Reference > Quotations > W.C. Hazlitt, comp. > English Proverbs and Proverbial Phrases
W.C. Hazlitt, comp.  English Proverbs and Proverbial Phrases.  1907.
Cambridgeshire  to  Creditors have
Cambridgeshire camels.
  I look upon this as a nickname, groundlessly fastened on this country men, perhaps because the three first letters are the same in Cambridge and camel. I doubt whether it had any respect to the fen-men stalking upon their stilts, who then, in the apparent length of their legs, do something resemble that beast. Fuller says, a camel is used proverbially, to signify an awkward, ungain animal; and as scholars are often rude in their deportment, it is presumed that the town’s-men of Cambridge might be called camels.—R.
Cambridgeshire oaks.
  Cantabrigia petit æquales, or æqualia. That is (as Dr. Fuller expounds it), either in respect of their commons, all of the same mess have equal share; or in respect of extraordinaries they are all [Greek], club alike; or in respect of degree, all of the same degree are fellows well met. The same degree levels, although of different age.—R.
Can a mill go with the water that’s past?  2199
Can a mouse fall in love with a cat?  2200
Can Jack an Ape be merry, when his clog is at his heel? C.  2201
Can you make a pipe of a pig’s tail?  2202
Candlemas day,
the good husewife’s goose lay:
Valentine day,
yours and mine may.
Canny Newcastle.
  “Canny, in the Northern dialect, means fine, neat, handsome, &c.”—R. See Brockett’s N. C. Glossary, 1825, p. 37. In Scotland it is understood in a different sense, however.
Can’t I be your friend, but I must be your fool too?  2205
Can’t you hit the door? CL.  2206
Canterbury is in decay,
God help may!
  Lottery of 1567 (Kempe’s Loseley MSS. 211.).
Canterbury is the higher rack, but Winchester is the better manger. CL.
  “W. Edington, Bishop of Winchester, was the author of this expression, who made this the reason of his refusal to be removed to Canterbury, though chosen thereunto. Indeed, though Canterbury be graced with an higher honour, the revenues of Winchester are greater. It is applicable to such who prefer a wealthy privacy before a less profitable dignity.”—R. Of course, this has ceased to be true. William de Edindon was Bishop of Winchester, 1346–66.
Canterbury was, London is, and York shall be.
  W. Perkins, Collected Works, 1618, p. 468. Comp. Lincoln.
Capons were at first but chickens.  2210
Care he hath, that children will keep.
  How the Goode Wif, &c., in Hazlitt’s Pop. Poetry, i.
Care not, and that will prevent horns.  2212
Care not would have it.  2213
Care Sunday, care away.
Palm Sunday and Easter Day. D.
Care will kill a cat. CL.
  Taylor, the water-poet, in his Motto, 1621: and Wither’s Fair Virtue, 1622, sig. O 4. “Care clammed the cat.”—Sir G. C. Lewis’s Herefordshire Glossary, p. 126. Ray observes, “And yet a cat hath nine lives. Cura facit canos.”
Careless shepherds make many a feast for the wolf.  2216
Care’s no cure.
  Cuidao nao he saber. Port.—R.
Carleton warlers. Leicestershire.
  So denominated, according to Burton [Hist, of Leicestersh., 1622], from their harsh and rattling mode of speech.—R.
  An old bye-name for a collier:
        “Heigh downe, dery, dery downe,
With the hackney coaches downe!
  They long made fooles
  Of poore carry-coales,
But now must leave the towne.”
The Coaches’ Overthrow, a Ballad (circa 1620), apud Collier’s Roxb. Ballads, p. 292.    
  See also Grim the Collier of Croydon, 1662, ii. 1.
        “Sampson.  Gregorie, on my word weele not carie coles.
Greg.  No, for then we should be collyers.”
  And Romeo and Juliet, 1599, sig. A 3.
Carry your knife even between the paring and the apple.  2220
Cast no dirt into the well that gives you water.  2221
Cast not out thy foul water till thou hast clean.  2222
Cast not the helve after the hatchet.  2223
Cast not thy cradle over thy head.  2224
Cast your cap at the moon. CL.  2225
Cast your staff into the air, and it will fall upon its root.  2226
Castleford women must needs be fair,
because they wash both in Calder and Aire.
