old proverb

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Mon Apr 19 02:14:29 UTC 2010

At 6:09 PM -0400 4/18/10, Victor Steinbok wrote:
>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.

Did you try checking under "hound" as well as "dog"?  "Let sleeping
hounds lie" is older than the "dog" version, from back when dogs were
a kind of hound rather than vice versa.


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

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

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