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  1. Barb_D's Avatar
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    #1

    suck eggs

    I came across this fascinating turn of phrase in another post:
    I'm sure you have already thought of much of this, so forgive me if I'm teaching my grandmother to suck eggs.
    Is this the same as "preaching to the choir"? Telling people what they already know?

    Thanks in advance for teaching me a new bit of slang.
    I'm not a teacher, but I write for a living. Please don't ask me about 2nd conditionals, but I'm a safe bet for what reads well in (American) English.

  2. Tullia's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: suck eggs

    Sorry - it was rather idiomatic of me; perhaps I shouldn't have used it in a post aimed at a non-native speaker without explaining it. I'm not sure I'd call it slang exactly, though.


    It's a set phrase, you need the "grandmother" bit as well as the "sucking eggs".


    You are pretty much right with your interpretation. There's a great article about it here:
    World Wide Words: Teaching one’s grandmother to suck eggs

    The very erudite Michael Quinion summarises the meaning as "don’t give needless assistance or presume to offer advice to an expert" which I think is preatty good description, but I'd still encourage you to read the whole link, it's fascinating.

    I think there is a subtle difference between that and "preaching to the choir" which I always think of as "trying to persuade people who already agree with you" rather than trying to explain something to them. For instance, a post on here trying to persuade people of the benefits of learning English would be preaching to the choir - we all agree it's a fabulous thing already! But a post explaining a certain basic grammar rule wouldn't be teaching my grandmother to suck eggs unless I was replying to one of the very experienced posters who was an English teacher and who, it could be safely presumed, already knew the rule - and probably knew it better than me!
    Last edited by Tullia; 31-Aug-2010 at 14:08.

  3. Barb_D's Avatar
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    #3

    Re: suck eggs

    Fascinating! Thank you. (I particularly liked image of grandma stealing the sheep!)

    So my interpretation wasn't quite right, as preaching to the choir means trying to persuade someone of something they already believe, instead of trying to teach someone something, but I did get the gist of it from context.

    I'm trying to think of an American version.
    I'm not a teacher, but I write for a living. Please don't ask me about 2nd conditionals, but I'm a safe bet for what reads well in (American) English.

  4. Tullia's Avatar
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    #4

    Re: suck eggs

    Quote Originally Posted by Barb_D View Post
    Fascinating! Thank you. (I particularly liked image of grandma stealing the sheep!)

    So my interpretation wasn't quite right, as preaching to the choir means trying to persuade someone of something they already believe, instead of trying to teach someone something, but I did get the gist of it from context.

    I'm trying to think of an American version.

    Ooops yes, I was actually editing in a comment on that just as you were posting!

    I can't think of an American version right now either, but then my awareness of American idiom is limited to what I get from books and TV/films so you probably have more chance of figuring it out than I do.

    It's a lovely phrase though isn't it? :)

  5. BobK's Avatar
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    #5

    Re: suck eggs

    I get the impression that preaching to the choir means trying to persuade people who already agree - not quite the same as teaching your grandmother to suck eggs (often, but not always, teaching a practical skill).

    I must read that article some time (no time now). In my fairly limited experience, live eggs being prepared for storage were blown rather than sucked - sucking them could be quite unpleasant (and unnecessary). Perhaps only grandmothers know why they did it

    b

  6. Tullia's Avatar
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    #6

    Re: suck eggs

    Quote Originally Posted by BobK View Post
    Perhaps only grandmothers know why they did it

    Grandmothers know everything. They are a bit like God in that regard

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    #7

    Re: suck eggs

    In Polish, we say, "Don't teach a father to make babies." Is it OK in English?

  7. Tullia's Avatar
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    #8

    Re: suck eggs

    Quote Originally Posted by birdeen's call View Post
    In Polish, we say, "Don't teach a father to make babies." Is it OK in English?
    It's perfectly understandable, but it's not a phrase that we use.

  8. Barb_D's Avatar
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    #9

    Re: suck eggs

    Quote Originally Posted by Tullia View Post
    Grandmothers know everything. They are a bit like God in that regard
    Even how milk a duck? (That was the other reference in that article.)
    I'm not a teacher, but I write for a living. Please don't ask me about 2nd conditionals, but I'm a safe bet for what reads well in (American) English.

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    #10

    Re: suck eggs

    What do you think about the following phrases?

    “Cary owls to Athens” (the inhabitants of Athens already being thought to have sufficient wisdom) or “Carry coals to Newcastle” ("To carry Coals to Newcastle, that is to do what was done before; or to busy one's self in a needless employment") or “Selling snow to Eskimos” or "Selling sand to Arabs".

    V.

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