Sayings are passed down through the generations and we’re all familiar with them – and many probably entered the English language hundreds of years ago. They’ve been used down the years for adding weight to all sorts of points, usually cautionary ones – “curiosity killed the cat” has been used against many a child whose been caught looking for their Christmas presents, I dare say. But I found out recently – via a social media share from my business buddy Karen Kodish Photography – that many of these sayings started out with a lot more to them, which in some cases, changes their modern meaning and usage altogether. Here are a few examples of some old sayings in full:



Curiosity killed the cat


I’ve already mentioned it, so let’s start here. This is the original saying: “Curiosity killed the cat, but satisfaction brought it back.” Which suggests that the wisdom comes from the exact opposite of what the phrase is usually used for today; ie, you could be taking some risks, but you’ll end up being very glad you did, and there will probably be no harm done.



Blood is thicker than water


Which we all usually understand to mean that family ties will win in a contest against friendships…but originally, the saying was this: “the blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb.” Once again, the exact opposite – those promises we choose to make (friendships, marriages, and even the religious connotations of the word ‘covenant’ etc) are stronger than the family ties we inherit from birth. Hmm, don’t think I’ll tell my children about this one.



Jack of all trades, master of none


Generally thought of as a bad thing, no? If you can’t specialise in something, you won’t be much good at any of them? There’s a bit missing off the end of this one, too. In full, it’s: “A jack of all trades is a master of none, but oftentimes better than a master of one”. So basically, being average at several different things in life can be better than being awesome at only one thing – so don’t worry if you’re not perfect!



Great minds think alike…


“…and fools seldom differ.” Doesn’t sound quite as complimentary when you say the full phrase! Perhaps it’s suggesting that it’s great to share ideas and agree with others, but if everyone thinks the same way, a herd mentality sets in.



Birds of a feather flock together…


“…until the cat comes.” The phrase, which seems to celebrate finding your tribe and being drawn to people who are similar to you, is actually about friends of the fairweather variety – and that at the first sign of danger, you may find they’re the first to scatter.


One of the responses I read on that original Facebook post pointed out the originals are so different to the cautionary messages they’ve morphed into nowadays. Their first intention was to embrace curiosity; explore boundaries beyond those you know; try out lots of different skills; think outside of the box; have a wide circle of people you know, of all different ages, backgrounds and interests. I love that.

Sayings in full RLC Words Milton Keynes Copywriter

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