W.C. Hazlitt, comp. English Proverbs and Proverbial Phrases. 1907.
To throw pearls to Usurers
To throw pearls before swine. HE.
For swine so gromes
In stye, and chaw dung moulded on the ground,
And driuel on pearles, with head styll in the manger.
Tottels Miscellany, 1557, repr. 11819.
But you to cast precious stones before hogs,
Cast my good before a sort of cur dogs.Heywood.
This is the olde prouerbe, to cast perles to an hogge.
New Custome, 1573, act 1.
Il ne faut pas jetter les marguerites devant les pourceaux. Fr.R. Margaritas aute porcos. This is curiously illustrated by an engraving in Lacroix (Moeurs du Moyen Age, 1872, p. 127); but there it seems to be daisies which the man is scattering. Either would be applicable as regards its inutility, though not as regards its worth.
To throw the silver whetstone. See Colliers Bibl. Cat., i. 18, and ii. 512. There are the expressions, you shall have the Whetstone, and He deserves the Whetstone. In or about 1590 W. T. published a volume entitled: Fovre Great Lyers Striuing who shall win the Silver Whetstone. In Rileys Memorials, 1868, are numerous entries of punishment for the offence of lying by having a whetstone hung round the neck in the pillory, &c.
To travel safely through the world, a man must have a falcons eye, an asss ears, an apes face, a merchants words, a camels back, a hogs mouth, and a harts legs. Compare Régime pour tous Serviteurs, p. 21, line 41 (apud Furnivalls Babees Book, &c., 1868):
To tread upon eggs. i.e., To proceed very cautiously and tenderly. In the Life of Lord Keeper Guilford, i. 250, as cited by Southey, it is said that as a judge he was never more puzzled than when a popular cry was at the heels of a business, for then he had his jury to deal with, and if he did not tread upon eggs, they would conclude sinistrously.
To tremble like an aspen-leaf. Wife, Marry, and let him go, sweetheart. By the faith o my body, t has put me into such a fright, that I tremble (as they say) as twere an aspen leaf.The Knight of the Burning Pestle, 1613.
To turn the cat in the pan. HE. Letter touching the Quarrel (in 15756) between Hall and Mallerie, repr. 1816, p. 94; A Strange Wonder, or a Wonder in a Woman, by J. H., 1642, p. 4; Damon and Pithias, 1571, Hazlitts Dodsley, iv. 41, and see note. Cat appears to be a corruption of cate = cake.
To wash a blackamoor white. Æthiopem lavare, or dealbare, [Greek]. Labour in vain. Parallel whereto are many other Latin proverbs; as Laterem lavare, arenas arare. Jurado ha el baño de no hazer lo prìeto blanco. Span.R.
To weep Irish. See Hazlitts Faiths and Folklore, 1905, p. 3413. Barnaby Rich, in his New Irish Prognostication, 1624 (a re-issue of his New Description of Ireland, 1610), quotes on this subject Stanyhursts remarks, as he had already done in his Irish Hubbub, 1616.
To wet the other eye. To take a second glass. A story is told of the Princess Charlotte of Wales, when a farmer at Bignor, in Sussex, about 1811, drank to her health, that she said to him Youll wet the other eye, farmer, will you not? But the phrase occurs in the life of B. M. Carew, 1745, p. 89.
To work for a dead horse. Or goose. To work out an old debt, or without hope of future reward. Argent reçu le bras rompu. Fr. Chi paga inanzi è servito indietro. Chi paga inanzi tratto trova il lavor mal fatto. Ital.R. There is aboard ships a ceremony called Burning the Dead Horse in connection with the same idea. See Hazlitts Faiths and Folklore, 1905, i. 83.
Tom All-thumbs. This is applied satirically to any one who is clumsy in using his fingers. It is found in A Health to the Gentlemanly Profession of Servingmen, by J. M., 1598 (Roxb. Lib., repr. p. 107), where the entertaining author speaks of the Clowne, the Slouen, and Tom Althummes.
Tom Long the Carrier. From the chapbook called the Merry Conceits of Tom Long, it is to be inferred that this was a sort of proverbial expression, where people sent away goods, and they did not arrive at their destination. A ballad of Tom Long the Carrier was licensed in 15612.
