Home  »  English Proverbs and Proverbial Phrases  »  In little to It is evil

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

In little to It is evil

In little meddling lieth much rest.
See Dyce’s Skelton, ii. 332, and Paradyce of Daynty Devyses, 1578, repr. 135. Countryman’s New Commonwealth, 1647.

In love is no lack. HE.

In love’s wars, he who flieth is conqueror.

  • In March, / the birds begin to search;
  • In April, / the corn begins to fill;
  • In May, / the birds begin to lay.
  • In March, kill crow, pie, and cadow, / rook, buzzard, and, raven:
  • Or else go desire them / to seek a new haven. D.
  • In March, / the cuckoo starts;
  • in April, / a’ tune his bill;
  • in May, / a’ sing all day;
  • in June, / a’ change his tune;
  • in July, / away a’ fly;
  • in August, / away a’ must;
  • in September, / you’ll ollers remember;
  • in October, / ’ull never get over. E. Anglia.
  • Notes and Queries, Jan. 23, 1869. Another version is current in South Devon:
  • “In March, / he sits upon his parch:
  • In April, / he tunes his bill:
  • In May, / sings night and day:
  • In June, / alters his tune:
  • In July, / away he fly.”
  • “Of the ‘change of tune’ alluded to in these verses, it has been remarked (Trans. Linn. Soc.), that in early season the cuckoo begins with the interval of a minor third, proceeds to a major third, then to a fourth, then to a fifth, after which the voice breaks, never attaining a minor sixth.”—Halliwell. The older notions respecting the cuckoo have been corrected by modern researches and observations, imprimis, his appearances in March. Yet in 1905 during an interval of warm weather I heard him in Richmond Park, on the side toward Kingston Bottom, in the last week of February, and I understood that he had been similarly observed elsewhere.

    In meal or in malt.
    Either the money or the money’s worth. The saying is used of one who will have his due in some shape.

    In mine eame’s peason.
    i.e., In my uncle’s peas. See the Merie Tales of Skelton (1567), in Old English Jest Books, iii. 16. The phrase appears to signify here to be drunk, like the French, Etre dans les vignes.

    In much corn is some cockle.
    Summers Last Will and Testament, by T. Nash, 1600 (Dodsley’s O. P., ix. 78).

  • In Oldham brewis wet and warm,
  • And Rochdale puddings there’s no harm.
  • Higson’s MSS. Coll., 212.

    In pudding time. HE.
    Fulwell’s Likes will to Like, 1568; Walker’s Parœm., 1672, p. 31. Equivalent to, In time for dinner, since the pudding was formerly the first dish. In Taylor’s Discovery by Sea from London to Salisbury, 1623, this expression might almost seem to bear the meaning of our phrase In the nick of time.

  • In Radnorshire / is neither knight nor peer,
  • Nor park with deer, / nor gentleman with five hundred a year,
  • Except Sir William Fowler of Abbey Cwin Hir.
  • Higson’s MSS. Coll., 174. By “peer” here must be understood “resident peer.”

    In rain and sunshine cuckolds go to heaven.

  • In Rochdale
  • strangers prosper, and natives fail.
  • In settling an island, the first building erected by a Spaniard would be a church; by a Frenchman, a fort; by a Dutchman, a warehouse; and by an Englishman, an alehouse.

    In silk and scarlet / walks many a harlot.
    This is sometimes accompanied by the couplet:

  • By time and rule
  • Works many a fool.
  • In Sixti festo venti validi memor esto,
  • Si sit nulla quies, farra valere scies.
  • Cole’s MSS. Coll., vol. 44.

    In sleep, what difference is there between Solomon and a fool?

    In space cometh grace. HE.

    In spending lies the advantage. H.

    In sports and journeys men are known. H.

    In the coldest flint there is hot fire. CL.

    In the company of strangers silence is safe.

    In the deepest water is the best fishing.

    In the end / things will mend.

    In the fair tale is foul falsity.

    In the forehead and the eye / the lecture of the mind doth lie.
    Walker (1672).

    In the grave, dust and bones jostle not for the wall.

    In the greatest ill the good man hath hope left.

    In the kingdom of a cheater the wallet is carried before. H.

    In the kingdom of blind men the one-eyed is king. H.
    Unoculus inter cæcos—the one-eyed monarch of the blind.—JOHNSON.

  • In the month of April,
  • the gowk comes over the hill,
  • in a shower of rain;
  • and on the —— of June,
  • he turns his tune again. Craven.
  • In the morning mountains: / in the evening fountains. H.

