to carry water in a sieve

Mnemon

Senior Member
Persian - Pārsi
Hello,
The only thing I've ever found that eases it is the word of a loved one, even though any loved one can tell you that trying to bring comfort in words is like trying to carry water in a sieve.
Swansong: A Message of Love and Farewell book - Barry Head - 2007

Have you ever heard or used the phrase "to carry water in a sieve" before? It seems to me that there is no real difference between "to carry water in a sieve" and "to flog a dead horse"! Don't you think that way?
 
  • Barque

    Senior Member
    Tamil
    Have you ever heard or used the phrase "to carry water in a sieve" before?
    It sounds familiar and is immediately understandable but I'm not certain I've heard it before.
    It seems to me that there is no real difference between "to carry water in a sieve" and "to flog a dead horse"! Don't you think that way?
    Not really. They seem to apply to different situations. The first refers to doing something using a method bound to fail. The second refers to wasting time and energy doing something that has no or very little chance of success.
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    It's an ancient concept, and it crops up in English from time to time.

    In Greek mythology, the Danaïdes (/dəˈneɪ.ɪdiːz/; Greek: Δαναΐδες), also Danaides or Danaids, were the fifty daughters of Danaus. In the Metamorphoses,[1] Ovid refers to them as the Belides after their grandfather Belus. They were to marry the 50 sons of Danaus' twin brother Aegyptus, a mythical king of Egypt. In the most common version of the myth, all but one of them killed their husbands on their wedding night, and are condemned to spend eternity carrying water in a sieve or perforated device. In the classical tradition, they came to represent the futility of a repetitive task that can never be completed (see also Sisyphus).
    Source: Wikipedia
     

    Mnemon

    Senior Member
    Persian - Pārsi
    Thanks.
    Is it understandable to a native speaker of English, for instance if I say:

    He keeps trying to get it published but I think he's just carrying water in a sieve.
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    I don't think I would use it (or expect it) outside a comparison with some other futile pursuit. You have also omitted "try" - a critical concept in the expression. Perhaps: His trying to get his novel published is like trying to carry water in a sieve.
     

    Mnemon

    Senior Member
    Persian - Pārsi
    Hell Julian,
    Long time no see.
    You don't show up these days, perhaps you've got bigger fish to fry or possibly getting some R and R. Who knows! :D
    Thanks by the way.
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    Hell Julian,
    Long time no see.
    You don't show up these days, perhaps you've got bigger fish to fry or possibly getting some R and R. Who knows! :D
    Thanks by the way.
    :thumbsup:
    You just frequent different threads - my posting frequency has not changed significantly and others seem to answer your questions before I see them. The time zone differences affect such things. For example, I can often be one of the few BE speakers awake and posting when the UK is asleep, so I can answer questions on AE/BE differences first:D
     

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    It's understandable but not a common expression in my experience. I don't know if I've heard it in the last ten years nor do I have great expectation of hearing it in any conversation in the next ten years.
     
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