Home  »  English Proverbs and Proverbial Phrases  »  Shear sheep to Spin not

W.C. Hazlitt, comp. English Proverbs and Proverbial Phrases. 1907.

Shear sheep to Spin not

Shear sheep that have them.

Shear your sheep in May, / and shear them all away.

She’s a good maid but for thought, word, and deed.

She’s a holiday dame.

She’s a wagtail.

She’s better than she’s bonny.

She’s not a good housewife that will not wind up her bottom [take off her drink].

She’s one of us.

Shew me a fiddler, shew me a fool.
Bète comme une clarinette.—Fr. The expression reflects the normal self-sufficiency and professional narrowness of musicians. It was a favourite saying of my grandfather Reynell.

Shew me a liar, and I’ll shew you a thief. CL. AND H.

  • Shew me a man without a spot,
  • and I’ll shew you a maid without a blot.
  • Ships fear fire more than water. H.

    Shoemaker’s Holiday.

    Shoot at a pigeon and kill a crow. CL.

    Short acquaintance brings repentance.

    Short and sweet.
    Sermonis prolixitas fastidiosa. Cognat. è Ficino.—R.

    Short boughs, long vintage. H.

    Short harvests make short addlings. D.

    Short horse is soon curried. HE.
    Paradyce of Daynty Devyses, 1578, repr. p. 60. Compare A Short horse.

    Short pleasure, long lament.
    De court plaisir, / long repentir. Fr.—R.

    Short reckonings are soon cleared.

    Short reckonings make long friends.
    A vieux comptes nouvelles disputes. Fr. Conte spesso è amicitia longa. Ital. Conti chiari amici cari. Id. Cuenta y razon sustenta ò conserva amistad. Span.—R.

    Short shooting loseth the game. HE.* and C.
    Or, the set.

  • “Short shooting looseth the set;
  • And though they do, yet game they get.”
  • Davies, Sc. of Folly, 1611, p. 148.
  • Si Deus pro nobis, quis contra nos?

  • Si pluat in festo Processi et Martiniani,
  • imber erit grandis, et suffocatio grani.
  • The day of SS. Processus and Martinianus was July 2. Cole’s MSS. Coll., vol. 44.

    Sibi quisque.

    Sick of the idle crick and the belly-wark in the heel.
    Belly-wark, i.e., belly-ache. It is used when people complain of sickness for a pretence to be idle upon no apparent cause.—R.

    Sick of the idles. CL.

    Sick of the Lombard fever.

    Sick of the mulligrubs with eating chopped hay.
    Rabelais, i., xi.

    Sick of the silver dropsy. CL.

    Sickness comes on horseback but goeth away on foot. HE.*

    Sickness is felt, but health not at all.

    Sickness tells us what we are.

    Sift him grain by grain, and you will find him all chaff.

    Sigh not, but send: he’ll come if he be unhanged.

    Silence gives consent.
    Nash’s Have with you to Saffron Walden, 1596. Assez consent, qui ne mot dit. Fr. Quien calla, otorga. Span. Chi tace confessa. Ital. [Greek].—Eurip. Qui tacet consentire videtur.—R.

    Silence is a fine jewel for a woman, but it’s little worn.

    Silence is the best ornament of a woman.

    Silence is wisdom and gets friends.

    Silence seldom doth harm.

    Silent men, like still waters, are deep and dangerous.

    Silks and satins put out the fire in the kitchen.

    Silly Suffolk.
    Silly is here to be taken to mean seely or shrewd, I suppose. In the Antiquary for April, 1890, I find the following note:—“Silly Suffolk” has just found a champion to deliver her from the reproach of an apparently contemptuous epithet. The Rev. J. W. B. Brown, vicar of Assington, lecturing at Halstead on “Our Mother Tongue,” ingeniously contended that “Silly Suffolk” is a most honourable appellation. He claims that “silly” is derived from the Anglo-Saxon “sælig,” which originally meant happy or holy. He further urges that “holy Suffolk” was thus called from the great number of its churches. Certainly Suffolk was astonishingly well provided with churches, beyond all neighbouring counties; at the present time it has about 560 churches, or one to 637 inhabitants. Mr. Brown is also right as to the primary meaning of “silly.” But he will have to prove that this descriptive term for Suffolk was at least as old as Chaucer, before his explanation can be accepted.

