empty sacks will never stand upright

Extreme need makes survival impossible. Also used as an argument for taking food or drink (see quot. 1978)

1642 G. TORRIANO Select Italian Proverbs 90 Sacco vuoto non può star in piedi. An emptie sack cannot stand upright: nota, Applied to such as either pinch themselves, or are pincht by hard fortune.

1758 B. FRANKLIN Poor Richard’s Almanack (Introduction) Poverty often deprives a Man of all Spirit and Virtue; ’Tis hard for an empty Bag to stand up-right.

1860 G. ELIOT Mill on Floss I. I. viii. There’s folks as things ‘ull allays go awk’ard with: empty sacks ‘ull never stand upright.

1958 B. BEHAN Borstal Boy III. 310 We’ve a long night before us and an empty sack won’t stand.

1978 J. MCGAHERN Getting Through 99 ‘Give this man something.’.. ‘A cup of tea will do fine,’ he had protested...’ ‘Nonsense... Empty bags can’t stand.’


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