You Can Catch More Flies With Honey – Meaning, Origin and Usage

Have you ever been told to be nice to others instead of being forceful or threatening? Have you ever been told that you can get more done with honey than with salt? What does honey have to do with catching flies?

Why do we say that someone kind to others gets along better? And why does it work? The answer lies in our life experiences.

We tend to associate kindness with being pleasant to others. That’s why we often hear people saying, “If you’re nice to people, they’ll like you.” But what does the expression “catch more flies with honey” mean?

To understand this idiom, let’s dig into the details. This post unpacks the meaning and origin of this expression.

Meaning

The expression you can catch more flies with honey means that in order to make peace, you should be nice. It is most often used when referring to personal behavior within a social structure. This expression is usually applied to people. For example, if you’re trying to get someone to do something for you, you should be nice to them instead of being rude.

The idiom is another way of teaching people to be kind and polite in their dealings. This can refer to customers, your boss, your spouse, or even total strangers. It is much easier to get people to do what you want, or at least listen to you if you are kind. Being condescending is rather abrasive and can turn people against you. Instead, use honey, or kind words and actions to further your goals.

Example Usage

“The politicians know that honey catches more flies, and that’s why they are succeeding”.

“You will catch more flies with honey as opposed to salt, so try to be nice with the bullies to smooth things out”.

“Instead of trying to force people to follow your way of thinking, try listening to everyone’s opinions on occasion. After all, you will catch more flies with honey than salt”.

Origin

Giovanni Triano coined the term in 1666. Following its creation the idiom could be found in many common proverbs in Italy and worldwide. The original term stated that flies flock to honey while they are repelled by vinegar. In the US, Ben Franklin added it to Poor Richard’s Almanack which was published in 1744.

Phrases Similar to You Can Catch More Flies With Honey

  • “There’s more than one way to skin a cat” means that there are many ways to do something, and not just one.
  • “The early bird catches the worm” means that you’re more likely to succeed if you start something early.

Phrases Opposite to You Can Catch More Flies With Honey

  • “You can catch more bees with vinegar” means it is better to use harshness rather than sweetness to get what is desired.
  • “I’ll believe it when I see it” means that something will not be believed until it is seen.
  • “That’ll be the day” is a way of saying that something will never happen.

What is The Correct Saying?

  • The correct saying is, “You can catch more flies with honey than vinegar.”

Ways People May Incorrectly Say You Can Catch More Flies With Honey

A familiar saying people often don’t know how to say correctly is, “You can catch more flies with sweet words than with vinegar.” Instead of this phrase, you should say something like “do not throw out the good with the bad” or “you can catch more bees with honey than vinegar.”

Acceptable Ways to Phrase You Can Catch More Flies With Honey

  • Try being nice, you can catch more flies with honey after all.
  • You don’t have to always be so difficult to work with, you can catch more flies with honey than vinegar.
  • You can catch more flies with honey, so try to be nice and see if you can make things up with your boss.

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