11 December 2009


I have a question to you, dear bloggers...

I was reading the newspaper this morning as I do most mornings when I came across a saying I've heard many times before and its meaning I understand but don't follow the word play exactly. The saying is:

"Don't cut off your nose to spite your face".

There is a saying in Switzerland for the same meaning: "Cut off the branch on which you sit", which to me makes more sense.

So, what's with the nose and face thing?

Can anyone explain it to me,




  1. When you find out let me know. I've heard that ... and have been told that ... my entire life and I always thought it was stupid. We Americans have some very stupid sayings. The one that irritates me is .. "you play the hand you're dealt with". My sister always said that when she had cancer. It is simply not true. If you're playing poker and you're dealt a bad hand, you get a chance to trade in the cards for something better. You can't do that with life. Good luck. Ask Dr. Google. :)

  2. The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations lists this proverb as "mid 16th century - mid 14th century in French". I wouldn't doubt them but the earliest citation I can find in print is much later. Grose's 1796 edition of the 'Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue' explains it thus:

    "He cut off his nose to be revenged of his face. Said of one who, to be revenged on his neighbour, has materially injured himself."

  3. Well, I grew up with that saying. I always understood it to mean as 'don't do whatever you are doing, Linda, for it is a needlessly self-destructive over-reaction to ...the problem'.


  4. Dear William of "Tell"

    Having been in long deliberations with my good colleague, Mr. Eccles, of time telling fame with his "writted" time on paper.
    We have decided that the meaning of the above refers to: "If you have done something stupidly and of course it failed, why repeat the same course? " Seems to myself and my dear friend of time knowledge, Mr Eccles, that the saying of the good people of Switzerland regarding sitting on tree branches is of a similar vein!
    Now as Mr. Eccles has correctly pointed out. "Why could you sit on a tree branch and chop it off to injure yourself in the first place" , so then as Mr. Eccles has said, only a fool would try the same stunt again.

    I trust that my friend, Mr. Eccles and myself, have answered to your satisfaction the point that you wished to have explained???

    Mr. Eccles and myself have just checked our little pieces of paper and the time is 3.10pm.


  5. hello bill: i guess the german equivalent would be "sich ins eigene fleisch schneiden" - you do something on purpose, knowing very well that what you are doing is to your own disadvantage.



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