  Castleford is two and a half miles N. W. of Pontefract (Higson’s MSS. Coll. No. 23).
Castor was a city when Norwich was none,
and Norwich was built of Castor stone.
  Higson’s MSS. Coll. No. 122.
Cat after kind good mouse hunt. HE.
  Letter by F. A. touching the quarrel between Arthur Hall and Melch. Mallerie in 1575–6, repr. of ed. 1580 in Misc. Antiq. Anglic. 1816, p. 93. “For neuer yet was good Cat out of kinde.”—Gascoigne’s Aduentures of Master F. I. (Works, by Hazlitt, i. 483). The phrase occurs in the interlude of Nice Wanton, 1560; and in the History of Jacob and Esau, 1568, we hare—“Cat after kind will sweet milk lap.”
Catch not at the shadow and lose the substance.  2230
Catch that catch may.  2231
Cats eat what hussies spare.  2232
Cats hide their claws.  2233
Censure and scandal are not the same.  2234
Ceremonious friends are so,
as far as compliment will go.
’Ch was bore at Taunton Dean; where should I be bore else? Somersetshire.
  That is a parcel of ground round about Taunton, very pleasant and populous (containing many parishes), and so fruitful, to use their own phrase, with the zun and zoil alone, that it needs no manuring at all. The peasantry therein are as rude as rich, and so highly conceited of their own country, that they conceive it a disparagement to be born in any other place.—R.
Chains of gold are stronger than chains of iron.  2237
Chance is a dicer.  2238
Change is no robbery. CL.  2239
Change not a clout / till May be out.  2240
Change of fortune is the lot of life.  2241
Change of pasture maketh fat calves. HE.
  Wilkins’ Miseries of Enforced Marriage, 1607 (Hazlitt’s Dodsley, ix. 474).
Change of women makes bald knaves. C.  2243
Changing of words is the lighting of hearts.  2244
Charity and pride have different aims, yet both feed the poor.  2245
Charity begins at home first. CL.
  Self-love is the measure of our love to our neighbour. Many sentences occur in the ancient Greek and Latin poets to this purpose; as, Omnes sibi meliùs esse malunt quam alteri.—Terent. Andr. Proximus sum egomet mihi.—Ibid. [Greek], &c. v. Erasm. Adag. Fa buono à te et tuoi, e poi à gli altri, se tu puoi. Ital. [Greek].—R.
Charity excuseth not cheating.  2247
Charon waits for all.  2248
Charre-folks are never paid enough. F.
  That is, give them what you will, they are never contented.—R.
Chatting to chiding is not worth a chewet. HE.  2250
Cheapside is the best garden. R. 1670.
  A former London saying.
Cheat me in the price, but not in the goods.  2252
Cheek by jowl.
  Dekker’s Knight’s Coniuring, 1607, repr. 1842, p. 20.
Cheese, it is a peevish elf;
it digests all things but itself.
  This is a translation of that old rhyming Latin verse, Caseus est nequàm, quia digerit omnia sequàm.—R.
Cheshire bred:
strong i’ th’ arm,
weak i’ th’ head.
  Higson’s MSS. Coll., No. 51. Compare Derbyshire born, &c.
Cheshire chief of men.
  It seems the Chestrians have formerly been renowned for their valour. V. Fuller.—R.
Chickens feed capons.
  i.e., As I understand it, chickens come to be capons, and capons were first chickens.
Chickens now-a-days cram the cock.  2258
Children and chicken
must ever be picking. Cornwall.
  The Spaniards say—
        Donne, preti, & polli
Non son mas satolli.
“That is, they must eat often, but little at a time. Often, because the body growing, requires much addition of food; little at a time, for fear of oppressing and extinguishing the natural heat. A little oil nourishes the flame; but a great deal poured on at once, may drown and quench it. A man may carry that by little and little, which, if laid on his back at once, he would sink under. Hence old men, who, in this respect also, I mean by reason of the decay of their spirits and natural heat, do again become children, are advised by physicians to eat often, but little at once.”—R. This adage is, I believe, not local. “If I do not continually feede them, as the crow doth her brattes, twentie times in an houre, they will begin to waxe colde.”—Gascoigne’s Supposes, 1566 (Poems, by Hazlitt, i. 212).
