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Posts Tagged ‘1616’

If You Want Something Done Well, Do It Yourself

Posted by Admin on November 17, 2010

Not a week goes by that a person won’t hear the phrase “if you want something done well, do it yourself!”  After all, the phrase has been around for centuries!

Economist Mary Jane Latsis (1927 – 1997) and economic analyst Martha Henissart (1929) wrote a number of books under the pen name, Emma Lathen (a combination of the two authors’ names.  One of many books they wrote was their 1975 book “By Hook Or By Crook.”  In that book, they wrote:

Do you know how I got it done in the end? I went down to Annapolis myself. I always say, if you want a thing done well, do it yourself!

The phrase was also found in one of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow‘s poems entitled “The Courtship of Miles Standish” which he published in 1858:

That’s what I always say; if you want a thing to be well done, You must do it yourself, you must not leave it to others.

Not surprising, the phrase itself was an adage T. Draxe published in 1616:

If a man will haue his business well done, he must doe it himselfe.

But back in 1541, Henry Bullinger wrote and published “The Christian State of Matrimony.”  The book proved to be extremely popular with continental as well as English reforming Protestants.  Even after eight editions in the 100 years after its first publication, Bullinger‘s words continued to ring true:

If thou wilt prospere, then loke to euery thynge thyne owne self.

It would appear that through the centuries, people have learned at some point in their lives that “if they want something done well, do it yourself.”

Posted in Idioms from the 16th Century | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Possession Is Nine Tenths Of The Law

Posted by Admin on November 16, 2010

Most people mistakenly believe that possession is nine-tenths of the law.  In other words, they believe that if you have physical possession of an item, it establishes a stronger legal claim to owning it than claiming ownership even with documented proof to support the claim. 

However, possession alone does not imply that any person who holds any property is the rightful owner.  In fact, the nine-tenths to which the idiom refers has nothing whatsoever to do with percentages.  Here are the points to which it refers:

(1) a good deal of money;
(2) a good deal of patience;
(3) a good case;
(4) a good lawyer;
(5) a good counsel;
(6) good witnesses;
(7) a good jury;
(8) a good judge; and
(9) good luck. 

Of course, the one-tenth is having a judgment from the courts clearly stating that the individual is, indeed, the owner of the property in question.

T. Draxe first wrote about possession being nine-tenths of the law in 1616 but the concept goes back to old English common law. In fact, on June 27, 1599 William Shakespeare‘s father, John, was taken to court under Shackspeere contra Lambert.  On October 23, 1599, another entry of the case is recorded:

Yf the defendant show no cause for stay of publicacion by this day sevenight, then publicacion ys granted.

In the end, it appears that William’s father lost the court case, in part due to the fact that not only did he not have possession of the contested property, and in part because he was unable to prove ownership to the satisfaction of the courts.

So even though it’s mistakenly believed by a number of people that possession is nine-tenths of the law, if the courts determine that legal ownership lies with the other party, nine-tenths possession is more commonly referred to as “theft.”

Posted in Idioms from the 16th Century | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Still Waters Run Deep

Posted by Admin on November 15, 2010

The phrase “still waters run deep” has been around for a while.  It serves to remind people that those who are quiet may prove to be very complex or passionate even though they don’t show that side of themselves to the general public.    

Prolific and respected English Victorian-era novelist, Anthony Trollope, wrote in his book, He Knew He Was Right, published in  1869:

That’s what I call still water.  She runs deep enough . . . .  So quiet, but so clever.

Still Waters Run Deep” was a play by well-known editor of Punch magazine, biographer and popular British dramatist, Tom Taylor (1817-1880).  It was produced on stage on May 14, 1855 with Alfred Wigan as John Mildmay and his wife, Mrs. Wigan, in the role of Mrs. Sternbold.

However, the phrase “still waters run deep” existed before that time.  In the Third Series, volume 7 of “Notes and Queries” that was published in January 1865, the following query is found: 

STILL WATERS RUN DEEP. I have been accustomed to hear this phrase used for the last fifty years. Where does it first occur in print? 

It would appear that the phrase was already well-known and found in every day conversations around 1810.  Going back further yet, the phrase “still waters run deep” was attested in the United States in the 1768 works of William Smith.’  And before then, the phrase was included in James Kelly’s 1721 collection of proverbs.  And it was T. Draxe who recorded the adage in 1616 when he published: 

Where riuers runne most stilly, they are the deepest.

In the end, however, the phrase “still waters run deep” can be traced back to around 1300 in the Middle-English historical and religious poem of nearly 30,000 lines long entitled Cursor Mundi, ‘in the segment entitled “Cato’s Morals.”  A great deal of the text focuses on the history of the Cross and is considered as an accepted summary of universal history.  In this poem the following is found: 

 “There the flode is deppist the water standis stillist.”

Posted in Idioms from the 14th Century | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »