The purpose of proverbs is to teach people wisdom and help them understand the insights of the wise. Some proverbs are indeed worth abiding by, while others . . . not so much. Many proverbs actually have an opposite proverb, making it hard to choose the one that actually speaks the truth. Still other proverbs are commonly misused and carry a different meaning today than originally intended.
10 Curiosity Killed The Cat
Actually: Care killed the cat.
The phrase “curiosity killed the cat” serves as a warning to those who are too curious for their own good. However, the proverb we know today actually originated from “care killed the cat,” with the word “care” meaning “worry” or “sorrow.” The proverb was first recorded in Ben Johnson’s play Every Man in His Humour in 1598. It is believed that the play was performed by a troupe of actors that included William Shakespeare.
Later, without any scruples, Shakespeare used the memorable line in his own play Much Ado About Nothing: “What, courage man! what though care killed a cat, thou hast mettle enough in thee to kill care.”
In 1898, the original expression of “care killed the cat” was still in use when it was defined in Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable: “It is said that ‘a cat has nine lives,’ yet care would wear them all out.” However, in that same year, the phrase was printed as “it is said that once ‘curiosity killed a Thomas cat’ ” in The Galveston Daily News. By the time it appeared in Eugene O’Neill’s play Diff’rent in 1922, the phrase had morphed into the one we so often use today.
9 Blood Is Thicker Than Water
Actually: The blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb.
“Blood is thicker than water” is often used to imply that family ties are more important than duty to anything else. Today, we often use the phrase to remind one another that family bonds are far more significant than temporary relationships with friends. This is not at all what the phrase originally meant.
The original version stated, “the blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb,” meaning that the bond between comrades is stronger than your family allegiance. Back in the day, the word blood was taken quite literally and was referring to the blood that was shed by soldiers on the battlefield. “Blood is thicker than water” was also used in reference to blood covenants that people used to make by sharing the blood of an animal or even by cutting one another and mixing their blood together. Once the covenant was made, it bonded them for life and meant that they were committed to one another more than they were committed to their own brothers.