Children and fools cannot lie. C.
  New Help to Disc., 1721, p. 135. “The Dutch proverb hath it thus: You are not to expect truth from any one but children, or persons drunk or mad. In vino veritas, we know. Enfans et fols sons devins. Fr.”—R.
  In Lyly’s Endimion, 1591, Master Constable says: “You know, neighbours, ’tis an old said saw, Children and fooles speake true.”
Children and fools have merry lives.  2261
Children are certain cares, but uncertain comforts.  2262
Children are poor men’s riches.  2263
Children have wide ears and long tongues.  2264
Children learn to creep ere they can go. HE.  2265
Children pick up words as pigeons peas,
and utter them again as God shall please.
Children suck the mother when they are young and the father when grown up.  2267
Children to bed and the goose to the fire.
  “I take it to mean that when the children are in bed, and the work done, the adults of the household are junketing. “The goose hangs high” is a common phrase for mirth and pasting, and indeed I remember being told by a Chinese scholar at Shanghai that the Chinese talk of being “with the pig” when they mean to express festivity. If he had known Elia, I should have thought it too good to be true—but he didn’t—and was doubtless honest.”—R. H. Vose.
Child’s pig, but father’s bacon.
  Parents usually tell their children, This pig or this lamb is thine; but when they come to be grown up and sold, parents themselves take the money for them.—R.
Chipperfield, God help us!
Chipperfield! Where d’ye think?
  Chipperfield, in Herts, is a great cherry orchard; and in good seasons, the people are very sharp, if asked where from? and say, Chipperfield! Where d’ye think? But in years, when the yield has been poor, their spirits run low, and the reply is, Oh, Chipperfield, God help us!
Choke up, child, the churchyard’s nigh.  2271
Choler hates a counsellor.  2272
Choose a horse in Smithfield, and a serving-man in Paul’s.
  “A man must not make choice of 3 things in 3 places. / Of a wife in Westminster, Of a servant in Paules, Of a horse in Smithfield / lest he choose a queane, a knave, or a jade.”—Robson’s Choice of Change, 1585 (Triplicitie of Poetrie, pt. ii. No. 4).
  “Falst.  Where’s Bardolph?
  Page.  He’s gone into Smithfield, to buy your worship a horse.
  Falst.  I bought him in Paul’s, and he’ll buy me a horse in Smithfield; if I could get me a wife in the stews, I were manned, horsed, and wived.”—Henry IV., part ii. act i. sc. 2.
  This part of the present note was communicated to me by my excellent friend, the late Mr. H. Pyne.
  “To conclude, they [the school-girls] learn nothing there befitting Gentlewomen, but onely to be so gentle at last, as commonly they run away with the first Serving-man or younger Brother makes love unto them: when their parents finde (to their cost) that all their cost was cast away, and their Husbands after a while find too, how to that old saying of choosing a Horse in Smithfield, and a Serving-man in Paul’s, you might well add the choosing a wife out of one of these [village Schools], and you shall be fitted all alike.”—Flecknoe’s Enigmatical Characters, 1658, p. 45. As to the great antiquity of Smithfield as a place for the sale of horses, see Fitzstephen’s Account of London. (Antiq. Repert., 1807, i. 245.) See also an entry in Pepys under December 4, 1668. This proverb is apt to remind us of Cruikshank’s Adventures of a Gentleman in search of a horse, 1857.
Choose a horse made, and a wife to make. H.  2274
Choose a wife rather by your ear than your eye.  2275
Choose for yourself, and use for yourself. CL.  2276
Choose not a woman nor linen cloth by a candle.
  Booke of Meery Riddles, 1629, No. 18.
Choose not an house near an inn, or in a corner. H.  2278
Choose thy company before thy drink. CL.  2279
Christmas cometh but once a year. C.
  Tusser’s Husbandry, 1601, p. 24. Wither’s Fair Virtue, 1622, sig. O 4. Probably the original form. But in my Faiths and Folklore, 1905, v. Christmas, we find a more recent and ample version. Compare Bounce Buckram, supra.
City gates stand open to the bad as well as the good.  2281
Civility costs nothing.
  Biretta in mano non face mai danno. Ital.
  No hay cosa que menos cuesta, ni valgo mas barato que los buenos comedimentos.—Span.
