For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the message was lost.
For want of a message the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.
The proverb is found in a number of forms. Benjamin Franklin included a version in his Poor Richard's Almanack (1758), but over a century earlier, the poet George Herbert included it in a 1640 collection of aphorisms. Predecessors include the following:
- Middle High German (positively formulated): Diz ſagent uns die wîſen, ein nagel behalt ein îſen, ein îſen ein ros, ein ros ein man, ein man ein burc, der ſtrîten kan. ("The wise tell us that a nail keeps a shoe, a shoe a horse, a horse a man, a man a castle, that can fight.") (c. 1230 Freidank Bescheidenheit)
- "For sparinge of a litel cost, Fulofte time a man hath lost, The large cote for the hod." ("For sparing a little cost often a man has lost the large coat for the hood.") (c 1390 John Gower, Confessio Amantis v. 4785–4787)
- Middle French: "Par ung seul clou perd on ung bon cheval." (Modern French: "Par seulement un clou, on perd un bon cheval."; English: "By just one nail one loses a good horse.") (c 1507 Jean Molinet, Faictz Dictz D., v768).
- "The French-men haue a military prouerbe; 'The losse of a nayle, the losse of an army'. The want of a nayle looseth the shooe, the losse of shooe troubles the horse, the horse indangereth the rider, the rider breaking his ranke molests the company, so farre as to hazard the whole Army". (1629 Thomas Adams (clergyman), "The Works of Thomas Adams: The Sum of His Sermons, Meditations, And Other Divine And Moral Discourses", p. 714")
In rhetoric edit
Because the proverb takes the form of a chain of more than two clauses, arranged in ascending order of importance, it is an example of a rhetorical climax. It also illustrates how to make a sorites using symploce.
Further reading edit
- Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richards Almanack, June 1758, The Complete Poor Richards Almanacks, facsimile ed., vol. 2, pp. 375, 377
- G. Herbert, Outlandish Proverbs, c. 1640, no. 499
- Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes, ed. Iona and Peter Opie, Oxford 1951, p. 324
- The way to wealth Archived 26 July 2010 at the Wayback Machine By Benjamin Franklin (Retrieved 20100420)
- James Baldwin (1912). "The Horseshoe Nails". Fifty Famous People: A Book of Short Stories. American Book Company. pp. 51–54.
- Speake, Jennifer (23 October 2008). A Dictionary of Proverbs. OUP Oxford. ISBN 978-0-19-158001-7.
- Manser, Martin H.; Fergusson, Rosalind (2007). The Facts on File Dictionary of Proverbs. Infobase Publishing. ISBN 978-0-8160-6673-5.
- Keyes, Ralph (1 April 2007). The Quote Verifier: Who Said What, Where, and When. St. Martin's Publishing Group. p. 69. ISBN 978-1-4299-0617-3.
- Freydank; Grimm, Wilhelm (1834). Vridankes Bescheidenheit. Dieterich. Retrieved 1 September 2009.
- Definition of Hood, etimology from the New Century Dictionary, with milddle english etimology including cote and hod (retrieved 20100402)
- Proverbs: For want of a nail the shoe was lost; for want of a shoe the horse was lost; and for want of a horse the man was lost at answers.com
- "Confessio Amantis" or "Tales of the Seven Deadly Sins" Incipit Liber Quintus: Part 3 from the Medieval and Classical Literature Library (retrieved 20100402)
- Dictionnaire du Moyen Français Archived 5 June 2011 at the Wayback Machine (retrieved 20100402)
- Adamn, Thomas (1629). The Works of Thomas Adams: The Sum of His Sermons, Meditations, And Other Divine And Moral Discourses. London: Thomas Harper and Augustine Matthews for John Grismand. p. 714. ISBN 9780404003531. Retrieved 2 April 2010.
- Baldick, Chris (20 March 2008). The Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms. OUP Oxford. ISBN 978-0-19-101821-3.
- Dupriez, Bernard Marie (1 January 1991). A Dictionary of Literary Devices: Gradus, A-Z. University of Toronto Press. p. 444. ISBN 978-0-8020-6803-3.