Proverbs of Hendyng (Rel. Antiq., i. 112). Also in Heywood (Woorkes, 1562, part ii., cap. 5). Though herself have none, is perhaps the preferable reading of an early MS. cited in the Retrosp. Rev., 3rd S., ii. 309.
Too much familiarity breeds contempt. CL. Countrymans New Commonwealth, 1647. Nimia familiaritas contemptum parit. E tribus optimis rebus tres pessimæ oriuntur; è veritate odium, è familiaritate contemptus, è felicitate invidia.Plutarch.R.
Too much for one and not enough for two, like the Walsall mans goose. The presumed foundation of this saying is, that an inhabitant of Walsall, Staffordshire, when asked if he and his wife were going to have a goose for their Christmas dinner, replied in the negative, adding that the goose was a very foolish bird; it was too much for one and not enough for two.Cuthbert Bede in Notes and Queries.
Too much of one thing is not good. HE. Assez y a si trop ny a. Fr. Ne quid nimis [Terent.] [Greek]. This is an apothegm of one of the seven wise men; some attribute it to Thales, some to Solon. Est modus in rebus, sunt, &c. Hor. Labondanza delle cose ingenera fastidio. Ital. Cada dia olla, amarga el caldo, cada dia gallina, amarga la cocina. Span.R.
Topsy-turvy. WALKER (1672). But the original form, as it stands in various old books, and two or three times in Kyds Cornelia, 1594, is topside-turvy. In a note to Englishmen for my Money, 1616, Hazlitts Dodsley, x. 491, the phrase is explained, topside tother way.
Tot homines, quot sententiæ: so many men, so many minds. Gascoigne (Certayne Notes of Instruction, 1572, ad princip.) has Quot homines, tot sententiæ; which is perhaps the commoner form. Heywood has, So many heads, so many wits. In the English Courtier and the Cuntrey Gentleman, 1586, we find, in the Epistle to the Reader: Tot capita, quot sensus, the Prouerb sayth.
Diversos diversa juvant; non omnibus annis
Omnia conveniunt.Pseudo-Gallus, i. 104.
Autant de tétes autant dopinions. Fr. Tante teste tante cervelli. Ital.
Tottenham is turned French. HE. Bedwells Descr. of Tottenham, 1631. It seems about the beginning of the reign of King Henry VIII., French mechanics swarmed in England, to the great prejudice of English artisans, which caused the insurrection in London on Ill May-day, A.D. 1517. Nor was the city only, but the country villages for four miles about, filled with French fashions and infections. The proverb is applied to such, who, contemning the customs of their own country, make themselves more ridiculous by affecting foreign humours and habits.R. But Heywoods employment of the phrase does not seem to countenance Rays explanation:
A man might espie the chaunge in the cheekes
Both of this poore wretch, and his wife this poore wenche,
Their faces told toies, that Totman was tournd Frenche.
But Totnam is turned French, these Men and Horse are metamorphosed into Golden Garmentes, which makes Servingmen, yea, and Men, so litle set by, and so smally regarded.Bretons Court and Country, 1618 (repr. Roxb. Lib., 1868, p. 156.) Puttenham, in his Arte of English Poesie, 1589, sign. Y, written in Heywoods time, says: Totnesse is turned French, and speaks of it as, a proverb implying a great alteration. Certainly both places would suit well, but I suspect Heywood to be right; for Tottenham, in the classical vicinity of Chaucers Stratford-atte-Bowe, was more likely to become the subject of such a proverb than an obscure and remote country town.
Totterden [Tenterden] steeples the cause of Goodwin Sands. CL.
Of many people it hath been said,
That Tenterden Steeple Sandwich haven hath decayed.
Lottery of 1567 (Kempes Loseley Papers, 1836, p. 211).
