I"m having trouble understanding the rationale behind the meaning of an American ubraintv-jp.com phrase of which I just became aware. That phrase is:

You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar

From what I understand now, this phrase would indicate that You make more friends by being nice than by being rude. Please correct me if I"m wrong.

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My confusion comes from the fact that no one catches flies in order to do anything nice to them (Well, I suppose some people do. But it"s not common!). When I first read it, I actually thought the phrase meant You"ll have more success luring people into a trap by being nice than by being rude. This didn"t make much sense in context, though, which led me to ask around about the phrase.

Where does this phrase come from? More importantly, why does it have such a counter-intuitive meaning?

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edited Dec 2 "12 at 13:31
asked Aug 27 "11 at 0:02

Josh DarnellJosh Darnell
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I just found out something amazing about flies, vinegar, and honey that turns this old idiom on its ear! I read about the design of a fly trap that attracts them with vinegar, but traps them with honey. It's an inverted jar, and the flies, lured in by the smell of the vinegar (vinegar smells like rotting fruit to them, which they adore) are tricked into going higher up the jar, where the sides are coated with honey. They get stuck on the honey. I think the basic meaning of the saying remains intact, that if we want people to do what we want, we should be sweet and not rude to them.
Feb 24 "13 at 2:03

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Acti have Oldest Votes
You catch more flies with honey than vinegar or, sometimes you catch more flies with honey is an ubraintv-jp.com proverb. It doesn"t have a counter-intuitive meaning--if you are trying to catch flies, you are literally going to attract more with honey. That is, you"re going to get what you want (in the proverb flies, but in life any goal) with sweetness rather than acidity.

This answer explains it similarly:

Flies represents anything you want to achieve. Honey (sweet) represents anything pleasant that you do to get what you want. Vinegar (sour) represents anything unpleasant that you do to get what you want. It tells you to use nice methods rather than unkind methods in dealing with other people.

This is a saying that means: you will be more successful in life being sweeter, or nice rather than being, mean to people, not nice and doing hurtful, dishonest things in life.

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This forum makes some guesses at its origins, noting:

The proverb has been traced back to G. Torriano"s "Common Place of Italian Proverbs" . It first appeared in the United States in Benjamin Franklin"s "Poor Richard"s Almanac" in 1744, and is found in varying forms..." From "Random House Dictionary of Popular Proverbs and Sayings" by Gregory Y. Titelman (Random House, New York, 1996).