        Parole doner et main au bonnet
Ne coute rien et bon est. Fr.
Civility is a jewel. W. HAZLITT.  2283
Claw a churl by the arm, and he shiteth in thy hand. C.  2284
Clean hands want no washball.  2285
Cleaning a blot with blotted fingers maketh a greater.  2286
Cleanliness is next to godliness.  2287
Cleveland in the clay
bring in two soles and carry one away. Yorkshire.
  “Cleveland is that part of Yorkshire which borders upon the Bishopric of Durham, where the ways in winter time are very foul and deep.”—R. Compare All the carts, &c.
Close sits my shirt, but closer my skin. C.
  That is, I love my friends well, but myself better: None so dear to me as I am to myself. Or my body is dearer to me than my goods. Plus près est la chair que la chemise. Fr.—R.
Clothe thee in peace: arm thee in war. H.  2290
Clothe thee warm, eat a little, drink enough, and thou shalt live. B. OF M. R.  2291
Clouds, that the sun builds up, darken him.
  Non, si malé nunc, et olim sic erit. Hor.—R.
Cloudy mornings turn to clear afternoons. HE.  2293
Clowns are best in their own company, but gentlemen are best everywhere.  2294
Clowns kill each other,
and gentry cleave together. W.
Clun, Clunicky, Clun:
the drunkenest place under the sun.
  Spoken of Clun, Salop.
Cobblers and tinkers
are the best ale-drinkers. F.
Cobbler’s law; he that takes money must pay the shot.  2298
Cobbler’s Monday.
  Any day when a respite from work is determined on, from the habit which shoemakers have of looking on Monday as Sunday’s brother.
Cock a hoop.
        “He maketh hauok, and setteth cocke on the hoope.
He is so laueis, the stooke beginneth to droope.”—HEYWOOD.
  “Cock-on hoop; our ancestors called that the cock which we call the spiggot, or perhaps they used such cocks in their vessels as are still retained in water-pipes; the cock being taken out and laid on the hoop of the vessel, they used to drink up the ale as it ran out without intermission (in Staffordshire, now called stunning a barrel of ale), and then they were ‘Cook-on-hoop,’ i.e., at the height of mirth and jollity: a saying still retained.”—Blount’s Dictionary, 1681, quoted by Brady (Var. of Lit. 1826).
Cock sure.
  Skelton’s Why come ye not to Court [circa 1520]. Cock here is, I apprehend, a corruption of God, and the phrase was equivalent to, Sure, by G—. “By his woundes I feare not, but it is cocke sure now.”—Conflict of Conscience, 1581, edit. 1851, p. 29.
Cockleshells are going to heaven.
  Said when it rains in the sunshine. The French appear to have as an equivalent, “Le diable bat sa femme.”
Colchester beef.
  Sprats. Comp. Weavers’ Beef, &c., infra.
Cold as a clock.
  Lyly’s Euphues, 1579, repr. Arber, 106.
Cold broth hot again, that lov’d I never;
old love renew’d again, that lov’d I ever.
Cold of complexion, good of condition.  2306
Cold weather and knaves come out of the north.  2307
Come and welcome; go by, and no quarrel.  2308
Come, but come stooping.
  Vien, ma vien gobbo. That is, come well loaded, and you shall be welcome.—R.
Come, come! that’s a Barney Cassel. North.
  i.e., That’s a good one, an euphemism for a lie. See N. and Q., 3rd S., ii. 232, and compare Coward, a coward, &c., and Barney Cassel, &c.
Come day, go day.
  A listless, improvident person is, in Northamptonshire, according to Miss Baker (Gloss. in voce), called a Come day, go day.
Come, every one heave a pound. Somerset.  2312
Come hither, John my man.
  Paston Letters, iii. 91 (Letter of 1473).
Come it early, or come it late,
in May comes the cow-quake.
  The cow-quake is a particular kind of spring grass so named.
Come, turn about, Robin Hood.
  Wit and Drollery, 1661.
Cometh little good of gathering.
  Colkelbie Sow (Hazlitt’s Pop. Poetry of Scotl., 1895, i. 185).
Coming events cast their shadows before them.  2317
Command your man, and do it yourself.
