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(See also IMPROVIDENCE.)
cast pearls before swine To offer something precious to those who are unable to appreciate its worth; to give a valuable gift to someone who responds by abusing or defiling it. The phrase, which derives from the Sermon on the Mount, is still current today.
Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast your pearls before swine, lest haply they trample them under their feet, and turn and rend you. (Matthew 7:6)
put new wine in old bottles To take inappropriate action; to fail to make the measures fit the need; to impose greater stress than the recipient can bear. Though this expression most often refers to the imposition of newness or change where age will resist it, the phrase’s application is not restricted to contexts of time disparity. Old wineskins lack the extensibility of new and consequently burst under the pressure of fermentation. The wineskins of the original Biblical context in the course of time became bottles, to the detriment of the phrase’s clarity of meaning.
Neither is new wine put into old wineskins; if it is the skins burst, and the wine is spilled and the skins are destroyed: but new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved. (Matthew 9:17)
reckon without one’s host To act, plan, or conclude without adequate consideration of significant factors or circumstances; to fail to take into account the role of others, particularly those whose position would make their input determinative. The expression was originally literal; to reckon without one’s host was to calculate food or lodging expenses without first consulting the innkeeper. This early meaning, dating from the 17th century, has been totally lost in the now figurative one indicating shortsightedness, improvidence, or lack of foresight.
He reckoned strangely in this matter, without the murderous host into whose clutches he had fallen. (John A. Symonds, The Renaissance in Italy, 1886)
a rolling stone gathers no moss A proverb meaning that one with nomadic tendencies is unlikely to prosper. This expression, equivalents of which exist in numerous other cultures, was popularized in the English language following its use in Thomas Tusser’s Five Hundred Points of Good Husbandrie (1573). A stationary stone accumulates moss which protects it from erosion and weathering. Likewise, one who settles down is more likely to amass a fortune than one whose life is spent wandering from place to place. The expression maintains widespread usage today.
The sudden turning up of Jack as a roving brother, who, like a rolling stone, gathered no moss. (Sarah Tytler, Buried Diamonds, 1886)
send a sow to Minerva A proverb said of one who presumes to teach another, more learned person something that he already knows. This expression is derived from an ancient Latin adage, sus Minervam docet ‘a pig teaching Minerva,’ alluding to the inappropriateness of something as ignorant as a pig trying to instruct the goddess of wisdom.
In Latin they say sus Minervam when an unlearned dunce goeth about to teach his better or a more learned man, … or as we say in English, the foul sow teach the fair lady to spin. (Edward Topsell, The History of Four-Footed Beasts, 1607)
swap horses in midstream To change leaders during a crisis; to change the rules after the game has started; to change one’s approach, to alter one’s method at an unpropitious time. This Americanism is attributed to Abraham Lincoln. On June 9, 1864, after his renomination to the presidency, Lincoln delivered a speech in which he alluded to the fact that he was reelected even though many felt that he had mismanaged the War Between the States:
… they have concluded it is not best to swap horses while crossing the river, … I am not so poor a horse that they might not make a botch of it in trying to swap.
The expression nearly always appears as part of an admonition not to do so.
teach one’s grandmother to suck eggs A proverb, said of one who tries to teach or advise an older and more experienced person. This adage, similar in spirit to teach a bird to fly and teach a fish to swim, alludes to the inappropriateness of trying to teach a person something which he already knows. It is usually used in derisive reference to someone, particularly an adolescent, who is presumptuous enough to think that his new-found knowledge is so unique that his elders could not possibly be privy to it and so takes it upon himself to educate them. Specifically, this expression refers to the technique—usually passed from generation to generation—of sucking out the contents of an egg through a small hole in one end without breaking the shell, a skill important to one who wishes to decorate Easter eggs, for example. An anonymous English poem captures the sentiments of this ancient proverb:
Teach not a parent’s mother to extract
The embryo juices of an egg by suction:
The good old lady can the feat enact
Quite irrespective of your kind instruction.
Although the expression had fallen into disuse by the mid-1900s, it was revitalized in 1978 by its inclusion in one of the routines of comedian Steve Martin.
|Noun||1.||imprudence - a lack of caution in practical affairs|
improvidence, shortsightedness - a lack of prudence and care by someone in the management of resources
prudence - discretion in practical affairs