"a man does not use his tongue to stir honey"


Brazilian Portuguese
<quote> The thought of living in that house alone, running the workshop without him, was frightening, in spite of his cruelty. I tried to prevent him, pleading, "But, Father, I will miss you if you leave." He only raised an eyebrow and told me a man does not use his tongue to stir honey. <unquote> [The Anatomy Lesson, by Nina Siegal]

In the 1600s in Holland, in order to follow an army, an orphan’s father is leaving his teenager son alone, at home. I haven’t been able to find any hits for “tongue to stir honey”. It seems to me that the father is telling the son not to expect to raise “sweet feelings” by pleading. Have I understood the phrase correctly?

Thank you for any help.
  • PaulQ

    English - England
    "A man does not use his tongue to stir honey.” is, as far as I know, unknown in English*. I suspect it may be a Dutch saying: the Dutch forum may be able to help.

    That said, (i) I agree with your interpretation (ii) orphans do not have fathers who they can speak to. ;)

    *the nearest I can think of is "fair words butter no parsnip." and that is massively outdated.


    Brazilian Portuguese
    Sorry, I just called him an orphan because his mother died when he was born. He was raised by his father.
    Thank you for your help.
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