    Silver Whetstone, The.
    See To throw, &c.

    Sim steals the horse, and carries home the bridle honestly.

    Simpre de cocket. HEYWOOD.
    See the Note in Dyce’s Skelton, ii. 160. Skelton uses the phrase of Elinor Rummyng. See also Hazlitt’s Warton, iv. 84.

    Sin that is hidden is half forgiven. B. OF M. R.

    Since he cannot be revenged on the ass, he falls upon the pack-saddle.

    Since you know all, and I nothing, tell me what I dreamed last night. H.

    Sine aliquâ dementia nullus Phœbus.
    The modern line, “Great wits are sure to madness near allied,” appears to be an imitation of this.

    Single long, shame at last.

    Sink or swim.

    Sins and debts are always more than we think them to be.

    Sir Eglamour.
    It seems to have been used as a metonym for a sort of carpet-Knight from the romance so-called, of which there were two or three early printed editions, and which has been also edited by Halliwell from a MS. at Cambridge. Shakespeare refers to the title in the suggested sense in the Two Gentlemen of Verona; “What thinkst thou of the fair Sir Eglamour?” and Dekker similarly couples the name with “lutestring, curtain-rod, and goosequill.” I am indebted for these notices to Mr. Halliwell (Thornton Romances, 1844, xxii.). But perhaps the conception of Eglamour underwent a change, and his original personality was forgotten in the 17th century.

    Sir Hugh, good morrow!
    Roxburghe Ballads, ed. Collier, p. 162.

    Sir Hugh’s bones.

    Sir John Barleycorn is nobody with him. CL.

    Sir John Barleycorn’s the strongest knight.

    Sir John Lackland.
    A needy person. Lodge’s Alarum against Usurers, 1584, Shakesp. Soc. ed., 58.

    Sir John Lacklatin.
    A phrase for an ignorant and illiterate priest or clergyman, or, as Sir David Lyndsay has it, “Sir John Latin-less.”

    Sir Lawrence Lazy.
    Comp. Lazy Lawrence, &c. supra.

    Sir Reverence.
    ? i.q. Save reverence. The term acquired a coarser sense.

  • Sirrah your dog, but sirrah not me;
  • for I was born before you could see.
  • Sit in your place, and none can make you rise.

  • Sit on your thumb
  • till more room come.
  • Said to a child.

    Six awls make a shoemaker.

    Six feet of earth make all men equal.

    Six of one and half a dozen of the other.

    Sixpenny jug (A).
    In Preston’s Cambyses, written in 1569–70, Meretrix says to Ruff: “Gog’s heart, slave, dost thou think I am a sixpenny jug?”—Hazlitt’s Dodsley, iv. 183.

    Size ace will not, deux ace cannot, quatre tres must, quoth Blackborne, when he sent for wine.
    See Manningham’s Diary, Nov. 1602, edit. Bruce, 81–2. The writer calls this “a common phrase.”

  • Skiddaw, Helvellyn, and Casticand,
  • are the highest hills in all England. Cumberland, &c.
  • I can find no account of Casticand.

    Slander flings stones at itself.
    Calumniare fortiter aliquid adhærebit.—R. We at present say, Throw dirt at a man, some of it will stick.

    Slander leaves a score behind it.

    Slanderers are the devil’s bellows, to blow up contention.

    Sleep without supping, and wake without owing. H.

    Sloth is the key to poverty.
    Pereza llave di pobreza. Span.—R.

    Sloth is the mother of poverty.

    Sloth, like rust, consumes faster than labour wears.

    Sloth makes all things difficult, but industry all things easy.

    Sloth turneth the edge of wit.

    Slow and sure, like Pedley’s mare.

    Slow at meat, slow at work.

    Sluggards are never great scholars.

    Sluggard’s Corner.
    The ingle-nook, the seat in old chimneys on either side of the fire, and within the arch of the fire-place itself.—Huntley’s Cotswold Glossary, 1868, p. 45.

    Small birds must have meat.
    Children must be fed, they cannot be maintained on nothing.—R.

    Small cheer and great welcome make a great feast.

