evil to him who evil thinks

Medieval Fr. honi soit qui mal y pense is the motto of the Order of the Garter, originated in 1348 or 1349 by King Edward III of England; the saying is well known in its French form as well as being current in a variety of English versions. Quots. 1589 and 1650 offer suggestions on the translation.

c 1460 SIR R. ROS La Belle Dame in Skeat (ed.) Chaucer VIII. 397 Who thinketh il, no good may him befal.

1546 J. HEYWOOD Dialogue of Proverbs I. ix. C2 And shame take him that shame thinkth.

1589 G. PUTTENHAM Arte of English Poesie (Arber) 116 Commonly thus Englished, Ill be to him that thinks ill, but in mine opinion better thus, Dishonoured is he that meanes dishonorably.

1650 R. COTGRAVE Dict. French & English (Howell’s Epistle Dedicatory) We English it, Ill be to him who thinks ill; though the true sense be, let him be beray’d who thinks any ill, being a metaphor taken from a child that hath berayed [fouled] his clouts [clothes], and in France ther’s not one in a hundred who understands this word nowadayes.

1668 DENHAM in Dryden Miscellany v. 76 Who evil thinks, may evil him confound.

1954 B. FLYNN Doll’s Done Dancing xvii. 158 ‘The..er..hoi polloi..can always be found ready to point the finger or shrug the shoulder or..er..nod the head. Whereas the understanding..erudite person..with the right instincts, makes no comment. Evil to him who evil thinks.’


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