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Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth

刊登日期: 2018.12.14
作者: Grace Tse  

As Christmas is approaching, some Hong Kong people, like the Westerners, like to prepare Christmas gifts for their beloved ones. What kind of gifts do you hope to receive? When you receive one, don’t look a gift horse in the mouth. 

The proverb “don’t look a gift horse in the mouth”(不要對禮物諸多挑剔)advises us to accept a gift with gratitude and appreciation

The expression appeared in a book about English proverbs compiled by a British writer, John Heywood in 1546. Translated into Modern English, it is: 

“Where gifts be given freely … No man ought to look a given horse in the mouth.” 

A similar meaning in Latin can be traced back to about AD400 in St Jerome’s commentary on “The Letter to the Ephesians”(《厄弗所書》)of the Bible. 

“Noli equi dentes inspicere donati” [Never look a given horse in the mouth] 

The earlier form, “a given horse”, was shortened to “a gift horse” to fit in the patterns of syllables in a poem written by Samuel Butler in 1663. 

He ne’er consider’d it, as loath 

To look a gift-horse in the mouth. 

In the past, it was a common practice for people to determine the age of a horse by looking at its teeth. If you look a gift horse in the mouth, you want to find out whether this horse is strong and healthy. 

In reality, when you receive a gift at Christmas or on your birthday, it is very rude and ungrateful to the giver if you estimate its value by inspecting the gift thoroughly.  


 

Glossary

Gratitude 
謝意
Appreciation 
謝忱
Commentary 
評注
Syllables 
音節
Common practice 
常見的做法
Determine 
斷定
Value 
價值
Inspecting 
檢查

 

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