    Small invitation will serve a beggar.

    Small rain lays great wind.
    Petite pluye abat grand vent. Fr. Picciola pioggia fa cessar gran vento. Ital.—R. In a storm, when the rain commences, the wind often subsides.

    Small stomachs; light heels.

    Small wounds, if many, may be mortal.

    Smoke doth follow the fairest.
    “Nay, get me furthe from Antwarpe, then I may see the smoke of the chymnies, and they haue good lucke.”—Gascoigne’s Glasse of Governement, 1575 (Poems, by Hazlitt, ii. 66).

  • Smoke, rain, and a very curst wife,
  • make a man weary of house and life.
  • Countryman’s New Commonwealth, 1647.

    Smoky Charing.
    Charing, near Ashford, Kent.—Pegge’s Kenticisms, by Skeat, 86.

    Snapping so short makes you look so lean.

    Snotty folks are sweet; / but slavering folks are weet.
    Others have it, Slavering folks kiss sweet, but snotty folks are wise.—R.

    Snow for a se’nnight is a mother to the earth, for ever after a stepmother.

  • Snow is white, and lieth in the dike,
  • and every man lets it lie:
  • pepper is black, and hath a good smack,
  • and every man doth it buy. HE.
  • Compare Milk is white, &c. “Alba ligustra cadunt, vaccinia nigra leguntur. Virg.”—R.

    So got, so gone.
    A padre guardador, hijo gastador. Span.—R.

  • So great is the ill that doth not hurt me,
  • as is the good that doth not help me. B. OF M. R.
  • So I be warm, let the people laugh.

    So long goes the pot to the water, till at last it comes home broken. HE.
    Towneley Mysteries, p. 106. It occurs in Dan Michel’s Ayenbite of Inwyt, written about 1340.

  • “Take this prouethe (sic) for a token,
  • The pot so often goeth forth / at last it commeth home broken.”
  • An Envoye from Thomas Smyth, &c. (1540), in Hazlitt’s Fugitive Tracts, 1875, st. 3. Tant va le pot al ewe quil brise. Old Fr. Tantas veces va el cantarillo á la fuente alguna vez se ha de quebrar.—Span.

    So many countries, so many customs.
    “Ase fele thede, ase fele thewes, quoth Hendyng.”—Prov. of Hendyng (Rel. Ant., i. 109). “Tant de gens tant de guises.”—R.

    So many days old the moon is on Michaelmas Day, so many floods after. HOWELL.
    Stevenson (Twelve Moneths, 1661, p. 44) also gives this as a current superstition; but his book is a mere plagiarism from Breton’s Fantasticks, 1626.

    So many frosts in March, so many in May.

    So many lads, so many loons. Scotish.

  • So many mists as in March you see,
  • so many frosts in May will be.
  • So many servants, so many enemies.
    Observations and Advices Oeconomical, by Dudley Lord North, 1669, p. 40. In his Display of Dvtie, 1589, Leonard Wright describes entertainingly enough “The property of a good Seruant:” “It is required in a good seruant, to haue the backe of an Asse, to beare all things patiently, the tongue of a Sheepe, to keepe silence gently, and the snout of a Swine, to feede on all things heartily; large eares, light feete, and a trustie right hand; loth to offend, diligent to please, willing to amend, and sufferance [in] disease.”—Edit. 1614, p. 18.

    So much is mine as I possess, or give, or lose, for God’s sake.
    Booke of Merry Riddles, 1629, No. 17.

    So now you act like yourself, and nobody will trust you.

    So the miracle be wrought, what matter if the devil did it?

    So we have the chink, / we’ll bear the stink.
    Lucri bonus est odor ex re qualibet.—Juvenal. This was the emperor Vespasian’s answer to those who complained of his laying gabels on urine and other sordid things.—R.

    So yourself be good, a fig for your grandfather.

    Soft [or slow] fire maketh sweet malt. HE.
    Ralph Roister Doister, 1566; Gascoigne’s Posies, 1575; The Cold Yeare, 1614; A Deepe Snow, &c., 1615, 4to, repr. Miscell. Antiq. Anglic., p. 15.

