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You are watching: He who sups with the devil needs a long spoon


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It method that you have to be really careful if you mix with negative people. The OED’s earliest citation sustaining it is this slightly varied type from Chaucer’s ‘Squire’s Tale’:

Therfore bihoueth hire a ful long spoon the shal ete v a feend.


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At face value the reasonable behind this is the the devil, well-known to eat people, may just also decide to eat you together with the food, and also the only way to avoid coming to be dessert is a with a lengthy spoon to aid keep your distance. More figuratively it defines the technique to dealing with dangerous adversaries.


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James Kelly, A complete Collection that Scottish Proverbs: Explained and Made easy to understand to the rememberingsomer.com Reader (1721) uses this practiced explanation that the Scottish version of the proverb:

He had actually need that a lengthy Spoon that sups Kail
v the Dee"l.

He that has to do with wicked and false Men had need to be cautious, and on his Guard.

The purpose of the (figurative) lengthy spoon is simply to store as much distance in between yourself and also the adversary as possible, provided the close soldier entailed in dining together—and certainly eating the end of the exact same bowl. Friend wouldn"t want to sit as well close to the Devil because you never understand when he could decide to try to take you and whisk you far to Hell with him. Likewise, being in near proximity come wicked civilization is an invite to injury at their hands.

Some elevator on early on instances the the proverb and on its global reach

As Barrie England observes, a variation of this proverb appears in Chaucer"s "Squire"s Tale." "The Proverbs the Chaucer, through Illustrations from other Sources," in Scottish Notes and also Queries (September 1893) provides added coverage of at an early stage instances of the saying and also of comparable sayings in other languages:

"Therfor bihoveth that a ful long spoon / that shal ete through a feeend," thus herde i seye. Squires T., l. 602>Compare:

He that eats through the evil one hath require of a long spoon. —Hazlitt.

He requirements a long-shanket spoon the sups kail wi" the deil.—Hislop.

Who dips with the devil he had need the a long spoon.—Appius and Virginia, 1575.

Yes, sir, the proverb claims he the eats with the adversary has require of a long spoon. I have lugged you a ladle. —Marlowe"s Jew that Malta, III. 4.

Marry, the must have a lengthy spoon that should eat through the devil. — Comedy the Errors, IV. 3.>This is a devil and no monster : I will certainly leave him ; I have no long spoon. — Tempest, II. 2.

Hazlitt claims this proverb likewise occurs in Kemp"s "Nine Daies Wonder," 1600, and also in Overbury"s "Characters," appended to the wife, a Jesuit is claimed to be "a larger spoone because that a Traytour come feed with the Devill, then any kind of other Order." The proverb is likewise found in the arsenal of Düringfeld and Wander (German), Fallersleben (Old Netherland Proverbs), guy (Danish), and others.

The proverb additionally appears in David Fergusson, Scottish Proverbs (1641) as

He should have a long shafted spoon the sups kail with the devil.

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Fergusson died in 1598, so the taped proverb is significantly older than the publication day in this instance.