Monthly Archives: December 2019

Not Worth an Egg

[I]t is uniformly when parties have run highest and the strife has been deadliest that people have been most forward to stake their existence and every thing belonging to them, on some unintelligible dogma or article of an old-fashioned creed. Half the wars and fightings, martyrdoms, persecutions, feuds, antipathies, heartburnings in the world have been about some distinction, ‘some trick not worth an egg’—so ready are mankind to sacrifice their all to a mere name!

William Hazlitt (1778-1830), “The Main-Chance,” Lectures on the English Comic Writers, with Miscellaneous Essays (London: J.M. Dent & Sons Ltd, 1910; rpt. 1913), pp. 235-252 (at 247): 

egg (A) Something small and worthless. ‘Not worth an egg(shell)’ is proverbial (Tilley, E95, see Cor 4.4.21: ‘Some trick not worth an egg’). The egg is ‘Shakespeare’s frequent measure of insignificance.’

Nathalie Vienne-Guerrin, Shakespeare’s Insults: A Pragmatic Dictionary (London: Bloomsbury, 2016), p. 171:

Laudator Temporis Acti

Poultry farmer from Shorpy

Mrs. Carter weighing eggs

December 1940. “Mrs. Richard Carter, poultry farmer of Middleboro, Massachusetts. She runs the business of one thousand poulets while her husband drives a bulldozer at an Army camp nearby.” Acetate negative by Jack Delano for the Farm Security Administration. Via Shorpy.