A swindler, a pilferer; one who snaps up things like a shark,
which eats almost anything, and seems to care little whether its food
is alive or dead, fish, flesh, or human bodies.
These thieves doe rob us with our owne good will,
And have Dame Nature's warrant for it still;
Sometimes these sharks doe worke each other's wrack,
The ravening belly often robs the backe.
Taylor's Workes, ii. 117.
The shark flies the feather.
This is a sailor's proverb founded on observation. Though a shark
is so voracious that it will swallow without distinction everything
that drops from a ship into the sea, such as cordage, cloth, pitch,
wood, and even knives, yet it will never touch a pilot-fish (q.v.) or a fowl, either alive or dead. It avoids sea-gulls, sea-mews,
petrels, and every feathered thing. (St. Pierre: Studies, i.)
Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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