    In the nick.
    Or, as we now say. In the nick of time. The first is probably the original expression. Nick = notch, by which in some cases the time may have been formerly calculated. See Syr Gyles Goosecappe Knight, sign. C 4. verso, and Day’s Blind Beggar of Bednal Green, 1659, ed. Bullen, p. 88. In the very nick of time.—Walker.

  • In the old of the moon
  • a cloudy morning bodes a fair afternoon.
  • In the shoemaker’s stocks.

    In the time of affliction a vow; in the time of prosperity an inundation.

    In the time of mirth take heed.

    In the twinkling of a bedstaff.
    Walpole’s Letters, ed. Cunningham, i. 61 (Letter to R. West, 1740).

    In the twinkling of an eye.

  • “Than, and I make curtsie, and hold my tong,
  • He hath done with the twinklyng of an eye.”
  • Gestys of the Widow Edyth, 1525 (Old Engl. Jest Books, iii. 65).
  • Merchant of Venice, 1600, ii. 2.

  • In the world there be men,
  • that will have the egg and the hen. B. OF M. R.
  • In the world, who knows not to swim goes to the bottom. H.

    In things that must be, it is good to be resolute.

    In time comes he whom God sends. H.

  • In time of prosperity friends will be plenty;
  • in times of adversity not one amongst twenty. HOWELL.
  • In too much dispute truth is lost.

    In trust is treason. HE.
    Gascoigne’s Posies, 1575 (Works, i. 436); Taylor’s Works, 1630.

    In truth they must not eat, / that will not work in heat.

    In two cabs of dates there is one cab of stones, and more.

    In vain doth the mill clack, / if the miller his hearing lack. H.

    In vain he craves advice that will not follow it.

    In vain they rise early that used to rise late. DS.

    In Valentine / March lays her line.

    In Vino Veritas.
    Title of a tract printed in 1698. This is equivalent to our English, “When the drink goes in, the wit goes out.”

  • In war, hunting, and love,
  • men for one pleasure a thousand griefs prove. H.
  • In wealth beware of woe, whatso’ thee haps,
  • and bear thyself evenly for fear of after-claps.
  • Caxton’s ed. of Lydgate Stans Puer ad Mensam, ad finem.

    In wiving and thriving men should take counsel of all the world.

    Incidis in Scyllam, cupiens vitare Charybdim.
    This is as well known as most English proverbs. See Fournier (L’Esfrit des Autres, ed. 1861, p. 33). The line occurs in the Fifth Book of the Alexandreid of Philip Gautier of Lille, a poet of the 13th century, of whom all our knowledge is at present derived from Henri de Gand (Catalogus Virorum Illustrium, cap. 23). Cox, Bishop of Ely, in a letter to Queen Elizabeth, says, “Navigo inter Scyllam et Charybdim.”—Ellis’s Orig. Letters, 3rd S., iv. 72. But the passage between the two headlands has become gradually wider owing to the action of the waves and is no longer so dangerous as it was.

    Inconvenient to my Lord Castlecomer.
    See Walpole’s Letters, ed. Cunningham, vi. 154, 163, and Sussex Arch. Coll., xi. 188.

    Industry is Fortune’s right hand, and Frugality her left.

    Industry need not wish.
    Poor Richard Improved, 1758, by B. Franklin.

    Infra dig[nitatem.]

    Ingratitude drieth up wells, / and time bridges fells. W.

    Ingratitude is the daughter of pride.

    Injuries don’t use to be written on ice.

    Injurious men brook no injuries.

    Inkhorn terms.
    Pedantic or affected phraseology. Nash’s Summers Last Will and Testament, 1600 (Hazlitt’s Dodsley, viii. 70), and see the note.

    Innocence itself sometimes hath need of a mask.

    Insolence is pride when her mask is pulled off.

    Into a mouth shut flies fly not. H.
    MS. Ashmole, 1153 (somewhat differently). This reminds us of Colonel Higgins and the Duke of Gloucester.

    Into the mouth of a bad dog falls many a good bone.
    Souvent à mauvais chien tombe un bon os en gueule. Fr.—R.

    Invite not a Jew either to pig or pork.

    Irish brogues for English dogs.
    Boullaye-le-Gouz (1644) mentions this as a proverb in his time in his Travels, folio, 1657. A brogue was an Irish shoe.

    Is it an emperor’s business to catch flies?

    Is no coin good silver but your penny?

    Is the wind at that door? HE.
    Gascoigne’s Works, by Hazlitt, i. 223.

    Is there no mean but fast or feast?

    It becomes him as well as a sow doth a cart saddle.

    It comes by kind: it costs him nothing.

    It comes from Needingworth. CL.

    It costs more to revenge injuries than to bear them.

