Blog in English Method To My Madness
Idiom: Don’t count your chickens (before they’ve hatched)
OED definition: Don’t be confident in anticipating success or good fortune before it is certain
Example: I wouldn’t count your chickens – I said I would have an interview, but that’s it
This idiom is believed to come from a Greek fabulist called Aesop, who lived from 620 to 560BC. In Aesop’s fable, The Milkmaid and her Pail, a young milkmaid carries a pail (bucket) of milk on her head and dreams about selling the milk and buying some chickens. Once she has the chickens, she will sell the eggs that they lay and use the money that she has made to become independent. When she is independent, she will be able to shake her head and decline the offers of the young men who are trying to win her love. However, whilst lost in her daydream, she shakes her head and the milk she is carrying drops to the floor. Therefore, by imagining her success too soon, she destroys her own ability to achieve it. In the fable you can see the line, “Ah, my child,” said the mother, “Do not count your chickens before they are hatched.”
This expression has continued to be used throughout history, with Thomas Howell using it in his ‘New Sonnets and Pretty Pamphlets’ in 1570, and Samuel Butler making use of it in 1663 in his poem ‘Hudibras’. Its popularity has developed, as it is a common idiom which is frequently used today.