Origin and meaning of “You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar”

English has a lot of strange phrases and idioms, one of them being “You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar.” This phrase has been around for a very long time and comes in several different variations such as “Honey catches more flies than vinegar” and “You attract more flies with honey than vinegar”.

Like most old proverbs, it uses a real-world example to convey a moralistic message. In this instance, honey and vinegar represent politeness and bitterness. When someone has wronged you or you want to persuade a group of people, it’s easier to do so by being kind to them than it is being defensive or hostile.

Not only does honey have a sweetness that attracts flies, but it’s also sticky, which means that they’re drawn in and then stuck to it, making the much easier to catch. Kindness is similar. If you are polite and open with people, they’ll be drawn toward you and also more willing to stick around and hear what you have to say.

Vinegar, on the other hand, is slippery and bitter. Flies nor people like it very much and would avoid digesting it if they have the chance. Similarly, if you’re a nasty person with a “bitter” attitude and approach toward people, they’ll be much more likely to avoid you at all costs.

So, the moral behind “You catch more flies with honey than you do vinegar” is to be kind to people, regardless of who they are, because that will generally have a better outcome than being nasty.


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