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You are watching: He who sups with the devil


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It method that you need to be an extremely careful if you mix with negative people. The OED’s more quickly citation sustaining it is this contempt varied form 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 logic behind this is the the devil, well-known to eat people, might just too decide come eat you along with the food, and the only way to avoid ending up being dessert is a with a long spoon to aid keep your distance. Much more figuratively it explains the approach to managing dangerous adversaries.


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James Kelly, A complete Collection that Scottish Proverbs: Explained and also Made intelligible to the piersonforcongress.com Reader (1721) provides this neat explanation the the Scottish variation of the proverb:

He had actually need the a long Spoon the sups Kail
with the Dee"l.

He that needs to do through wicked and also false Men had actually need to it is in cautious, and on his Guard.

The purpose of the (figurative) long spoon is merely to keep as lot distance between yourself and the adversary as possible, provided the close quarters entailed in dining together—and undoubtedly eating the end of the same bowl. You wouldn"t desire to sit too close to the Devil since you never recognize when he could decide to shot to seize you and also whisk you far to Hell with him. Likewise, gift in near proximity to wicked civilization is an invite to injury at their hands.

Some lift on at an early stage instances of the proverb and also on its international reach

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

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

He the eats with the devil hath require of a lengthy spoon. —Hazlitt.

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

Who dips through the adversary he had actually need the a long spoon.—Appius and also Virginia, 1575.

Yes, sir, the proverb says he that eats v the evil one has require of a lengthy spoon. I have brought you a ladle. —Marlowe"s Jew of Malta, III. 4.

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

Hazlitt claims this proverb additionally occurs in Kemp"s "Nine Daies Wonder," 1600, and also in Overbury"s "Characters," appended to the wife, a Jesuit is stated to it is in "a bigger spoone for a Traytour come feed through the Devill, then any other Order." The proverb is additionally found in the arsenal of Düringfeld and Wander (German), Fallersleben (Old Netherland Proverbs), guy (Danish), and also others.

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

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

See more: What Is The Meaning Of May God Be With You Meaning, May God Be With You

Fergusson died in 1598, for this reason the taped proverb is considerably older 보다 the publication date in this instance.