Giving a donkey strawberries

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  • George French

    Senior Member
    English - UK
    It is out there if you look for it.

    "If something is like giving a donkey strawberries, people fail to appreciate its value."

    First time I have heard of it....... I hope it goes away...... :D

    GF..

    I gave up after one hit... :tick:
     

    Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    For this meaning, we are more likely to talk about "casting pearls before swine". (See the list of phrases below the definition.) This is a somewhat more expensive proposition than giving strawberries to donkeys, and the pearls are probably even less appreciated.
     
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    mplsray

    Senior Member
    The saying is given, with "feeding" rather than "giving" in Spring: The Journal of the E.E. Cummings Society, Volume 5 (2003) (page unknown, as Google Books preview does not identify it) as an evidently dated one:

    To give these books to a reviewer with such notions is like feeding a donkey strawberries, as they used to say in the English music halls....
     

    Copyright

    Senior Member
    American English
    I've never heard it, although it's understandable. If it hasn't caught on -- and it hasn't -- it could be because it's the clunkiest saying I've heard:

    Like feeding a donkey strawberries. (Cobblestones)
    Like feeding strawberries to a donkey. (Asphalt with Botts' dots)
     

    Roarshack

    New Member
    English - NZ
    I love this saying and use it regularly. I've heard it all my life, and my British Grandma used it frequently during her twentieth century lifetime, possibly related to her putting a lot of effort into cooking a lot of elaborate, exquisite food that was not appreciated by her kids when they were children (e.g. a different specific meal for dinner for each member of the 6 person family, every day).

    I think its usage in regards to food has a useful specificity that "casting pearls before swine" does not; pigs have zero use or interest in pearls, while donkeys tend to like eating strawberries - but will not savour or appreciate the finer points and/or value of them compared to your average human consumer.

    If you have ever slaved over an especially delicious, elaborate, difficult, beautiful, expensive or time consuming dish only to have it gobbled in seconds by eaters who enjoyed it, but would have been equally happy with McDonalds and had little or no appreciation of the finer points of the effort and value that went into it - then you may appreciate the finer points of feeding strawberries to donkeys.

    Or if you saw my Dad's best friend's face when my Mum poured a 9 year-old me a glass of his $550 bottle of red wine. :D:rolleyes:

    I feel like "feeding strawberries to donkeys" usually carries an element of frustration that something is consumed, or lost in the process, that can now never reach its potential for maximum enjoyment/appreciation/utility.
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    I feel like "feeding strawberries to donkeys" usually carries an element of frustration that something is consumed, or lost in the process, that can now never reach its potential for maximum enjoyment/appreciation/utility.
    That's interesting, thanks.

    I'd never heard the saying before today. Feeding strawberries to donkeys is obviously not as extravagant as offering pearls to swine, though I do remember a time when the humble strawberry was considered something of a luxury. I have seen fresh figs being fed to donkeys—only low quality figs of course, but I admit that it pained me a little to watch them :D.
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Welcome to the forums, Roarshack!

    Like veli and others, I'd never come across this expression before.

    I wonder if your grandmother came from the same part of the UK as Keith?
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    I agree with Roarshack (#8). This is an absolutely commonplace expression, used and heard in our family at frequent intervals. Long may it last!
    :thumbsup:

    As a tribute to my subjective view, I'm staggered that so few have heard it.

    I don't think it is quite the same as "Casting pearls before swine", as the donkey would obviously enjoy strawberries but the swine would not appreciate pearls.
     

    dojibear

    Senior Member
    English - Northeast US
    The idiom about pearls and swine comes from the Bible, which is why so many people know it.

    Based on the answers above, the donkey-strawberries saying seems to be used in some areas in the UK, but not in the US.

    Is it common in Austria?
     

    Trochfa

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    As a tribute to my subjective view, I'm staggered that so few have heard it.
    I'm afraid I'm another person who has never heard it. But these things sometimes happen even within the same family. I remember my older brother saying he'd never heard of "As poor as a church mouse", even though everyone else in the family knew it and used it. Somehow he'd managed to "escape" hearing it.
     
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    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    I may well be wrong ~ but I have the impression that those who have heard the "donkeys -strawberries" expression come from the north of England.

    Maybe I'm right...?
     

    Anonerimus

    New Member
    English
    It's a North East /Old Yorkshire North Riding saying . But it's actually "Like feeding strawberry to a donkey "
    Meaning it's no use to tell somebody something if they are to ignorant to use it.
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    Meaning it's no use to tell somebody something if they are too ignorant to use it.
    To me, what you describe is more "casting pearls before swine."

    "Giving a donkey strawberries" is more giving something expensive, exclusive, rare, valuable, etc to someone who you (the speaker) knows will not appreciate it to its full extent: see #8 (particularly the story of the wine) and my #13.
     

    Pertinax

    Senior Member
    BrE->AuE
    Meaning it's no use to tell somebody something if they are too ignorant to use it.
    That's interesting, Anonerimus. Citations from Google Books confirm that the expression can be used of any wasted gift:

    English Dialect Society (1885)
    It's like giving a donkey strawberries. To give one something too fine or particularly unfit for his condition.

    The National Corporation Reporter (1901)
    ... a lawyer (we omit his name for various reasons) stepped into the car very much out of humour and said, “talking law to that judge was like feeding strawberries to a donkey”, and not satisfied with that he was heard to say as he left the car, "Yes, he knows about as much law as a hog does about a clean shirt".

    Harry James Greenwall (1929)
    She does not wear tiaras nor backless evening gowns, and a fur coat to her would be about as useful as a strawberry to a donkey.

    From Bench to Bench (1948)
    To this remark the gaoler politely replied, saying: "Yes, Sir, it is like giving strawberries to a donkey, our Magistrate does not believe in giving anything less than six strokes, or nothing at all.

    The Autocar (1960)
    Motoring is expensive enough, and it is surprising that so many people waste pounds per year on unnecessary fuel bills. To pay more for a fuel than the engine requires is like feeding strawberries to a donkey.

    Thomas Joy (1971)
    Mother had many amusing sayings: for example, 'It is like giving a donkey strawberries', when something was wasted on someone

    The expression is new to me; I would not have guessed its meaning from my experience of feeding strawberries to a donkey. We used to give our donkey unsaleable strawberries by the bucketload (literally). They were certainly not wasted on him: he would eat them with relish, licking up every last drop of the liquid mush left in the bucket. The greatest difficulty was keeping the bucket upright so that the liquid content would not spill out. His nose afterwards would be scarlet - like a carnivore's after a fresh kill.
     
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    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    That's interesting, Anonerimus. Citations from Google Books confirm that the expression can be used of any wasted gift:
    The crucial word here is "wasted" - giving a donkey strawberries, in your case, was not a waste as the appreciation of the strawberries was not in question; the strawberries were valueless and otherwise would have been thrown away.

    The The National Corporation Reporter (1901) example is excellent as the lawyer firmly believes that his brilliance was wasted on the judge who simply was not sophisticated enough to appreciate that.
     
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