Paint the lily
Posted by R. Berg on May 17, 2002
In Reply to: Coals to Newcastle posted by TheFallen on May 17, 2002
: : : : How to form a sentence with the idiom " carry coals to Newcastle " ? ( "Carry coals to Newcastle " = to supply something which is unnecessary )
: : : "Taking food to my grandmother's house would be like carrying coals to Newcastle. She always has a big meal ready when her family visits."
: : TO CARRY COALS TO NEWCASTLE - "The current American equivalent is 'to sell refrigerators to the Eskimos.' The idea is of doing something that is the height of superfluity. In explanation, Newcastle - or Newcastle upon Tyne, to use the official name of the ancient English city - lies in the center of the great coal-mining region of England.The saying was recorded by Heywood in 1602; as he labeled it common even then, it may well go back a century or two earlier. Similar sayings occur in all languages." From 2107 Curious Word Origins, Sayings & Expressions from White Elephants to Song and Dance by Charles Earle Funk (Galahad Book, New York, 1993).
: A little research quickly dredges up some other great idioms for redundant and unnecessary action, including teaching your grandmother to suck eggs, carrying owls to Athens, teaching fish to swim, killing the slain, buttering your bread on both sides, putting butter on bacon and carrying water to the river. Not to be outdone, Shakespeare apparently got in on the act and gave us "to gild refined gold", "to paint the lily" and "to throw a perfume on the violet". Odd, that... I always thought the expression was "to gild the lily"... or am I thinking of something else?
S. wrote "paint the lily," which is often misquoted as "gild the lily." Centuries of sloppy scholarship have contaminated your memory of the line.