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Don't change horses in midstream.


Don't change your leader or your basic position when part-way through a campaign or a project.


From an 1864 speech by Abraham Lincoln, in reply to Delegation from the National Union League who were urging him to be their presidential candidate. 'An old Dutch farmer, who remarked to a companion once that it was not best to swap horses when crossing streams."[27]


Better late than never.


To arrive or do something later than expected isn't good, but it is better than not at all.


This proverb is often expressed with a degree of sarcasm, apparently saying something positive but in fact merely remarking on someone's lateness. A teacher might say it to a child arriving late for school, for example. Geoffery Chaucer appears to have been the first person to have put the proverb into print, in The Yeoman's Prologue and Tale, Canterbury Tales, circa 1386:

For bet than never is late. [Better than never is late.]


Every dog has its day.


Every dog, and by implication every person, has a period of power or influence.


This phrase is recorded as being first uttered by no less a notable as Queen Elizabeth I. As Princess Elizabeth, in a letter to her brother and in response to his request for a picture of her, she wrote:

Notwithstanding, as a dog hath a day, so may I perchance have time to declare it in deeds.

The letter was published by John Strype in Ecclesiastical Memorials, 1550. It appears that Elizabeth was merely quoting what was in her day already a well-known proverb, although no record of it has been found that predates her writing it down.

John Heywood recorded the proverb in the 1562 edition of Proverbs and Epigrams and Shakespeare used it in Hamlet, 1603:

Let Hercules himself do what he may,

The cat will mew and dog will have his day.


Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day: show him how to catch fish,and you feed him for a lifetimes.


A proverbial saying which suggests that the ability to work is of greater benefit than a one-off handout.


This proverb has fallen foul of the spurious etymological rule: 'if you don't know the origin of an enigmatic proverb, say it is ancient Chinese'. May you live in interesting times and a picture is worth a thousand words suffer the same fate. There's no evidence to link 'Give a man a fish...' with China. A further confusion over the origin is that the authoritative and generally trustworthy Oxford Dictionary of Quotations says it is of mid-20th century origin.[21]

The expression actually originated in Britain in the mid 19th century.

Anne Isabella Ritchie, the daughter of William Makepeace Thackeray, (who, if her photograph is any guide, was a studious young woman) wrote a story titled Mrs. Dymond, sometime in the 1880s and it includes this line.

"He certainly doesn't practise his precepts, but I suppose the patron meant that if you give a man a fish he is hungry again in an hour; if you teach him to catch a fish you do him a good turn."

The book was published in 1890 but the story was put into print a few years earlier. The American magazine Littell's Living Age printed the story in its September 1885 issue and it was taken from an earlier but undated issue of the British Macmillan's Magazine.

So, the proverb dates from 1885 or shortly before and there's every reason to suppose that it was coined by Anne Ritchie.

The source of the mid-20th century and Chinese origin theories are various US magazines from the 1960s, for example The Rotarian, June 1964:

...the Chinese axiom "Give a man a fish, and you have fed him once. Teach him how to fish and you have fed him for a lifetime."

Publications of that sort were what brought the proverb into general use but, as we have seen, weren't the actual source.

Date: 2015-01-29; view: 1707

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