[Ads-l] Proverb: Give a man a fish versus teach a man to fish

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Sat Aug 29 19:34:46 UTC 2015

The following saying has been examined by Ralph Keyes in "The Quote
Verifier", Fred R. Shapiro in "The Yale Book of Quotations", and Barry
Popik at "The Big Apple".

Give a man a fish, and he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and
he will eat for a lifetime.

Way back in August 2010 I posted to the ADS list with a relevant
citation from 1885, but Ralph Keyes had already included the 1885
citation in "The Quote Verifier". I also posted a 1911 cite that
remains pertinent.

Now an entry on this topic has been placed on the Quote Investigator
website, and the individuals listed above were acknowledged together
with ADS discussants George Thompson and Victor Steinbok.

Here is a link to Barry's entry:

Here is a link to the QI website:

Feedback welcome,

On Fri, Aug 6, 2010 at 10:45 AM, Garson O'Toole
<adsgarsonotoole at gmail.com> wrote:
> Give a man a fish, and he will eat for a day.  Teach a man to fish and
> he will eat for a lifetime.
> This proverb was discussed by Fred Shapiro at the excellent Quotes
> Uncovered NYT blog yesterday. The instances can be grouped into
> clusters. Here are some early examples of three basic variants
> starting in 1885.
> http://freakonomics.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/08/05/quotes-uncovered-teaching-a-man-to-fish/
> Cite: 1885, "Mrs Dymond" by "Miss Thackeray (Mrs. Richmond Ritchie)"
> aka Anne Isabella Ritchie, Page 342, Smith, Elder, & Co., London.
> (Google Books full view)
> 'He certainly doesn't practise his precepts, but I suppose the Patron
> meant that if you give a man a fish he is hungry again in an hour. If
> you teach him to catch a fish you do him a good turn. But these very
> elementary principles are apt to clash with the leisure of the
> cultivated classes.'
> http://books.google.com/books?id=8Q8GAAAAQAAJ&q=precepts#v=snippet&
> The quote also appeared in an excerpt of the book "Mrs. Dymond" that
> was published in "Macmillan's Magazine" in 1885 August. The excerpt
> was republished in "Littell's Living Age" on 1885 September 5.
> Cite: 1885 August, Macmillan's Magazine, "Mrs. Dymond: Chapter XX:
> Almsgiving", Page 246, Volume 52, Macmillan and Co, London and New
> York. (Google Books full view)
> http://books.google.com/books?id=5RpVvebZ4OoC&q=precepts#v=snippet&
> Cite: 1911, The Common Growth by M. Loane, Page 139, Longmans, Green &
> Co, New York. (Google Books full view)
> It is an oft-quoted saying, and one full of social wisdom: "Give a man
> a fish, and he will be hungry again to-morrow; teach him to catch a
> fish, and he will be richer all his life."
> http://books.google.com/books?id=9OgsAAAAYAAJ&q=%22a+fish%22#v=snippet&
> Cite: 1962 October 23, Winnipeg Free Press, "New Threat: Hunger", Page
> 18, Column 6, Winnipeg, Manitoba. (NewspaperArchive)
> As a fitting motto for the Committee's work, Miss Speers quoted a
> Chinese proverb: "If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day-if
> you teach him to fish, you feed him for many days."
> Garson

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

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