    It does not rain but it pours.

    It early pricks that will be a thorn.

    It falls not under every one’s cap.
    North’s Life of Lord Keeper Guilford, 1740, ed. 1826, p. 87.

    It goes down like chopped hay.

    It goeth against the grain.
    The grain, pecten ligni, longways the wood, as the fibres run. To go transversely to these fibres is to go against the grain.—R.

    It hangs together as pebbles in a withe. CL.

    It happeth in one hour that happeth not in seven years. HE.
    It changeth in an hour, that happeneth not in seven years. C.

  • “Plus enim fati valet hora benigni,
  • Quàm si te veneris commendet epistola Marti.—Horat.
  • Every man is thought to have some lucky hour, wherein he hath an opportunity offered him of being happy all his life, could he but discern it, and embrace the occasion. Accasca in un punto quel che non accasca in cento anni. Ital. Donde menos se piensa, salta la liébre. Span.”—R. There is a tide in the affairs of men, &c., as Shakespeare says (Julius Cæsar, iv. 3).

    It is a bad action that success cannot justify.

    It is a bad bargain where both are losers.

    It is a bad cloth that will take no colour. HE.

    It is a base thing to tear a dead lion’s beard off.

    It is a blind goose that knows not a fox from a fern bush.

    It is a blind man’s question to ask why those things are loved which are beautiful.

    It is a cunning part to play the fool well.

    It is a dear collop that is cut out of one’s own flesh. HE.

    It is a fair degree of plenty to have what is necessary.

    It is a fine moon, God bless her! D.

    It is a foolish bird that stayeth the laying salt upon her tail.
    I recollect that, when I was a child, I was sent from a house at Broxbourne in Hertfordshire, where I was staying, with a few pinches of salt to catch birds.

    It is a fortunate head that never ached.

    It is a good divine that follows his own instructions.

    It is a good dog that can catch anything.

    It is a good friend that is always giving, though it be never so little.

  • It is a good horse that never stumbles,
  • and a good wife that never grumbles.
  • The first part is in Heywood’s Works, 1563, cap. viii. (copied by Camden); and in Walker, 1672, p. 37. “A good horse that trippeth not once in a journey.”—Three Proper and Wittie Familiar Letters, 1580, repr. p. 299.

    It is a good hunting-bout that fills the belly.

    It is a good knife, ’twas made at Dull-edge.

    It is a goodly thing to take two pigeons with one bean. B. OF M. R.

    It is a great act of life to sell air well.

    It is a great journey to life’s end.

    It is a great point of wisdom to find out one’s own folly.

    It is a great savouriness to dine and not pay the reckoning.
    MS. Ashmole, 1153.

    It is a great way to the bottom of the sea.
    Breton’s Crossing of Proverbs, 1616. “Not so,” is the crossing; “it is but a stone’s cast.”

    It is a hard-fought field where no man escapeth unkilled. HE.

    It is a hard thing to have a great estate and not fall in love with it.

    It is a hard winter when dogs eat dogs.

    It is a little comfort to the miserable to have companions.
    Kempe’s Nine Daies Wonder, 1600. But this is only a various reading of a saying reported elsewhere, and the latter is from the Latin.

    It is a long lane that has no turning.
    “Som tyme an ende ther is on every deed.”—Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, ed. Wright, p. 36 (1 vol. edit.) Hay says: ’Tis a long run that never turns.

    It is a mad hare that will be caught with a tabor.

    It is a poor dog that does not know “come out.” E. Anglia.
    i.e., that does not know when to desist.—Forby.

    It is a poor dog that is not worth whistling. HE.

    It is a poor family that hath neither a whore nor a thief in it.

    It is a poor heart that never rejoices.

    It is a poor sport that is not worth the candle. H.

    It is a rank courtesy, when a man is forced to give thanks for what is his own.

    It is a reproach to be the first gentleman of his race, but it is a greater to be the last.

    It is a sad burthen to carry a dead man’s child.

    It is a sad house where the hen crows louder than the cock.

    It is a shame to steal, but a worse to carry home.

    It is a sheep of Beery: it is marked on the nose. H.
    Applied to those that have a blow.—Notes and Queries, 3rd S., xii. 414. A sheep is often marked on the nose to show to what barn it belongs. The saying might be rendered, He belongs to the Beery lot; he is marked on the nose.—Mr. G. V. Irving (ibid., 488).

    It is a silly fish that is caught twice with the same bait.

    It is a silly flock where the ewe bears the bell.

    It is a silly goose that comes to a fox’s sermon.

    It is a silly horse that can neither whinny nor wag his tail.

    It is a sin against hospitality to open your doors and shut up your countenance.

