Mab of the Antipodes (mab_browne) wrote in fandom_grammar,
Mab of the Antipodes

Say What? - A fool and his money are soon parted/pride comes before a fall

Today’s ‘Say What?’ post looks at a fool and his money are soon parted, and pride comes before a fall.

These two proverbs both embody what my NZ Oxford dictionary calls ‘a general truth’. The concepts behind the sayings appear self-evident, something that human society has always said. Just how long is ‘always’?

Blake’s 7 seems a perfect canon to illustrate matters of money and pride.

A fool and his money are soon parted means exactly what you might think. People who are careless about money don’t get to keep much of it. English is full of pithy remarks about how to hang on to and amass your cash. Neither a borrower nor a lender be. A penny saved is a penny earned. Look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves.

A fool and his money are soon parted recognisably entered written English in Dr. John Bridges' Defence of the Government of the Church of England, which was published in 1587:

If they pay a penie or two pence more for the reddinesse of them...
let them looke to that, a foole and his money is soone parted.

A similar concept appeared a few years earlier in a book by Thomas Tusser called Five Hundreth Pointes of Good Husbandrie, published in 1573:

A foole & his money,
be soone at debate:
which after with sorow,
repents him to late.

And in fannish example number one, who better to talk about money than two thieves?

Vila wriggled his fingers as if for a gymnastic warm-up. “There isn’t a pocket that I can’t pick. You know what they say – a fool and his money are soon parted.”

“In which case,” Avon drawled, “I anticipate your almost immediate impoverishment.”

Pride comes before a fall has undergone a little more evolution. The original quote comes from the King James version of the Bible, from the Book of Proverbs.

Pride goeth before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall.
Proverbs 16:18

This looks like serious stuff, and it is. Proverbs is a book of wisdom – practical advice for the godly man and woman on how to live the right way. Destruction and falls come in many forms in the Old Testament – destitution, sickness, public humiliation, invading armies, death. In the Christian tradition, pride is named as one of the Deadly Sins, and a devout Christian aims for humility and the abnegation of self. The ancient Greeks had a specific name for sinful, over-confident pride – hubris.

But pride has long had more than one association – it’s a positive trait too. Someone who takes pride in their work does the job properly, we talk of someone or something being our pride and joy, we hope to take pride in our achievements. In the twenty-first century, we’re more likely to use the French-derived arrogance for the way the word pride is used in the Book of Proverbs.

The offers the following interpretation of pride goes before a fall:

If you are too proud and overconfident, you will make mistakes leading to your defeat.

This proverb comes (or goes) in two forms:

Pride comes before a fall.
Pride goes before a fall.

As we've seen, the original Bible quote uses goes, and according to, the goes form is more common in USA usage and the comes version is more common in UK/Commonwealth usage.

Fannish example number two offers two men of considerable pride (and the UK usage).

Avon’s patience was stretched thin by the over-confident folly of Blake’s latest scheme, and he snapped out, “Remember, oh fearless leader, that pride comes before a fall.”

“Reading banned books again, Avon?” Blake smiled almost pleasantly. “Best to take your own advice, don’t you think?”

Sage counsel has a long history, as does people refusing to listen to it. The wisdom of Proverbs in its original goes back over two thousand years. In the case of today’s two examples, people have been using these exhortations to common sense and modesty for over five hundred years.

Links of Interest
Tags: !say what, author:mab_browne, language:colloquial

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