fingers were made before forks

Commonly used as a polite excuse for eating with one’s hands at table.

1567 Loseley MSS (1836) 212 As God made hands before knives, So God send a good lot to the cutler’s wives.

1738 SWIFT Polite Conversation ii. 136 (Colonel takes them [some fritters] out with his Hand.) Col. Here, Miss, they say, Fingers were made before Forks, and Hands before Knives.

1857 TROLLOPE Barchester Towers II. iii. Miss Thorne..was always glad to revert to anything and..would doubtless in time have reflected that fingers were made before forks, and have reverted accordingly.

1983 J. WAINWRIGHT Heroes no More 37 ‘This is ridiculous. However, fingers were made before forks.’ She lifted one of the king prawns from its resting place and began to nibble at it.

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