    It is a sin to belie the devil.

    It is a sorry goose that will not baste itself.

    It is a strange salt fish that no water can make fresh.

    It is a strange wood that has never a dead bough in it.

    It is a sweet sorrow to buy a termagant wife.

    It is a tight tree that has neither knap nor gaw.

    It is a very ill cock that will not crow before he be old.
    Lyly’s Euph. and his Engl., 1580, repr. 1868, p. 366.

    It is a wicked thing to make a dearth one’s garner.

    It is a wise child that knows its own father. CL.
    Merchant of Venice, 1600, ii. 2. He will be a wise child that knows his right father.—Howell’s Letters, ed. 1754, p. 404, letter dated 1646.

    It is a wonder if a crab catch a fowl.
    Englishmen for my Money, 1616 (Hazlitt’s Dodsley, x. 502).

    It is a world to see.
    Interlude of the Four Elements (1519), Hazlitt’s Dodsley, i. 35; Interlude of the Disobedient Child, by T. Ingelend, 1563, edit. 1848, p. 27; Lyly’s Euph., 1579, repr. 1868, p. 116.

    It is absurd to warm one in his armour. H.

    It is all along o’ Colly Weston. Northamptonshire.
    Miss Baker’s Northampt. Gloss., p. 137.

    It is all one a hundred years hence.

    It is always term time in the court of conscience.

    It is an alm’s-deed to punish him.
    Earle, in his character of a Baker (Micro-cosmographic 1628, No. 27), says: “No man verifies the Prouerbe more, that it is an Almes-deed to punish him: for his penalty is a Dole, and do’s the Beggers as much good as their Dinner.”

    It is an easy thing to find a staff to beat a dog.
    Or, a stone to throw at a dog. Qui veut battre son chien trouve assez de batons. Fr. Malefacere qui vult nusquam non causam invenit.—Pub. Mimus. [Greek]. To do evil, a slight pretence or occasion will serve men’s turns.—R.

    It is an equal failing to trust everybody and to trust nobody.

    It is an evil cook that cannot lick his own fingers.
    Wilson’s Arte of Rhetorique, 1553, edit. 1584, p. 222. Celui gouverne bien mal le miel qui n’en taste, et ses doigts n’en leche. Fr.

    It is an ill air where nothing is to be gained.

    It is an ill battle where the devil carries the colours.

    It is an ill-bred dog that will beat a bitch.

    It is an ill dog that deserves not a crust.
    Digna canis pabulo. [Greek]. Eras. ex Suida.—R.

    It is an ill procession where the devil holds the candle.

    It is an ill sack that will abide no clouting. HE.

    It is an ill sign to see a fox lick a lamb.

    It is an ill stake that cannot stand one year in a hedge. HE.

    It is an ill wind that blows no man to good. HE.

  • “An yll wynd that blowth no man good,
  • The blower of wych blast is she;
  • The lyther lustes bred of her broode
  • Can no way brede good propertye.”
  • Song against Idleness, by John Heywood, circa 1540 (Marriage of Wit and Science, &c., p. 80)
  • “Ah! sirra! it is an old prouerb and a true,
  • I sware by the roode!
  • It is an il wind that bloues no man to good.”
  • Marriage of Wit and Wisdom, circa 1570. See also Ellis’s Orig. Letters, 2nd S., iv. 104: Whetstone’s Promos and Cassandra, 1578 (Hazlitt’s Shakespear’s Library, vi. 225): Damon and Pithias, 1571, Dodsley’s O. P., i. 252, edit. 1825; A Knack to Know a Knave, 1594, edit. 1851, p. 372.

    It is an old goose that will eat no oats.
    Lyly’s Endimion, 1591 (Works, 1858, i. 70).

  • It is an omen bad, the yeomen say,
  • if Phœbus show his face the second day.
  • It is as good to be in the dark as without a light.

    It is as great pity to see a woman weep as a goose to go barefoot.
    A C. Mery Talys, ed. 1526; Bale’s Kynge Johan, ed. 1838, p. 7. I scarcely understand in what sense Chamberlain employs the figure of speech, when, writing to Carleton, October 2, 1602, he says: “Divers others lost good summes of five, eight, or fourteen pounds, besides petty detriments of scarfes, fans, gloves; and one mad knave, whether of malice or merriment, tooke the advantage to pull of a gentlewomans shooe, and made the goose go home barefoote.”—Chamberlain’s Letters, 1861, p. 149.

    It is as hard a thing as to sail over the sea in an eggshell.

