English Proverb with Their Origin

A fool and his money are soon parted

This is quite an early proverb in the English language and, as such, might be thought to contain the wisdom of the ancients. The notion was known by the late 16th century, when it was expressed in rhyme by Thomas Tusser in Five Hundreth Pointes of Good Husbandrie, 1573:

A foole & his money,

be soone at debate:

which after with sorow,

repents him to late.

The precise wording of the expression comes just a little later, in Dr. John Bridges' Defence of the Government of the Church of England, 1587:

If they pay a penie or two pence more for the reddinesse of them..let them looke to that, a foole and his money is soone parted.


A picture is worth a thousand words

A picture tells a story just as well as a large amount of descriptive text.

This phrase emerged in the USA in the early part of the 20th century. Its introduction is widely attributed to Frederick R. Barnard, who published a piece commending the effectiveness of graphics in advertising with the title "One look is worth a thousand words", in Printer's Ink, December 1921. Barnard claimed the phrase's source to be oriental by adding the text "so said a famous Japanese philosopher, and he was right".

Printer's Ink printed another form of the phrase in March 1927, this time suggesting a Chinese origin:

"Chinese proverb. One picture is worth ten thousand words."

A rolling stone gathers no moss

Someone who does not settle in one place rarely prospers.

This proverb refers to what is well-known about mosses and lichens - that they are slow-growing organisms that don't thrive on disturbance. A sure way to prevent a colony of moss from growing on a stone is to move it about. As with all proverbs, it isn't the literal meaning that conveys the meaning but the metaphor. A rolling stone refers to a wanderer, unable to settle to any job or lifestyle and is therefore characterised as unreliable and unproductive.

That notion was known to the ancient world and Greek and Latin versions of the phrase are cited by Erasmus in the third volume of his collection of Latin proverbs - Adagia, 1508.

The proverb may have come into colloquial English before then, although early records are incomplete. We do know that it was known by 1546, when John Heywood published A dialogue conteinyng the nomber in effect of all the prouerbes in the Englishe tongue:

The rollyng stone neuer gatherth mosse.

A stitch in time saves nine

A timely effort will prevent more work later.

The Anglo Saxon work ethic is being called on here. Many English proverbs encourage immediate effort as superior to putting things off until later; for example, 'one year's seeds, seven year's weeds', 'procrastination is the thief of time' and 'the early bird catches the worm'.

The 'stitch in time' notion has been current in English for a very long time and is first recorded in Thomas Fuller's Gnomologia, Adagies and Proverbs, Wise Sentences and Witty Sayings, Ancient and Modern, Foreign and British, 1732:

"A Stitch in Time May save nine."

This is, of course, best known from the Shakespeare play, but it was a proverb before it was a play title.

John Heywood included it in A dialogue conteinyng the nomber in effect of all the prouerbes in the Englishe tongue, 1546:

Lovers live by love, ye as larkes live by leekes

Saied this Ales, muche more then halfe in mockage.

Tushe (quoth mine aunte) these lovers in dotage

Thinke the ground beare them not, but wed of corage

They must in all haste, though a leafe of borage

Might by all the substance that they can fell.

Well aunt (quoth Ales) all is well that endes well.

Shakespeare was well acquainted with Heywood's work and wrote All's Well That Ends Well in 1601. It is not only as the title of the play, but line appears in the text too.


Yet, I pray you:

But with the word the time will bring on summer,

When briers shall have leaves as well as thorns,

And be as sweet as sharp. We must away;

Our wagon is prepared, and time revives us:

All's well that ends well; still the fine's the crown;

Whate'er the course, the end is the renown.

Beggars can't be choosers

This proverbial phrase has much in common with 'don't look a gift horse in the mouth', both in meaning and by virtue of having been first recorded in print by John Heywood. Both phrases were coined well before any form of organised state support for the poor and express the widely held mediaeval opinion that if you asked for and received a gift you should be grateful for it. The 'gift horse' proverb was recorded first, in Heywood's 1546 version of A dialogue conteinyng the nomber in effect of all the prouerbes in the Englishe tongue.

'Beggars should not be choosers' didn't appear until the 1562 version of 'Proverbs'.

Beggers should be no choosers, but yet they will:

Who can bryng a begger from choyse to begge still?

The proverb is more commonly expressed these days as 'beggars can't be choosers'. This leads to an ambiguity in meaning between 'beggars are unable to be choosers' and 'beggars ought not to be choosers'. Of course, the latter is the original meaning.

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