton, translated Apophthegmes of Erasmus in 1542. That includes:

"A swyne to teach Minerua, was a prouerbe... for which we sai in Englyshe to teach our dame to spinne."

The idea was carried forward to the 20th century with this quotation, attributed by The Reader's Digest to Mark Twain (although not proven to be authentic):

"When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years."

See other 'Don't...' proverbs:

Don't cast your pearls before swine

Don't change horses in midstream

Don't count your chickens before they are hatched

Don't get mad, get even

Don't cut off your nose to spite your face

Don't keep a dog and bark yourself

Don't let the cat out of the bag

Don't look a gift horse in the mouth

Don't put the cart before the horse

Don't shut the stable door after the horse has bolted

Don't throw good money after bad

Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater

Don't upset the apple-cart

Gary Martin - the author of the website.

By Gary Martin

Gary Martin is a writer and researcher on the origins of phrases and the creator of the Phrase Finder website. Over the past 26 years more than 700 million of his pages have been downloaded by readers. He is one of the most popular and trusted sources of information on phrases and idioms.

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