In for a penny, in for a pound

Justin, the father of Julia, my 10-year-old daughter’s best friend, has just called, looking for his daughter.

Julia and my daughter Meg have just spent the night with Mame-Diarra, the other friend in the triad that was formed in kindergarten, and now all three are at my house.

Justin asked me when I wanted him to pick up Julia, and I told him that Mame-Diarra was staying until 6 p.m. the next day, so it was “in for a penny, in for a pound.”

Meaning that as long as Meg had one friend here, she might as well have two, and so Julia was welcome to stay with us until 6 tomorrow night, 26 hours from now.

He said he’d be by shortly to pick her up, at which point I realized that he hadn’t the slightest idea what I meant in using this oh-so-very-English proverb of “in for a penny, in for a pound.”

Which got me to thinking about English proverbs.

I clicked on a link to English proverbs and read through them, making a list of the ones I’d heard most frequently in my family, most often from my mother and my two grandmothers:

A watched pot never boils (probably said often in a nation of tea-drinkers)

Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t

Cold hands, warm heart

Curiosity killed the cat

Discretion is the better part of valour

Don’t cry over spilt milk

Don’t look a gift horse in the mouthgift-horse

Don’t teach your grandmother to suck eggs

Good things come to those who wait

Great minds think alike

It takes all sorts

It’s an ill wind that blows nobody any good

Laughter is the best medicine

Make hay while the sun shines

Many hands make light work

Money doesn’t grow on trees

No rest for the weary

My mother’s favorite, which isn’t on this list, is:  “All things must pass,” and my dad’s favorites are, “Where there’s muck there’s money” (he was a farmer’s boy) and, “It’s a good life if you don’t weaken.”

Another proverb (or perhaps “saying” might be a better word for it) said often in families like mine from the north of England is, “There’s now’t so queer as folk,” meaning, there’s nothing so strange as people.

The only possible response to this statement is, “Except more folk.”

Clearly, “It takes all sorts!”


Benjamin Franklin was probably the most productive collector and producer of proverbs in the United States, ranging from “He that lives upon hope will die fasting” to “You can bear your own faults and why not a fault in your wife?”  Take a look at all the wisdom in Franklin’s Poor Richard’s Almanac.

Do you and/or your family have any favorite proverbs?

Here are some proverbs from around the world: the American South, Italy, Africa, France, Turkey, Germany, Sweden, China, and Russia.