Thursday, June 13, 2013

Thursday Trivia: Old Dog, New Tricks

It's always interesting to trace some of the more well-worn phrases back to see exactly how old they really are. To us, it feels as if they've been around forever yet surprisingly many of them are only a few hundred years old.

"Can we call Cucumber Fetch a new trick?"
Photo: nao-cha, Creative Commons 2.0

And that's the case with the phrase, "you can't teach an old dog new tricks".

The earliest known rendition in print is in an animal husbandry book written by John Fitzherbert in 1534 (okay so it's almost 500 years old). In it, he advises his readers to teach a dog to find a scent when it is just a young whelp, "for it is harde to make an olde dogge to stoupe."

Tree climbing dogs definitely qualifies!
Photo: Vicvx, Creative Commons 3.0 
[ tells us that 'stoupe' meant to 'put nose to the ground to find a scent'.]

But what we found equally interesting was that proverbs like these were often found in pairs.

The web site Word Wizard tells us that this saying actually has a partner or counterpart in the proverb "you're never too old to learn".

Word Wizard calls this kind of opposing 'truth' an antithetical proverb. Cool, huh?

The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable tells us this antithetical proverb first showed up in common use - surprise - during the late 16th century, just a handful of years after our "old dog" came on the scene.

Popular culture would have it that the Moroccan version of this proverb features a cat rather than a dog: "An old cat will not learn how to dance." However, try as we might, we were unable to find any evidence beyond anecdotal usage on other blogs and websites, so don't hold us to that one!
Know Your Phrase
Word Wizard  and also Word Wizard Link #2
The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable | 2006 | ELIZABETH KNOWLES | © The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable 2006, originally published by Oxford University Press 2006.


Nominations Open for Petties Awards

We weren't planning to participate this year until we read that for every blog nomination you can also nominate a deserving animal shelter to receive a $10,000 Petties Grant.

There are so many shelters out there who could use those funds. Our choices at the moment, based on need, are Great Plains SPCA and Kansas City Siamese Rescue (Maxwell's Alma Mater). 

KC Siamese in particular is in desperate need of funds right now, and so the heroes at that great group are our personal choice for the nomination! 

Please click the logo here on the left to nominate. You'll need the URL of the blog you're nominating (ours would be for example) and the name of the shelter you wish to nominate.


  1. Well, we think old cats can learn to dance! MOL! Great post, kittehz. We luv learning this stuff. xoxo

  2. Nice one and we love the pic with the doxie and cucumber. Have a terrific Thursday.
    Best wishes Molly

  3. Hmmm... an old cat will not learn how to dance? I don't think that's right. They dance. All cats can dance. Just not necessarily when peeps are watching. We're tricky, that way. purrs

  4. I don't want to learn new trick'z I just want that cucumber.. My favorite :) xx00xxx

    Mollie and Alfie

  5. A cat doesn't need to LEARN how to dance. All cats are natural dancers. :)

  6. Very interesting. Thanks for sharing. The photo of the dog with the cucumber is hysterical. Purrs and hugs from the kitties at The Cat on My Head, Lily Olivia, Mauricio, Misty May, Giulietta, Fiona, Astrid, Lisbeth and Calista Josette

  7. But we were under the impression that ALL cats can dance. All of the ones *we* know, anyway!

  8. Interesting. M wishes she had a nickle for every time she has made that comment. he he She'd be rich!

  9. Very interesting.
    We have been trying to teach Buddy to dance for years. Guess we should give it up.

  10. We laff at the way Beins have opposite sayings. Like "He who hesitates is lost" and "Look before you leap"...

  11. luv learning where proverbs come from!


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