The story is very well told by Sir T. More in his Supplication of Souls, 1530, and by Bishop Latimer in his Sermons (ed. 1635, p. 106). This proverb is used when an absurd and ridiculous reason is given of any thing in question; an account of the original whereof I find in one of Bishop Latimers sermons in these words: Mr. Moore was once sent with commission into Kent, to try out, if it might be, what was the cause of Goodwins Sands, and the shelf which stopped up Sandwich haven. Thither cometh Mr. Moore, and calleth all the country before him, such as were thought to be men of experience, and men that could of likelihood best satisfy him of the matter concerning the stopping of Sandwich haven. Among the rest came in before him an old man with a white head, and one that was thought to be little less than an hundred years old. When Mr. Moore saw this aged man, he thought it expedient to hear him say his mind in this matter; for being so old a man, it was likely that he knew most in that presence or company. So Mr. Moore called this old aged man unto him, and said, Father, tell me, if you can, what is the cause of the great arising of the sands and shelves here about this haven, which stop it up, so that no ships can arrive here. You are the oldest man I can espy in all the company, so that if any man can tell the cause of it, you of all likelihood can say most to it, or at leastwise more than any man here assembled. Yea, forsooth, good Mr. Moore, quoth this old man, for I am well nigh an hundred years old, and no man here in this company anything near my age. Well then (quoth Mr. Moore) how say you to this matter? What think you to be the cause of these shelves and sands which stop up Sandwich haven? Forsooth, Sir, (quoth he), I am an old man; I think that Tenterden steeple is the cause of Goodwins Sands. For I am an old man, Sir (quoth he); I may remember the building of Tenterden steeple, and I may remember when there was no steeple at all there. And before that Tenterden steeple was in building, there was no manner of talking of any flats or sands that stopped up the haven; and therefore, I think that Tenterden steeple is the cause of the decay and destroying of Sandwich haven.Thus far the Bishop. Fuller, however, remarks, That one story is good till another is told: and though this be all whereupon this proverb is generally grounded, I met since, says he, with a supplement thereunto; it is this: Time out of mind, money was constantly collected out of this country to fence the east banks thereof against the irruption of the sea, and such sums were deposited in the hands of the Bishop of Rochester; but because the sea had been quiet for many years without any encroaching, the Bishop commuted this money to the building of a steeple, and endowing a church at Tenterden. By this diversion of the collection for the maintenance of the banks, the sea afterwards brake in upon Goodwins Sands. And now the old man had told a rational tale, had he found but the due favour to finish it: and thus, sometimes, that is causelessly accounted ignorance of the speaker, which is nothing but impatience in the auditors, unwilling to attend to the end of the discourse.R. The same explanation occurs in Englands Gazetteer, 1751, under Goodwins Sands. An early example of the ridicule thrown on the attribution of things to wholly improbable cases, occurs in Tarltons Jests, 1638 (Old English Jest-Books, ii. 210). A cheesemonger asked Tarleton why cheese and butter were so dear, and Tarleton told him it was because wood and coals were so scarce, as people could eat butter and cheese without a fire. The ascription of the neglect of Sandwich and Goodwin or Godwin Sands to the use of the funds for keeping them in order elsewhere is less reasonable than that of a probably prehistoric occurrence, as far as the Sands are concerned, to the same cause. The Sands were doubtless much as we see them in Earl Godwins time.
Tring, Wing, and Ivanhoe / for striking of a blow,
Hampden did forego, / and glad he could escape so.
Notes and Queries, 3rd S., v. 176. The name of Ivanhoe was suggested, as the story goes, by an old rhyme recording three names of the manors forfeited by the ancestor of the celebrated Hampden for striking the Black Prince a blow with his racket when they quarrelled at tennis.Note, ibid. See Halliwells Pop. Rhymes, 1849, p. 194. A correspondent of the Daily Graphic (Aug. 9, 1898) writes: The story runs that Edward III. and his son, the Black Prince, once honoured the ancestor of the great Hampden with a visit, and that while the Prince and his host were playing tennis a quarrel arose, in the course of which Hampden struck the Prince a blow on the face with his racket. The King and the Prince thereupon left the place in great wrath and afterwards seized upon three valuable manors belonging to Hampden as punishment for his rashness. Sir Walter Scott, in his preface to Ivanoe, refers to the lines as a rhyme, and it is not probable that they formed part of a ballad. It was from this rhyme that Sir Walter Scott obtained the title for his romance of Ivanhoe. It is also said that during this visit of Edward III. to Hampden the King rested under the shade of an ancient beech tree, which bore thereafter the name of the Kings Beech. The stump of this tree, which was burned down as recently as last year, still stands in a lane adjoining the estate of the Earl of Buckinghamshire, the descendant of Hampden. In the number for August 12 Boedfordiensis has this farther remark:My home was in the country which contains Tring, Wing, and Ivinghoe; and another version of the rhyme which you quote was current there in my boyhood:
Tring, Wing, and Ivinghoe
Never want a knave or so.