  Manda y hazlo, y quitarto has de cuydado. Span.—R. Mandad y haced, y sereis bien servido.—Collins’ Dict. of Span. Prov., 1823, p. 203.
Commend not your wife, wine, nor house.  2319
Common fame, a cunning friar,
are but both a common liar.
Common fame hath a blister on its tongue.  2321
Common fame
is seldom to blame. CL.
  A general report is rarely without some ground. No smoke without some fire. [Greek]. Hesiod.—R.
Common Jack. HE.
        “I haue bene common Iacke to all that hole flocke.
Whan ought was to doo, I was common hackney.”—HEYWOOD.
Common sense is not always true. CL.  2324
Commonly he is not stricken again who laughs when he strikes.  2325
Company in misery makes it light.  2326
Company makes cuckolds.  2327
Comparisons are odious. H.
  Heywood’s Woman Kilde with Kindnesse, 1607, repr. 101. Toda comparacion es odiosa.—Span.
  “Foulweather.  A my life a most rich comparison.
  Goosecappe.  Neuer stirre, if it bee not a richer Caparison, then my Lorde my Cosine wore at tilt, for that was brodred with nothing but mooneshine ith water, and this has Samons in it, by heauen a most edible Copariso.
  Rudsbie.  O odious thou woodst say, for Coparisos are odious.
  Foul.  So they are indeede Sir Cut all but my Lords.
  Goos.  Bee Caparisons odious Sir Cutt.: what like flowers?
  Rud.  O asse they be odorous.”
      —Sir Gyles Goosecappe Knight, A Comedie, 1606, sign. G 2.
  This solecism has been sometimes ascribed to Mrs. Malaprop; but she, like the author of the Rivals, stood sponsor for some things which she did not utter—this among them.
Compliments cost nothing, yet many pay dear for them.  2329
Conceal not the truth from thy physician and lawyer.
  Booke of Meery Riddles, 1629, No. 4.
Concealed goodness is a sort of vice.  2331
Conceited goods are quickly spent.
  Ale muéble sin râiz, presto se le quiebra ta cerviz. Span.—R.
Confess and be hanged. CL.
  Marlowe’s Rich Jew of Malta (written before 1593); Works, ed. 1850, i. 311.
Confess, and hang.
  The Great Assises Holden in Parnassvs by Apollo and his Assessovrs, &c., 1645, p. 24.
Confess debt, and beg days.  2335
Confessing a fault makes half amends for it.
  New Help to Discourse, ed. 1721, p. 134.
Confine your tongue, lest it confine you.  2337
Congleton bears. Cheshire.  2338
Congleton rare, Congleton rare,
sold the Bible to pay for a bear.
  Higson’s MSS. Coll. 170. This, of course, refers to Congleton, in Cheshire; but the same charge is laid to another place:
        “Clifton-upon-Dunsmore, in Warwickshire,
Sold the Church-Bible to buy a bear.”
Conscience cannot be compelled.  2340
Conscience is a cut-throat. CL.  2341
Conscience serveth for a thousand witnesses.
  B. of M. R. 1629, No. 33.
Consider not pleasures as they come, but as they go.  2343
Consideration is half conversion.  2344
Constant dropping wears the stone.  2345
Contempt will cause spite to drink of her own poison.  2346
Contempt will sooner kill an injury than revenge.  2347
Contend not about a goat’s beard.  2348
Content is all. CL.  2349
Contrary as Wood’s dog, that wouldn’t go out, nor yet stop at home. Sussex.
  See N. and Q., Aug. 28, 1880.
Cook-ruffian, able to scald the devil in his feathers.  2351
Cooing and billing,
like Philip and Mary on a shilling.
  This saying, which occurs with a considerable variation in Hudibras, arose from the Philip and Mary shilling, exhibiting the King and Queen with their effigies in very close juxtaposition. The type was introduced from Spain, where we find it on the coinage of Ferdinand and Isabella. The same design occurs also on the common little medalet of Prince Charles and Henrietta Maria.
  Butler’s lines are:—
        “Still amorous, and fond, and billing,
Like Philip and Mary on a shilling.”
Cooks are not to be taught in their own kitchen.  2353
Cool words scald not the tongue.  2354
Corn and horn go together.
  i.e., For prices: when corn is cheap, cattle are not dear; and vice versa.—R.
