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April 2, 2011 11:49 AM   Subscribe

English proverbs and their origins.

Previously on Metafilter (Wikiquote).
posted by Brian B. (22 comments total) 51 users marked this as a favorite

 
I thought Karl Pilkington made this one up... Also, that explanation still assumes that sucking eggs is a fairly normal thing to do.. what the heck is it!?
posted by Harry at 12:00 PM on April 2, 2011


Also, that explanation still assumes that sucking eggs is a fairly normal thing to do.. what the heck is it!?

Difficult to find a context for it, but I think it assumes that grandmothers rarely had teeth in the past, with egg sucking being a common method of nourishment, especially considering that cooking a single egg was more of an ordeal.
posted by Brian B. at 12:27 PM on April 2, 2011


...sucking eggs is a fairly normal thing to do.. what the heck is it!?

I always thought it referred to badly behaved dogs and other varmints breaking into the hen house and sucking the eggs because they're tasty. Can't figure out where grandmothers come in... unless it's an "old dogs / new tricks" kind of thing - can't teach your sweet granny to be an egg-sucking varmint?
posted by evilmomlady at 12:37 PM on April 2, 2011


Oh. Read the link, understand the grandmother connection.
posted by evilmomlady at 12:55 PM on April 2, 2011


Nice find, bookmarked and sent to a budding writer.
posted by Old'n'Busted at 1:28 PM on April 2, 2011


There was a reddit thread awhile back, more about interesting insults in various languages than proverbs, that yielded this beauty:

"Con tanta pazienza e un po' de vaselina, anche l'elefante se fa la formichina"

"With a lot of patience and a little Vaseline, even the elephant fucked the ant."

It's about perseverance.
posted by Grimp0teuthis at 1:35 PM on April 2, 2011 [7 favorites]


All that glisters is not gold

Oh, snap. He went there. All y'all inaccurately-quoting knaves better step the fust off.
posted by No-sword at 2:03 PM on April 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Is this a proverb list or a nag list?
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 2:05 PM on April 2, 2011


Blowing the contents of an egg out is a pretty common operation if you are decorating easter eggs or need the shells for something of that sort. Here is a text and video explanation of the process.

Those modern explanations tell you to use a straw, syringe, basketball nozzle adapter, etc, but the traditional way is just put your lips over the hole on the one end of the egg & blow the contents out through the hole on the other end.

I'll confess to blowing (though not sucking) a few eggs in my time.

I can't say if sucking would be easier, harder, or even possible, but one possibly relevant point is that blowing and sucking the egg would look approximately the same, especially at the beginning of the process.
posted by flug at 2:06 PM on April 2, 2011


And this is an interesting explanation of one reason you might want to suck (or blow) an egg and the process for doing so:
Some of the things that are taboo nowadays were more common in the days of my childhood. It’s funny how society’s values change with time.

Take egg collecting for example. If you’re caught with an egg collection nowadays, you’ll be lucky if you’re let off with a big fine. People have been put in prison for taking birds’ eggs. When we were kids, an egg collection was a common thing.

The most difficult eggs to find were the well camouflaged ones – like the curlew’s. I never managed to find one of those. The light blue blackbird’s egg was the easiest to spot. Even at that age, I felt guilty about stealing eggs, so I only ever took one egg out of each nest. (They say that birds can’t count, so I reckoned they’d never miss just one.)

Finding the egg wasn’t the end of the story. You had to blow it. Taid showed me how. You used a pin to pierce both ends of the egg. Then you’d blow into one hole and the white would drip out of the other. To ooze the yolk out, you had to blow really hard. Some of our friends, the real nutters, used to suck. They said they liked the taste.
posted by flug at 2:13 PM on April 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


I've always heard that my great grandfather used to suck an egg every morning for breakfast. This was probably around the 1940s-50s. He had his teeth, and I'm told it was popular among the older crowd. He immigrated to the US from Italy around the turn of the century.
posted by howlingmonkey at 3:05 PM on April 2, 2011


And if anyone is looking for explicit instruction:

How to Suck an Egg
posted by nzero at 4:04 PM on April 2, 2011


Not to change the subject, but I would also point out that the phrase finder alphabetical at the top of the linked page is site wide, and features over 1600 idioms, such as this. See the side menu for categories. The phrase thesaurus is subscribe only.
posted by Brian B. at 5:09 PM on April 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


I can't say if sucking would be easier, harder, or even possible, but one possibly relevant point is that blowing and sucking the egg would look approximately the same, especially at the beginning of the process.

From the link posted by Brian B. :

You have been directed to be in possession of a fresh empty eggshell...

Since one starts with the empty eggshell, and then indeed sucks not blows, I suspect the origin is the practice of sucking the contents of broken eggs up into previously blown eggshells so that they can be sold to unwary shoppers.
posted by StickyCarpet at 7:08 PM on April 2, 2011


I shit you not when I write "best of the net." Thank you so much for linking this.
posted by Joey Michaels at 7:29 PM on April 2, 2011


I'd always heard, "Go teach your grandma how to suck eggs," as an insult/curse in the vein of go fuck yourself, and assumed it basically amounted to an especially rude reference to teabagging.

The more you know!
posted by Sys Rq at 8:47 PM on April 2, 2011


My (soon to be) husband enchanted me with his response to this idiom. He instructed me to do something that was egregiously obvious, and I retorted, "Teach your grandmother how to suck eggs.". He said "Oh yes she could empty out an egg in a couple seconds,". And gave further details. Since he grew up in a small remote Mediterranean village, I think the granny's lack of teeth and the high protein content and digestabilty of the egg made egg-sucking a form of nourishment for the elderly.
posted by ohshenandoah at 10:20 PM on April 2, 2011


I favoureth this poste
posted by the noob at 3:40 AM on April 3, 2011


This saved me looking up which Dante translation the Gaslight Anthem quote in one of their songs. Thanks!
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 5:07 AM on April 3, 2011


Johnny Cash: Dirty 'ol egg suckin' dawg.
posted by ovvl at 6:51 AM on April 3, 2011


My favourite is still "Never ever bloody anything, ever."
posted by Decani at 12:58 PM on April 3, 2011


Nice complement to dictionaries. Didn't check all of them, but under "no man is an island" they even outdo the OED (subscription required IIRC), which only has "1652 L. S. Natures Dowrie x. 22 Every man is an Iland, or a little world," which seems like it's just a reworking of Donne's phrase.
posted by wpenman at 1:11 PM on April 4, 2011


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