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Is she insulting Ken to say:

It is incumbent on Ken to apply that knowledge himself(you can lead a horse to water, you cannot make it drink).

especially, she knows Ken is not reading her words.

Of course, "you can lead a horse to water, you cannot make it drink" is a metaphorical expression that means: "you can give someone an opportunity but not force them to take it."

However, even it's a metaphorical expression, I feel that the horse well corresponds to Ken in this context because she says "apply that knowledge himself" and she knew that.

Is she insulting Ken or not? How obvious?

Thanks.

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  • Without knowing the circumstances, it's impossible to say. Commented Sep 29, 2021 at 15:40
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    The phrase means exactly what you think: "you can give someone an opportunity but not force them to take it." Using the proverb isn't insulting unless making the non-proverbial statement would be insulting. Commented Sep 29, 2021 at 16:14
  • If you mean that it might be insulting to compare someone to a horse, the idiom is established enough that the comparison would not be felt, any more than in "don't count your chickens before they're hatched." Commented Sep 29, 2021 at 18:34
  • I think this question is off topic. It is not about English Language Usage.
    – Tuffy
    Commented Sep 29, 2021 at 21:32

1 Answer 1

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In general, neither the Proverb, nor the comparison to horses, is intended to be insulting. It is a Poetic or Pictorial Statement which is intended to mean : Ken has to take action and nobody can enforce that.

In your Example, we have neither the context nor the characteristics of the concerned Entities; She may be inclined to insult others; Ken may be easy to umbrage. That is not obvious in your short Example.

Here are some web-links which talk about the Proverb, but none of them mention insults:
https://knowyourphrase.com/you-can-lead-a-horse-to-water
https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/you-can-lead-a-horse-to-water-but-you-can-t-make-him-drink
https://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/learningenglish/language/2012/09/120924_todays_phrase_horse_to_water.shtml
https://www.theidioms.com/you-can-lead-a-horse-to-water-but-you-cant-make-him-drink/

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