you cannot get blood from a stone

Frequently used, as a resigned admission, to mean that it is hopeless to try extorting money, etc., from those who have none. Other unyielding or unlikely substances are sometimes substituted for stone; the turnip version is frequent in North America.

c 1435 J. LYDGATE Minor Poems (EETS) 666 Harde to likke hony out of a marbil stoon, For ther is nouthir licour nor moisture.

1666 G. TORRIANO Italian Proverbs 161 There’s no getting of bloud out of that wall.

1836 MARRYAT Japhet iv. There’s no getting blood out of a turnip.

1850 DICKENS David Copperfield xi. Blood cannot be obtained from a stone, neither can anything on account be obtained..from Mr. Micawber.

1925 J. S. FLETCHER False Scent ix. ‘You’ll never get it...’ ‘He’ll have to pay me when he loses!’ ‘You can’t get blood out of a stone.’

2001 K. HALL PAGE Body in Moonlight vii. 120 ‘“You can’t get blood from a stone,” Nick was saying. They were both really ripping. You could tell.’

2002 London Review of Books 3 Jan. 5 In Dr Eckener’s time you couldn’t get blood from a turnip, and you couldn’t get helium from any place but the United States of America.


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