[Ads-l] Saying: Then there is the man who drowned crossing a stream with an average depth of six inches

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Sat Feb 19 22:26:34 UTC 2022

Way back in 2012 I was asked via email about the remark in the subject
line which was credited to W. I. E. Gates in the popular 1977
compilation "Peter’s Quotations: Ideas for Our Time". After a brief
decade delay I composed a Quote Investigator article. Here is a link:


The earliest instance of the didactic tale that I have located appeared in 1891:

[ref] 1891, Behar Proverbs: Classified and Arranged by John Christian,
Class 3, Proverbs Relating To Peculiarities and Traits, Characteristic
of Certain Castes and Classes, Quote Page 119 and 120, Kegan Paul,
Trench, Trübner & Company, London. (Google Books Full View) link


[Begin excerpt]
Once a Kāyath, with his son, was going on a journey. He came to a
stream. As he was uncertain of its depth, he proceeded to sound it;
and having discovered the depth to be variable, he struck an average.
The average depth being what his son could ford, he ordered him,
unhesitatingly, to walk through the stream, with the sad consequence
that the boy was drowned.
[End excerpt]

Feedback welcome
Garson O'Toole

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

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