Once bitten twice shy

Article published on Oct. 5, 2007
Article published on Oct. 5, 2007

Everyone undergoes one bad experience in life, particularly during their youth. A long time ago I thought I’d walk the neighbour’s snarling cocker spaniel. When I decided to forgo the hellhound, my German neighbour grinned ein gebranntes Kind scheut das Feuer - a child who gets burnt avoids the fire. My mother's Turkish response was sütten az yanan yourdu üfleyerek yer - he who has scalded himself with hot milk, will even blow on yoghurt. Perplexing!

In Britain, my English teacher explained that you learn quickly if you’ve already had a bad experience once - once bitten, twice shy. The Russians are rather jumpy, fearing an alarmed crow in the bush ().

Southern Europeans use cats in their expression in order to learn a lesson from what happens to them. A cat which has been scalded fears even cold water, say both the French chat échaudé craint l'eau froide and the Spanish gato escaldado del agua fría huye. Catalans say that a cat which has been scalded is happy only with lukewarm water - gat escladat, amb aigua tèbia en té prou.