Corn in good years is hay; in ill years straw is corn.  2356
Corn is not to be gathered in the blade, but the ear.  2357
Cornwall will bear a shower every day,
and two on Sunday.
  This saying holds true more especially of the high lands at St. Minver, &c.
Corruption of the best becomes the worst.  2359
Cotherston cheeses will cover a multitude of sins. Somerset.  2360
Cotherston, where they christen calves,
hopple hops, and kneeband spiders.
  See N. and Q., 3rd S., ii. 233.
Counsel breaks not the head. H.  2362
Counsel is no command.  2363
Counsel is to be given by the wise, the remedy by the rich.  2364
Counsel must be followed, not praised.  2365
Counsel over cups is crazy.  2366
Count not your chickens before they be hatched. CL.
  Ante victoriam ne canas triumphum.—R.
Courage mounteth with occasion.  2368
Courage ought to have eyes as well as arms.  2369
Courage without fortune destroys a man.  2370
Court holy water.
  Eau benite de la cour. Fr. Fair words and nothing else.—R.
Courting and wooing
brings dallying and doing. C.
  The Cheshire folk say, Ossing comes to bossing.
Courts keep no almanacks.  2373
Cousin-germans quite removed.  2374
Cousin Jockey. Cornwall.
  i.e., A Cornishman. All Cornishmen are jocularly said to be cousins. But the fact is that formerly the practice in this respect all over England was rather loose and vague, and in the Plumpton Correspondence, p. 104, we find a nephew, in a letter to his uncle, subscribing himself his loving cousin. See also ibid. 163. Thomas Greene of Stratford-on-Avon refers to Shakespeare as his cousin; but we do not so far know their relationship; and he does the same with others. To be cousin or first cousin with one is still recognised as a term of equivalent import to great intimacy.
Cover your head by day as much as you will, by night as much as you can.  2376
Cover yourself with honey, and the flies will have at you.  2377
Covet nothing over-much.  2378
Covetous men are condemned to dig in the mines for they know not who.  2379
Covetous men live like drudges to die wretches.  2380
Covetousness, as well as prodigality, brings a man to a morsel of bread.
  Qui tout convoite tout perd. Fr. And, Qui trop empoigne rien n’estraint. He that grasps at too much, holds fast nothing. The fable of the dog is known, who, catching at the appearance in the water of the shoulder of mutton he had in his mouth, let it drop in, and lost it. Chi troppo abbraccia nulla stringa. Ital.—R.
Covetousness breaketh the bag.
  MS. Ashmole, 1153.
Covetousness is always filling a bottomless vessel.  2383
Covetousness often starves other vices.  2384
Coward, a coward of Barney Castell,
dare not come out to fight a battel.
  Barnard Castle, in Durham, is here pointed at, and the proverb is said to stigmatize the refusal of Sir George Bowes to fight with the rebels during the rising of the North in 1569. See N. and Q., 3rd S., ii. 232.
Cowards are cruel.  2386
Cowling moons.
  A Craven proverb. See Hone’s Table-book, 1721–2.
Crabs breed babs / by the help of good lads.
  Country wenches, when they are with child, usually long for crabs: or crabs may signify scolds.—R.
Crack me that nut, quoth Bumsted.
  Heywood has Knak me that nut; but the rest of the proverb is of more recent growth, seemingly.
Cracknel horns have none.
  MS. 15th cent. ap. Retr. Review, 3rd S., ii. 309.
Cradle of security, the.
  This is mentioned by several of our old writers in a sort of proverbial way, and there was an early drama on the title. See my Manual of Old Plays, 1892, p. 53. Perhaps the most ancient reference to the Cradle of Security as a piece is in Greene’s Arbasto, 1584.
Cradle straws are scarce out of his breech.  2392
Craft against craft makes no living. H.  2393
Craft counting all things brings nothing home.  2394
Crafty men deal in generals.  2395
Crawley, God help us!
Downton good now.
Cream-pot [or cupboard] love.
  Such as young fellows pretend to dairymaids, to get cream and other good things of them. Some say cupboard love.—R.
Credit is better than ill-won gear.  2397
Credit keeps the crown o’ the causeway.  2398
Creditors have better memories than debtors.  2399


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