An old ox makes a straight furrow

Discussion in 'English Only' started by Silverobama, May 3, 2011.

  1. Silverobama

    Silverobama Senior Member

    Chinese,Cantonese,Sichuan dialect

    I got this proverb from my teacher, not the one who taught us old-fashioned English. He told us that this proverb is still in use, but I don't believe.

    I googled it just now and found that there were around 8000 results, whereas some of the pages are Chinese!

    The proverb means that "Someone who is old will usually be more experienced in everything" (According to its Chinese translation).

    Can anyone tell me whether this proverb is valid and it means what I've just said?

    Thanks a lot
  2. pops91710

    pops91710 Senior Member

    I think you have nailed it pretty well! I must admit I have never heard it, but it was understood immediately when I read it here.
  3. Fabulist Banned

    Annandale, Virginia, USA
    American English
    I guess it makes sense if you are familiar with oxen and furrows, as hardly any English speakers are these days. Agricultural and farm-animal metaphors have to be memorized by English speakers, who don't necessarily know anything about the animals or farm practices involved. "Don't look a gift horse in the mouth" is an example. This saying is not a traditional or standard one in English that you could expect native speakers to recognize.
  4. Parla Senior Member

    New York City
    English - US
    I'm not familiar with any oxen or furrows, but, like Pops, I recognized the meaning immediately.

    Fabulist is right, though, that this is not a standard or common saying in English. And I can't think of any saying in English that has the same meaning.
  5. Silverobama

    Silverobama Senior Member

    Chinese,Cantonese,Sichuan dialect
    How about "Old horse knows the way"?

    Do you recommend me to use it?
  6. Copyright

    Copyright Senior Member

    American English
    I don't think anyone has ever recommended that you use proverbs in normal conversation or writing. Just as I would not recommend it now.
  7. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    Silver, it's a good idea to use google when you are trying to work out whether an expression is frequently used or not.

    (1) you need to click through to the last page of google results, which in this case reduces your 'around 8000' hits to around 180
    (2) you then need to check how many of those are (a) from Chinese (or other non-English) web pages or (b) from dictionaries of proverbs or similar.

    By my reckoning every single hit for An old ox makes a straight furrow is from a non-English website or a dictionary of proverbs.

    That fact speaks for itself.
    Last edited: May 3, 2011
  8. boozer Senior Member

    Indeed, Silver, do not use those proverbs in everyday talk. I mean, if I was your listener, I would find it amusing to get this millennial wisdom lavished upon me by a twenty-something-year-old lad who spends some of his time posting questions in WR and who has hardly ever seen an ox or been shown the way by an old experienced horse :D
  9. Silverobama

    Silverobama Senior Member

    Chinese,Cantonese,Sichuan dialect
    Loob, I did use google in the way you've mentioned, but I really want to tell you that in China, google sometimes doesn't work. But thanks a lot for your reminding.

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