  • “Hold, hold, quoth Hudibras, Soft fire,
  • They say, does make sweet mault, Good Squire,
  • Festina lente, not too fast;
  • For hast (the Proverb sayes) makes waste.
  • Hudibras, 1663, part 1, c. 3, p. 258.
  • Soft words break no bones [or hurt not the mouth].
    Donces or belles paroles n’écorchent pas la langue.

    Soldiers in peace are like chimneys in summer.
    Tarlton’s Jests, 1638 (Old English Jest-Books, ii. 201).

    Some are always busy and never do anything.

    Some are atheists only in fair weather.

    Some are wise, and some are otherwise.

    Some go to law / for the wagging of a straw.

    Some good, some bad, as sheep come to the fold.
    Sunt bona, sunt quædam mediocria, sunt mala plura. Quæ legis, &c. Martial.—R.

    Some good things I do not love; a good long mile, good small beer, and a good old woman.

    Some had rather guess at much, than take the pains to learn a little.

    Some have been thought brave, because they were afraid to run away.

    Some have the hap: / some stick in the gap.

    Some injure all they fear, and hate all they injure.

    Some make a conscience of spitting in the church, yet rob the altar. H.

    Some men must love my lady, and some Joan.

    Some part of Kent hath health and no wealth [viz., East Kent]; some wealth and no health [viz., the Weald of Kent]; some both health and wealth [viz., the middle of the county and parts near London].

    Some rain, some rest.
    A harvest-proverb.—R. There is a later addition: “Fine weather isn’t always best.”

    Some savours in a house do well.

    Some sport is sauce to pains. CL.

    Some that speak no ill of any do no good to any.

  • Some work in the morning may trimly be done,
  • that all the day after may hardly be won. TUSSER (1580).
  • Some would play a tune before you can tune your fiddle.

    Something hath some savour.

    Sometimes words / hurt more than swords.

    Somewhat is better than nothing. C.
    Mas vale algo que nada.—Span.

    Soon crooks the tree / that good gambrel would be.
    Gambrel, Cambril or Camock. Camden prints Cameril. See Nares’ Glossary, 1859, art. Gambril, and Moor’s Suffolk Words, 1823, p. 48. Moor quotes from Drayton’s Eclogues, 1593:

  • “Bitter the blossom when the fruit is sour,
  • And early crook’d that will a camock be.”
  • “A gambrel is a crooked piece of wood, on which butchers hang up the carcasses of beasts by the legs, from the Italian word gamba, signifying a leg. Adeò à teneris assuescere multum est.”—R. See, moreover, a long and learned note on this word in Sir G. C. Lewis’s Herefordshire Glossary, 1839, in voce.

    Soon gotten, soon spent: / ill gotten, ill spent. HE.

    Soon hot, soon cold. HE.

    Soon in the goom [gum], quick in the womb.
    A saying relevant to children who cut their teeth early.

    Soon learnt, soon forgotten: / soon ripe, soon rotten. HE.
    Harman’s Caveat, 1567; Ballad by W. Elderton (circa 1570), in Ancient Ballads, &c., 1867, p. 263; “I doubt thou wilt proove like a sommer apple, soone ripe, soone rotten.”—Jack of Dover, 1604 (Old E. J. B., ii. 338). “The proverbe olde is verified, soon ripe and soon rotten.”—Preston’s Cambyses (1570), Hazlitt’s Dodsley, iv. 215. “Cito maturum citò putridum. Odi puerulum præcoci sapientia.—Apul. It is commonly held an ill sign for a child to be too forward and ripe-witted, viz., either to betoken premature death, according to that motto I have somewhere seen under a coat-of-arms,

  • Is cadit ante senem qui sapit ante diem;
  • or to betoken as early a decay of wit and parts. As trees that bear double flowers, viz., cherries, peaches, &c., bring forth no fruit, but spend all in the blossom. Presto maturo, presto marzo. Ital.”—R.

    Sooner said than done. HE.

    Sooner named, sooner come.

  • “Sooner named, sooner come, as common Prouerbes say.”
  • Conflict of Conscience, 1581, edit. 1851, p. 29.
  • Sooth boord is no boord.
    i.e., a true jest is no jest. Harington’s Apologie of Poetrie, 1591.

    Sorrow and an evil life / maketh soon an old wife.

