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又中又英|Do not count your chickens before they are hatched

又中又英|Do not count your chickens before they are hatched

2022-06-27

It is unusual for fluent English speakers to make a mistake when using an age-old (very old) idiom but an elected US politician made a mistake when using one of the oldest idioms in the English language. Some historians believe it originated in 1570. He made the mistake during a TV interview about laws that would make it harder for Americans to buy guns. Stricter gun laws have become a hot-button issue after many shootings, including in a supermarket where 10 people died and at a school where 21 were killed. A hot-button issue is an issue that makes people have strong emotions and opinions. Democratic reform was a hot-button issue in Hong Kong but no longer because of the national security law.


As I have explained in a recent column, the Second Amendment of the US Constitution, written 250 years ago, gives citizens the right to bear arms, which means to carry weapons. After decades of disagreement the US Senate has tentatively agreed to a new gun control law. The proposal must pass both the US Senate and House of Representatives before it can become law. When the politician was asked on TV if he was confident he said “don’t count your eggs before they are hatched”. The correct idiom is “don’t count your chickens before they are hatched”. If you want your eggs to hatch, which means for them to break so chickens can come out, there is no point counting the eggs because some may not hatch.


If you want to know how many chickens you will have, count the chickens after the eggs have hatched, not before. The expression “don’t count your chickens before they are hatched” means you shouldn’t expect something to happen before it has actually happened. If you tell your friends you are sure you will get the high-paying job you applied for, your friends may say “don’t count your chickens before they are hatched.”

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