"Look a (gift) horse in the mouth"

Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Sun Mar 10 17:58:28 UTC 2013

Can someone easily tell me the date of "look a (gift) horse in the mouth"?

The OED has it earliest in 1663, under "gift-horse", as
1663   S. Butler Hudibras: First Pt. i. i. 37   He ne'er consider'd
it, as loath To look a gift-horse in the mouth.

I have "look a horse  in the mouth" (that is, without "gift") in a
quack's harangue attributed to the Earl of Rochester, which would
make his use before 1680.  (I don't know whether a publication date
can be obtained.)

The quotation is not exactly PC:  "here in England, look a horse in
the Mouth, and a Woman in the Face, you presently know both their
Ages to a Year."


The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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