Quotes Uncovered: A Bird in the Hand

Photo: Mike Baird

I’m back to inviting readers to submit quotations whose origins they want me to try to trace using my book, The Yale Book of Quotations, and my more recent research. Here is the latest round.

von bargen asked:

May you live in interesting times.” I’ll bet you strike out. Maybe nobody ever said it first. Is it a curse or not?

The Yale Book of Quotations traces this earlier than anyone else has, to the American Society of International Law Proceedings in 1939. It goes on to state, “No authentic Chinese saying to this effect has ever been found.” It is usually said to be a curse.

Joel asked:

“A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.” Who is this credited to?

This is a proverb, and unlikely to ever be traced to a definitive originator. The Yale Book of Quotations gives as its earliest example John Bunyan‘s book, Pilgrim’s Progress (1678). The YBQ repeats the Oxford Dictionary of Proverbs‘ note that mentions variant wordings of the proverb in Latin (13th century) and English (15th century).

Do any readers have any other quotations whose origins they would like me to attempt to trace?

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  1. minim says:

    There’s not enough room to swing a cat.

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  2. akopp says:

    “a line in the sand”

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  3. Rose says:

    “Go forth and prosper” – earlier than Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein? is it biblical?

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  4. Deborah says:

    Why tiptoe carefully through life, only to arrive safely at death?

    I love this quote but wish I knew who thought of it?

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  5. one of the 89% of Americans always in debt says:

    “Is American Dream a lottery shot”

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  6. kagilandam says:

    “Aim at the moon to shoot at the tree”

    This normally used as opposite of “A bird in hand is worth two in the bush”.

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  7. Bob Prentiss says:

    Doesn’t anyone remember that great maxim from yesteryear’s Harvard Lampoon? “A bird in the hand is useless if you have to blow your nose”.

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  8. Jane says:

    May the builders always be with you. (curse)

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