Have you ever wondered where some of the sayings and phrases of the English language have originated? Some have come from great writers of the past, while others have appeared throughout the pages of the Bible. In this article, you will learn some of the passages that contain the phrases or references to sayings that we still use today.
“a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush”
The meaning behind the saying “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush” is that it’s better to have a small advantage that is obtainable than the possibility of something greater that may never materialize. The saying has appeared in old texts and has become a part of the English language. The proverb was popular during medieval times when a bird in the hand (such as a falcon) was more of an asset than two that were in the bush (the prey). A mention of the expression appears in a handbook of proverbs that dates back to 1670.
However, this was not the first time that the saying was used, and the earliest version actually comes from the Bible, which was translated into English in Wycliffe’s version in 1382. Some of the variations of the saying is “a living dog is better than a dead lion,” which appears in Ecclesiastes IX. Other versions of the saying that uses birds as the creature of choice emerged. The Boke of Nurture or Schoole of Good Maners (~1530) mentions “a byrd in hand – is worth ten flye at large.” As for the United States, the ‘bird in hand’ reference is traced back to 1734.
“it’s better to give than receive”
Taken literally, this saying is found in Acts 20:35 of the King James Version of the Bible, where it says: “I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
“a labour of love”
Many people make the mistake of attributing the saying “a labour of love” to the English playwright William Shakespeare. The phrase means that work is done for the simple pleasure of it or to please a loved one. In the King James Version, you will find the saying in Hebrews 6:10:, as well as in Thessalonians1:2, 1:3:
Thessalonians: “We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers; Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father;”
Hebrews 6:10: “For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister.”
Shakespeare didn’t even mention the expression in any of his works, but the confusion is probably made because of his play titled ‘Love’s Labours Lost.’