    It is as long in coming as Cotswold barley. Gloucestershire.
    This is applied to such things as are slow but sure. The corn in this cold country [Gloucester] on the woulds, exposed to the winds, bleak and shelterless, is very backward at the first, but afterwards overtakes the forwardest in the county, if not in the barn, in the bushel, both for the quantity and goodness thereof.—R.

    It is as meet as a thief for the widdy.

    It is as much intemperance to weep too much as to laugh too much.

    It is at courts as it is in ponds; some fish, some frogs.

    It is best to take half in hand and the rest by and by.

    It is better to be a beggar than a fool.
    E meglio esser mendicante, che ignorante. Ital.—R.

    It is better to be a shrew than a sheep. C.

    It is better to be rich and wretched than poor and wretched.
    This was a saying of my father’s. W. C. H.

    It is better to be spited than pitied. C.

    It is better to be [the] head of a lizard than the tail of a lion. H.

    It is better to give the fleece than the wool. C.

    It is better to have a friend at court than a penny in purse.
    Day’s Blind Beggar of Bednal Green, 1659, ed. Bullen, p. 49.

    It is better to have a hen to-morrow than an egg to-day.

    It is better to have one plough going than two cradles.
    Lyly’s Euph. and his Engl., 1580, repr. 1868, p. 229.

    It is better [to] kiss a knave than to be troubled with him. C.

    It is better to knit than blossom.
    As in trees, those that bear the fairest blossoms, as double-flowered cherries and peaches, often bear no fruit at all, so in children, &c.—R. Perhaps Ray may have missed the point here. The sense seems figurative, and applicable to an unmarried woman.

    It is better to marry a quiet fool than a witty scold.

    It is better to marry a shrew than a sheep.
    Epistolæ Hoelianæ, ed. 1754, p. 177, in a letter dated 5 Feb. 1625–6. V. supra. A sheep is a woman without character or will of her own, a nonentity. So in the old play of Tom Tyler and his Wife, edit. 1661, p. 26, the song says:

  • “To marie a sheepe, to marie a shrow,
  • To meete with a friend, to meet with a foe,
  • These checks of chance can no man flie,
  • But God himself that rules the skie.”
  • It is better to play with the ears than the tongue. DS.

    It is better to see a clout / than a hole out. C.

    It is better to spin all night with Penelope than sing all day with Helen.

    It is better to sup with a cutty than want a spoon.

    It is cheap enough to say, God Help you.

    It is done secundum usum Sarum.
    This proverb, coming out of the Church, hath since enlarged itself into a civil use, signifying things done with exactness, according to rule and precedent. Osmund, Bishop of Sarum, about the year 1090, made that ordinal or office, which was generally received all over the land, so that churches thenceforward easily understood one another, speaking the same words in their liturgy.—R. But, as I have shown in my Faiths and Folklore, 1905, the Sarum and other uses exhibit occasional variations.

    It is easier to build two chimneys than to maintain one. H.
    i.e., It is easier to build two chimneys than keep one wife. Chimney seems here to be used in a special sense. Comp. No Man Knows, &c.

    It is easier to descend than to ascend. C.

    It is easier to pull down than build.

    It is easy for a man in health to preach patience to the sick.

    It is easier to strike than defend well.

    It is easy to cry [y]ule at other men’s cost. HE.
    Another [rhyming] version is:

  • “It is good to cry Yule
  • On another man’s stool.”
  • The Italians say, “Le feste son belle a casa d’altri.” This rule the Spaniard is sure to keep.—R. The Italians were always shy of receiving guests under their own roofs.

    It is easy to keep a castle that was never assaulted.

    It is easy to rob an orchard when none keeps it.

    It is either a brake or a bush. WALKER.

    It is evil [or hard] to halt before a cripple. HE.
    Gascoigne’s Posies, 1575: Countryman’s New Commonwealth, 1647. For fear of being detected. Il ne faut pas clocher devant un boiteux. Fr. Chaucer, in Troylus and Cresseide, says, or rather makes Troylus say:

  • “It is full hard to halten unespied
  • Bifor a crepul, for he kan the craft.”
  • Lib. 4 (edit. Bell, v. 228).
  • “Brunello pleesantly doth talk and tipple,
  • Not knowing he did hault before a cripple.”
  • —Harington’s Ariosto, 1591, p. 21.
  • “It is an olde Prouerbe that if one dwell next doore to a creple he will learne to hault.”—Lyly’s Euph., 1579, repr. 1868, p. 131.

    It is evil to hop before them that run for the bell.
    Gascoigne’s Posies, 1575 (Works, by Hazlitt, i. 429).

    It is evil waking of a sleeping dog. HE.
    The Conflict of Conscience, 1581, edit. 1851, p. 52.