    Sorrow at parting if at meeting there be laughter.
    Towneley Mysteries, 243.

    Sorrow comes unsent for.
    Mala ultro adsunt.—R.

    Sorrow ends not when it seemeth done.

    Sorrow for a husband is like a pain in the elbow, sharp and short.

    Sorrow is always dry.
    “To see it thus, much grieued was I. The prouerbe says, Sorrow is dry.”—W. Browne’s Poems, by Hazlitt, ii. 354.

    Sorrow is good for nothing but sin.

    Sorrow rode in my cart. East Anglia.
    “I did it, but had reason to repent it afterwards.”—Forby.

    Sorrow will pay no debt.

    Soulgrove [February] is seldom warm.
    Aubrey’s Remains of Gentilism, &c.

    Sour grapes can ne’er make sweet wine.

    Southwark ale.

  • “The nappy strong ale of Southwirke
  • Keeps many a Gossip fro the Kirke.”
  • —Braithwaite’s Comment on Two Tales of Chaucer, &c., 1665, p. 3, where this is called an “over-worn Proverb.”

    Sow beans in the mud, / and they’ll grow like wood.

    Sow in the slop [or sop], / heavy at top. East Anglia.
    i.e., Wheat sown when the ground is wet is most productive.—Forby’s Vocab., p. 417. “That is, land in a soppy or wet state is in a favourable condition for receiving seed; a statement, however, somewhat questionable.”—Halliwell.

    Sow or set beans in Candlemas waddle. Somerset.
    Wane of the moon.—R.

  • Sow peas and beans on David and Chad,
  • be the weather good or bad. D.
  • Sow thin, shear thin. D.

    Sow wheat in dirt, and rye in dust.
    Another version is:

  • “Sow wheat in mud, / ’Twill stand in flood:
  • Barley in dust / Be dry that must.”
  • Spaniels that fawn when beaten will never forsake their masters.

    Spanish castles.
    Or Chateaux d’Espagne. Imaginary or fictitious possessions. A saying reputed to have arisen from the incomplete erection of the Alhambra of Granada. See Ellis’s Orig. Letters, 2nd S., iii. 218, where the expression occurs in a letter written before 1612. The Italians have the equivalent: Far castelli in aria.

    Spare and ever bare. C.

    Spare at the brim rather than at the bottom. C.

    Spare the rod and spoil the child. CL.

  • “Remember what writeth Solomon the wise,
  • Qui parcit virgæ, odit filium.”
  • —Ingelend’s Disobedient Child (about 1560), in Hazlitt’s Dodsley, ii. 317.

    Spare to speak and spare to speed. HE.*
    Heywood’s Fayre Mayde of the Exchange, 1607.

    Spare well and spend well.

    Spare when you are young and spend when you are old.

    Sparing is the first gaining. B. OF M. R.

    Sparrows fight for corn which is none of their own.

    Speak fair and think what you will. C.

    Speak not of a dead man at the table. H.

    Speak truth and shame the devil.
    Breton’s Court and Country, 1618 (repr. Roxb. Lib., 193). So we say nowadays; but Dekker, in his Knights Conjuring, 1607, repr. 1842, p. 23, has this passage:—“For to saie truth (because tis sinne to belye the Diuell).”

    Speak well of your friend, and of your enemy say nothing.

    Speak what you will, bad men will turn it ill.

    Spears are not made of bulrushes.

    Speech is the picture of the mind.

    Spend, and God shall send. HE.
    Gascoigne’s Posies, 1575. A qui chapon mange chapon lui vient. Fr. He that eats good meat shall have good meat.—R.

  • Spend, and god shall send (saieth he) saith tholde ballet,
  • What sendth he (saie I): a staffe and a wallet.—Heywood.
  • Spend not when you may save; spare not where you must spend.

    Spick and span new.
    Du. spelleniew, spiksspelderniew; Sw. spillertswy; Ou. Spánnyr; Dan. splinterny; all, as well as the E. terms, signify fresh from the hands of the workman—fresh out from the block, chip and splinter new.—Wedgwood’s Dict. of English Etymology, art. Spick and Span. See further ibid.

    Spilt wine is worse than water.

    Spin not too fine a thread, lest it break in weaving up.