Thursday, October 31, 2013

Thursday Trivia: Don't look a gift horse in the mouth

We got the idea for this one when we accidentally stumbled on it while researching last week's trivia: "all cats are grey in the dark."

Five lines below John Heywood's mention of our famous grey feline, this phrase jumped out at us:
"No man ought to look a given horse in the mouth."

Photo courtesy EPLEFPA Perpignan Roussillon via Creative Commons 3.0

"Ah-hah!" we thought. "We just found the origin of another saying!"  Boy, were we wrong.
 But hey, we were only off by about, uhh...let's see...1,100 years, give or take.

Saint Jerome, circa 420 CE, wrote in his Commentary on the Epistle to the Ephesians,

"Noli...ut vulgare proverbium est, equi dentes inspicere donati"
"Do not, as the common proverb says, look at the teeth of a gift horse."

Something tells us the Trojans heartily endorsed that sentiment....

A Practical Guide to Lexicography, Piet van Sturkenberg, John Benjamins Publishing, 2003. Page 100.


  1. Have a tremendous Thursday and Happy Halloween to all your family. Hope it is a spectacularly good spooky one.
    Best wishes Molly

  2. You know, many dogs look really cute when smiling. Me for example! But I am not so sure about horses.
    Toodle pip!

  3. In Sweden we say, Skåda inte en given häst i munnen :)

  4. We knew that! But then again, we do have two horses in our family!

    The Chans

  5. Hi Chans! We figured you guys probably knew this :-)

  6. Yeah, I know that one BOL Have a super SPOOKY Halloween xxoxx

    Mollie and Alfie

  7. Happy Halloween to some of my favorite kitty friends!

    Your pal, Angel Pip

  8. Hey, we actually knew that one! Go figure! :)

  9. Meow nice
    I have to jump to last week and check that one

  10. Research leads you to all kinds of interesting things ;)
    Be sure to get some treats tonight!
    Happy Halloween !
    Tillie and Georgia,
    Treasure,Tiger, JJ and Julie

  11. I guess the true ones endure Happy Howl-O-Ween!

  12. Hee I am sure that saying would have been very useful to the Trojans. I always wondered about that gift horse.

  13. And we know WHY! You stick yer face into a horse's mouth and it might bite yer NOSE off...

    But seriously, a horse BUYER examines a horses teef to learn its age and health to see if it is worth the price. So examining a GIFT horse in the mouf would be like getting a present from a friend and whipping out a Consumer Reports magazine to look up the rating and price!

    And about the Trojans, "Beware of gifts bearing Greeks". ;)

  14. Ha ha - that's a good one. Who would have ever thought that old saying went back that far.

  15. Wow, looks like this one wasn't too difficult to trace. The horse, however, makes the post. So funny showing all those teeth. Purrs and hugs, Lily Olivia, Mauricio, Misty May, Giulietta, Fiona, Astrid, Lisbeth and Calista Jo


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