Do you ask the reason why?
Leighton Buzzard is so nigh.
Sir Walter Scott became acquainted with the name Ivinghoe, which he altered into Ivanhoe, when staying with the then owner of Stocks, near Tring, now the home of Mrs. Humphry Ward, and the scene of Marcella.
True blue will never stain. Walkers Parm., 1672, p. 30. Folly-w. A French ruffe, a thinne beard, and a strong perfume will doot. I can hire blew coates for you all by Westminster clocke, and that colour will bee soonest beleeved.A Mad World my Masters, by T. Middleton, 1608, ed. 1640, sign. B 2.
True jest is no jest. HE. South bourd is no bourd.Heywood. As the old saying is, sooth boord is no boord.Haringtons Briefe Apologie of Poetry, 1591. On the other hand, an account of the celebrated highwayman Captain Hind was published in 1674 with the title, No Jest Like a True Jest.
Try your skill in gilt first, and then in gold. Carem in periculo subire fac. Cares olim notati sunt, quód primi vitam mercede locabant. They were the first mercenary soldiers. Practice new and doubtful experiments in cheap commodities, or upon things of small value.R.
See a note in the Northumberland Household Book, ed. 1827, p. 414. There are one or two other versions, slightly varying. In Waltons Angler, 1653, ch. ix., Bakers Chronicle is quoted for the following one:
Hops and Turkies, Carps and Beer,
Came into England all in a year.
Carp are mentioned in the Book of St. Albans, 1496, but are described as then scarce.
Turn your money when you hear the cuckoo, and youll have money in your purse till the cuckoo come again. Some entertain the same belief respecting the first glimpse of the new moon; but the orb must not be seen through glass.
Twas surely the devil that taught women to dance and asses to bray. A Turk is said to have said to a French diplomatist, whom he saw dancing, You are rich. Have you not servants, who could do this for you?
Two false knaves need no broker. HE. Another form: A crafty knave needs no broker, was current in James I.s time, and forms part of the title of a tract by Anthony Nixon, printed in 1615. See my Handbook, 1867, p. 421.
Two to one is odds enough. CL. Some add, at football. Noli pugnare duobus.Catull. And, Ne Hercules quidem contra duos. It is no uncomely thing to give place to a multitude. Hard to resist the strength, or the wit, or the importunity, of two or more combined against one. Hercules was too little for the Hydra and Cancer together.R.
Under board. i.e., Stealthily, unfairly. In contradistinction to above-board, q. v. Therefore vnder colour of an absolute conflict betweene sorrow and delight, to shake off the yoake of seuerer discipline which Zeale bringeth in to gouerne life, is to iuggle vnder boarde.Gossons Plaies Confuted in Five Actions  (Dramatic Documents and Treatises, Roxb. Library, p. 205).
Under the rose. That is, privately or secretly. The rose was, it is said, sacred to Harpocrates, the god of silence, and therefore frequently placed on the ceilings of rooms destined for the receiving of guests; and implying, that whatever was transacted there should not be made public.Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, 1788, quoted by Brady (V. of L., 1826).
Unguentum baculinum. The stick ointment. Ballad printed about 1570 in Anc. Ball., 1867, p. 156. King. An ashen gibbet? What dost thou mean by that? Tom Strowd. What do I mean by it, quoth ye? I think you be sib to one of the London Cockneys that askt whether Haycocks were better meat broyld or rosted. An ashen plant, a good Cudgell, what shod I ca it?Days Blind Beggar of Bednal Green, 1659, repr. 108.
Up and down. Throughout, entirely. So in the Life of Pericles, translated from Plutarch by North, in my edition of Shakespeares Library, iv. 343: The ancientest men of the city also were much afeard of his soft voice, his eloquent tongue, and readie vtterance, because in those he was Pysistratus vp and downe.
U.P.K. spells May-goslings. An expression used by boys at play as an insult to the losing party. U.P.K. is cop pick, that is, up with your pin or peg, the mark of the goal. Comp. my Faiths and Folklore, 1905, p. 401.