a barking dog never bites

Cf. Q. CURTIUS De Rebus Gestis Alexandri Magni VII. iv. 13 canem timidum vehementius latrere quam mordere, a timid cur barks more furiously than he bites [said there to be a Bactrian saying]; 13th-cent. Fr. chascuns chiens qui abaie ne mort pas, the dog that barks does not bite.

c 1550 Thersytes E1 Great barking dogges, do not most byte And oft it is sene that the best men in the hoost Be not suche, that vse to bragge moste.

1595 Locrine (1908) IV. i. Soft words good sir... A barking dog doth sildome strangers bite.

1629 Book of Merry Riddles 22 A barking dog seldome bites.

1837 F. CHAMIER Arethusa III. X. Our dogs which bark, Abdallah, seldom bite.

1980 Daily Telegraph 1 May 18 A canvassing candidate came to a house where there was an Alsatian who barked ferociously. His agent said: ‘Just go in. Don’t you know the proverb “A barking dog never bites”?’ ‘Yes,’ said the candidate, ‘I know the proverb, you know the proverb, but does the dog know the proverb?’


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