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It method that you need to be very careful if friend mix with bad people. The OED’s faster citation supporting it is this slightly varied form from Chaucer’s ‘Squire’s Tale’:
Therfore bihoueth hire a ful lengthy spoon the shal ete v a feend.
At challenge value the logic behind this is the the devil, recognized to eat people, might just as well decide to eat you along with the food, and also the only way to avoid becoming dessert is a through a long spoon to assist keep your distance. Much more figuratively it describes the approach to managing dangerous adversaries.
James Kelly, A complete Collection that Scottish Proverbs: Explained and also Made intelligible to the starrkingschool.net Reader (1721) offers this succinct explanation the the Scottish variation of the proverb:
He had actually need the a lengthy Spoon the sups Kail
v the Dee"l.
He that needs to do with wicked and false Men had need to be cautious, and on his Guard.
The purpose of the (figurative) lengthy spoon is simply to save as lot distance in between yourself and also the evil one as possible, offered the close soldier entailed in dining together—and certainly eating the end of the exact same bowl. Friend wouldn"t want to sit too close to the Devil since you never understand when he could decide to try to seize you and whisk you far to Hell with him. Likewise, gift in nearby proximity come wicked world is an invite to injury at their hands.
Some background on beforehand instances of the proverb and also on its worldwide reach
As Barrie England observes, a version of this proverb shows up in Chaucer"s "Squire"s Tale." "The Proverbs the Chaucer, with Illustrations from various other Sources," in Scottish Notes and Queries (September 1893) provides extr coverage of at an early stage instances of the saying and also of comparable sayings in various other languages:
"Therfor bihoveth that a ful lengthy spoon / that shal ete with a feeend," therefore herde i seye. Squires T., l. 602>Compare:
He the eats v the devil hath need of a long spoon. —Hazlitt.
He needs a long-shanket spoon the sups kail wi" the deil.—Hislop.
Who dips with the adversary he had actually need of a long spoon.—Appius and also Virginia, 1575.
Yes, sir, the proverb says he the eats with the devil has need of a lengthy spoon. Ns have lugged you a ladle. —Marlowe"s Jew the Malta, III. 4.
Marry, he must have actually a long spoon that have to eat with the devil. —
Hazlitt claims this proverb likewise occurs in Kemp"s "Nine Daies Wonder," 1600, and also in Overbury"s "Characters," appended to the wife, a Jesuit is claimed to it is in "a bigger spoone because that a Traytour come feed with the Devill, then any kind of other Order." The proverb is also found in the collection of Düringfeld and also Wander (German), Fallersleben (Old Netherland Proverbs), male (Danish), and others.
The proverb likewise appears in David Fergusson, Scottish Proverbs (1641) as
He should have actually a long shafted spoon the sups kail through the devil.
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Fergusson passed away in 1598, so the tape-recorded proverb is considerably older than the publication day in this instance.