old proverb

Victor Steinbok aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM
Sun Apr 18 22:09:10 UTC 2010

I was surprised to find the form "An old dog will learn no tricks" in
Bailey's dictionary of 1675. The same ends up in Bailey's Dictionary of
Proverbs of 1721 (and its 1917 reprint, which is on-line). Indeed,
Wikiquote cites to the 1721 edition (which is available under

The surprise has nothing to do with the age--I expect the expression to
be much older than that. It's the form without "new" that surprised
me--as in, "Can't teach an old dog new tricks".

Now that I have library access to the OED, I have no excuse for not
looking there. But I am still short of quotation and proverb books. In
any case, I am not attempting to antedate the expression--simply
thinking "out loud", so to speak.


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

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