About a month ago my grandpa rekindled an interest of mine in the etymology of words and phrases. The conversation he sparked among our family was in regard to English proverbs. What are some common ones? Who created them? When? And what do they mean?
But first off, what exactly is a Proverb? A proverb is a short saying that communicates a traditionally held truth or piece of advice. You know, those little sayings you hear all the time like an apple a day keeps the doctor away, curiosity killed the cat, or a picture is worth a thousand words.
Here is a list of five I thought I would share with you today:
- A stitch in time saves nine
What does sewing have anything to do with time and how is it saving nine? Basically, this is a piece of advice not to procrastinate. It means that putting in the effort to fix a problem now will prevent more work in the future. So, if you find a small hole forming, stitch it now before it grows larger.
- Birds of a feather flock together
This proverb has been around since at least the mid 16th century and it means that much like birds in nature who form flocks and fly together, those of similar tastes and interests tend to spend time with each other.
- Let the cat out of the bag
The meaning of this proverb is to reveal facts that were previously hidden. For example, revealing a conspiracy, letting someone in on a piece of knowledge, or the plot twist in a movie.
- Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater
Don’t throw away something of value along with something undesirable. According to phrases.org.uk, this German proverb originated in the 1500s but didn’t appear in English until the 19th century.
- All’s well that ends well
The earliest printed version of this proverb is in the 13th-century poem The Proverbs of Hendyng. It means that as long as everything turns out well in the end, problems that arose along the way don’t matter anymore, they are no longer important.