DON’T COUNT YOUR CHICKENS BEFORE THEY ARE HATCHED
Aesop, around 570 BC.
This saying occurs in the fable “The Milkmaid and Her Pail”. Patty, a farmer’s daughter, is daydreaming as she walks to town with a pail of milk balanced on her head.
Her thoughts: “The milk in this pail will provide me with cream, which I will make into butter, which I will sell in the market, and buy a dozen eggs, which will hatch into chickens, which will lay more eggs, and soon I shall have a large poultry yard. I’ll sell some of the fowls and buy myself a handsome new gown and go to the fair, and when the young fellows try to make love to me, I’ll toss my head and pass them by.”
At that moment, Patty tossed her head and lost the pailful of milk. Her mother admonished: “Do not count your chickens before they are hatched.”
AN EYE FOR AN EYE
Hammurabi, around 1750 BC.
Although a similar saying appears twice in the Old Testament of the Bible, it originated in the legal code of Hammurabia a king of Babylon.
The ancient laws, carved on an 8-ft diorite column, deal with everything from robbery to marriage.
The saying is found in a passage on physical punishment and reads: “If a man destroy the eye of another man, they shall destroy his eye.”
CHARITY BEGINS AT HOME
Sir Thomas Browne, 1642
An English physician by trade, Sir Thomas Browne was also a noted writer who had an avid interest in witchcraft, mystical symbolism, religion, and philosophy. He holds a prominent place in literature because of his eloquent and splendid use of the English language. His first book, “Religio Medici”, was an unsuccessful attempt to bring together science and religion. In this work is Browne’s comment on charity: “But how shall we expect charity towards others, when we are uncharitable to ourselves? ‘Charity begins at home’ is the voice of the world; yet is every man his greatest enemy, and, as it were, his own executioner.”
WHEN IN ROME, DO AS THE ROMANS DO
St. Ambrose, 387 AD.
When St. Augustine arrived in Milan, he observed that the Church did not fast on Saturday as did the Church at Rome. He consulted St. Ambrose, bishop of Milan, who replied: “When I am at Rome, I fast on a Saturday; when I am at Milan, I do not. Follow the custom of the Church where you are.”
The comment was changed to “When they are at Rome, they do there as they see done” by Robert Burton. Eventually it became “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.”
DON’T LOOK A GIFT HORSE IN THE MOUTH
St. Jerome, 400 AD
This proverb is based on the fact that a horse’s value is determined by his age, which, in turn, can be roughly determined by an examination of his teeth. The message conveyed is that a gift should be appreciated for the thought and spirit behind it, not according to its value.