A simple truth that expresses an idea or fact.

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3answers
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“Nobody does something for nothing”

I have a proverb in my native tongue saying something like "there is no cat chasing fish for God" which implies that anyone who does anything that may seem beneficial to you, is doing it for ...
2
votes
1answer
544 views

“Disappointment is the nurse of wisdom.”

Is this an English proverb? On quotations websites, it is often attributed to Sir Boyle Roche, but it is not listed on WikiQuote (I added it to the list of unsourced quotes on the discussion page). ...
7
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2answers
91k views

Origin of “do not argue with idiots” [closed]

What is the origin of the phrase “do not argue with idiots”? Please cite some credible references. From googling around, I found these three variations. One came from the Bible but I couldn’t find ...
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3answers
2k views

Proverb: “have fate without destiny”

I was looking for an English equivalent of the Chinese proverb (有缘无分) which describes couples who meet but who do not for whatever reason stay together. My friend (native speaker, no Chinese ...
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votes
5answers
1k views

Is “life is hard without jam” in use?

I am looking for a translation of the French "la vie est dure sans confiture". Babel Fish gives me "life is hard without jam". But I am not sure whether this phrase is really in use. Are there ...
12
votes
5answers
10k views

Is there honour among thieves or not?

I'm not sure which one of these apparently flatly contradictory proverbs I heard first but I have definitely heard both several times. One of them is: There is honour among thieves. Another is: ...
4
votes
3answers
18k views

What's the difference between a proverb and an idiom?

I think I have a notion what is what but maybe you know a good definition what is what? For example "Hindsight is always 20:20" — is that a proverb or an idiom?
2
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2answers
2k views

What does “separated at birth” mean?

Sometimes, you come across someone saying something (usually tongue-in-cheek), which might go like this: Tom: I really love eating noodles while watching Star Trek. Linda: Wow, I do exactly the ...
25
votes
12answers
26k views

Proverb or expression for a situation with two choices, both leading to a different kind of trouble

I'm searching for a proverb or expression that describes a situation which has two choices or two ways out (that is, somewhat of a forced choice) where both lead to some kind of trouble (but not the ...
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8answers
7k views

Proverb or expression for someone taking on too much

What is an appropriate proverb or expression that means one has: Taken on too many tasks Set out to do something that one isn't qualified to do and hence probably will fail Set out to do something ...
5
votes
1answer
1k views

An apple a day keeps the doctor away

A recent question on Skeptics SE, brought up an interesting debate on the origin of this proverb. Particularly, in the comments to this answer we were wondering whether apple really refers to the ...
2
votes
4answers
3k views

What construction does ‘A wise man is never less alone than when alone’ have?

I think this proverb roughly means that a wise man isn’t lonely even if he is without company. However, when considering its construction, my understanding is starting to get shaky. Let me explain ...
4
votes
3answers
12k views

What does “Way out of a paper bag” mean?

What do they mean when they say "He can't find himself way out of paper bag?" Or "Couldn't manage himself out of paper bag?" Also what is the history of this statement? What is the origin?
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3answers
145k views

Can someone explain the phrase “All is fair in love and war”?

What are its origins and what does it really mean?
4
votes
3answers
6k views

Why is “xxxx doth not a yyyy make” considered valid English?

Reading doth not a writer make. This sounds all wrong so why it is acceptable to use? The word order looks to be all out sequence (Object-Subject-Verb). It should be "reading does not make you a ...
6
votes
7answers
31k views

What is the meaning of “Many a mickle makes a muckle”?

I've heard this phrase, and don't know what a "mickle" or a "muckle" is. Hence I have no idea at all what the phrase itself is supposed to mean.
12
votes
7answers
153k views

Don't look a gift-horse in the mouth

Don't look a gift-horse in the mouth. What is a gift-horse? Why shouldn't you look in its mouth? What does this idiom actually mean and how is it used?
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votes
5answers
1k views

Is there a saying in English corresponding to “Another loach under the willow tree”?

In Japanese there's a saying "another loach" in the short form, "look for another loach under the same willow tree" in the long form. This saying is for ridiculing a person who blindly repeats what ...
6
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6answers
24k views

Origin of the phrases “third time’s the charm” and “third time lucky”?

What would the origin of the saying “Third time’s the charm”? I’ve also heard “third time lucky” used as well. Are these two expressions related to each other?
4
votes
3answers
2k views

How to use “It ain't over till the fat lady sings”?

I know the meaning of this phrase: One should not assume the outcome of some activity (e.g. a sports game) until it has actually finished. I'm curious as to whether it would more likely be used when ...
8
votes
5answers
6k views

What does “If she smokes, she pokes” exactly mean?

What does part she pokes of phrase If she smokes, she pokes exactly mean?
3
votes
1answer
31k views

When is “no rest for the wicked” used?

I've stumbled over some dialogue in a textbook, where some people have a chat at work, and at the end, when they get back to their urgent tasks, one character says (emph. mine): Well, I'd better ...
6
votes
13answers
3k views

Are there any English sayings to the effect that little changes may lead to big changes?

Can you think of any sayings about change, especially ones expressing how a big change must begin with a little change? how certain institutions, ideas, or God remain eternally unchanged? Note: ...
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5answers
3k views

What method of counting puts Twelfth Night on January 6th?

I know English has (or at least had) some strange usages of eve and night, but I still can’t figure out how December 25th and 12 can be combined to come up with January 6th. (This stems from my ...