Living ass / dead lion, 1773

Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Sat Feb 27 16:17:09 UTC 2010

Is the following from 1773 of interest, and to whom might it be
sent?  A 2006 dictionary of proverbs cites 1855.

"A living ass, is better than a dead lion."  Connecticut Journal [New
Haven]; Date: 09-03-1773; Issue: 307; Page: [3] col. 2.  [EAN]

The _Dictionary of Proverbs_, 2006 [so titled and dated by Google
Books], by George Latimer Apperson, M. Manser, has this in a
quotation dated 1855.  It's in the entry "Living dog is better than a
dead lion, a", which is dated to A. 1382.  WorldCat tells me that for
2006 there is _The Wordsworth Dictionary of Proverbs, by George
Latimer Apperson (that is, without crediting Manser).  [GB, limited preview.]

_English proverbs and proverbial phrases: a historical
dictionary_,  George Latimer Apperson (1929), page 376, dates it to
1909.  Like the 2006 dictionary, this is under the entry "living dog
...".  [GB, snippet.]

"Living dog ..." comes from Ecclesiastes 9:4:  "For to him that is
joined to all the living there is hope: for a living dog is better
than a dead lion."  [King James]

GB reveals 4 different instance of use of "living ass" between 1801
and 1821, and none earlier.

Google Web says it is said by the Italians and the Chinese.  A Marco
Polo connection?  :-)


The American Dialect Society -

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