Proverbs have a funny way of sticking around in English. When you come across them, you might not be too sure what they mean. Let’s look at the one where “you catch more flies with honey” and see what it means.
What Does “You Catch More Flies With Honey Than You Do With Vinegar” Mean?
“You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar” means that you will be rewarded with what you want when you’re sweet rather than acidic (in nature or personality). In the proverb, the “flies” are the reward we want.
The saying doesn’t have to only apply to flies, and it is usually applied to other aspects of life. Like most sayings, it’s used as a way to teach people a valuable lesson about life.
The reward can be something like a new job or romantic partner. The idea behind the saying is that if you’re sweet and offer something that the “flies” want, they will come to you. However, if you’re not sweet (or acidic), then the “flies” won’t be attracted to you. It’s something that we see in nature, and it’s one of those sayings that has developed because of how the natural world works.
Who Said, “You Catch More Flies With Honey Than You Do With Vinegar”?
The original saying was first seen written in 1666 in Giovanni Torriano’s “A Common Place of Italian Proverbs and Proverbial Phrases.” It was the first known use of the saying.
As time went on, it became more mainstream. Benjamin Franklin included it in “Poor Richard’s Almanac” in 1744 (perhaps the most famous dated use of the saying).
You can still find the proverb used in various places and ways. Sometimes we might replace “flies” with “bees” or replace the content entirely. As long as the idea is that if you’re welcoming, your reward will come, and if you’re toxic, it won’t, the idea is the same.
You Catch More Bees With Honey
This is one such variation we briefly mentioned above. The idea behind swapping “bees” with “flies” is exactly the same. Bees are naturally attracted to sweet things (even more famously than flies). That means if you’re offering them honey, they will almost always come and have a taste of it.
As long as the outcome of the bees or flies is the same in the proverb, we can use it to the same degree. There are plenty of options you could swap things out for if you need to. Let’s look at a few more.
You Catch More Fish With Bait Than With An Empty Hook
The implication with this proverb is that fish are more attracted to bait on the end of a fishing line. That’s what will encourage them to swim up and latch on to it.
The idea of the empty hook tells us that if we offer empty promises or show an overall lack of interest in someone or something, then the “fish” in question won’t be interested in you. It’s another proverb that works in the same way and tells you to be attractive rather than sour or empty.
You could also look at this another way and think about how the empty hook is nothing more than a death trap. While a fish might not process that themselves, you could think of it as an obvious way to kill someone. While the proverb isn’t intending to be that dark, you could take that meaning away from it to show that if you treat people with toxic behavior, they will leave you (or metaphorically die).
9 Situations Where You Can Use “You Catch More Flies With Honey Than You Do With Vinegar”
Now is the time to look through some situations where we can use the saying. You might not be all that familiar with it yourself, so this will help you understand when it will work best. There are plenty of examples of it used in daily life, though it’s not the most famous saying anymore.
In fact, not many people will understand its meaning straight away if you try to use it, so it might require further explanation from you.
- I really wish a girl would fancy me, but you catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar.
- My mother said if I want to get the job, I will catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.
- If you want an excellent university to accept you, you should know that you catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar.
- Trust me; you catch more bees with honey than you do with vinegar. Good things will come to good people.
- You can’t say you catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar and then treat them like they’re not important!
- You indeed catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar, but it’s exhausting to be nice to everyone all the time.
- If you want this meeting to go well, be good to them. You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar.
- Look at that smile. You’re going to catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.
- My boss said that this meeting is important. He also said I catch more flies with honey than I do with vinegar.
Finally, let’s take a quick look at some related sayings. These are all similar sayings that don’t quite hold the same meaning but are still relevant to use. The idea behind each one is to treat people with kindness.
- Sometimes it takes only one act of kindness and caring to change a person’s life.
This one teaches us to be kind because it might be the best thing you do for somebody.
- Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.
Here, we instead are asked to be kind but then encouraged to remember that there’s never a reason not to be.
- See the light in others, and treat them as if that is all you see.
Finally, if you look for the good in everyone, you will always treat them the right way.
Martin holds a Master’s degree in Finance and International Business. He has six years of experience in professional communication with clients, executives, and colleagues. Furthermore, he has teaching experience from Aarhus University. Martin has been featured as an expert in communication and teaching on Forbes and Shopify. Read more about Martin here.