Eggs. (Anglo-Saxon, æg.)
A bad egg. A bad speculation; a man who promises, but whose promises are pie-crust. A duck's egg, in cricket. (See Duck.)
Golden eggs. Great profits. (See Goose.)
“I doubt the bird is flown that laid the golden eggs.” —Scott: The Antiquary.
The mundane egg. The Phoenicians, and from them the Egyptians, Hindus, Japanese, and many other ancient nations, maintained that the world was hatched from an egg made by the Creator. Orpheus speaks of this egg.
Eggs of Nuremberg. (See Nuremberg.) Pasch eggs. (See Easter Eggs.)
The serpent's egg of the Druids. This wonderful egg was hatched by the joint labour of several serpents, and was buoyed into the air by their hissing. The person who caught it had to ride off at full speed, to avoid being stung to death; but the possessor was sure to prevail in every contest or combat, and to be courted by those in power. Pliny says he had seen one of these eggs, and that it was about as large as a moderate-sized apple.
PHRASES AND PROVERBS:
Don't put all your eggs in one basket. Don't venture all you have in one speculation; don't put all your property in one bank. The allusion is obvious.
From the egg to the apples. (Latin, “ab ovo usque ad mala. ”) From first to last. The Romans began their “dinner” with eggs, and ended with fruits called “mala.”
I have eggs on the spit. I am very busy, and cannot attend to anything else. The reference is to roasting eggs on a spit. They were first boiled, then the yolk was taken out, braided up with spices, and put back again; the eggs were then drawn on a “spit,” and roasted. As this required both despatch and constant attention, the person in charge could not leave them. It must be remembered that the word “spit” had at one time a much wider meaning than it has now. Thus toasting-forks and the hooks of a Dutch oven were termed spits.
“I forgot to tell you, I write short journals now; I have eggs on the spit.” —Swift.
I got eggs for my money means I have valuable money, and received instead such worthless things as eggs. When Wolsey accused the Earl of Kildare for not taking Desmond prisoner, the Earl replied, “He is no more to blame than his brother Ossory, who (notwithstanding his high promises) is glad to take eggs for his money,” i.e. is willing to be imposed on. (Campion: History of Ireland, 1633.)
Like as two eggs. Exactly alike.
“They say we are almost as like as eggs.”
—Shakespeare: Winter's Tale, i. 2.
Sure as eggs is eggs. Professor de Morgan suggests that this is a corruption of the logician's formula, “x is x. ” (Notes and Queries. )
Teach your grandmother to suck eggs. Attempting to teach your elders and superiors. The French say, “The goslings want to drive the geese to pasture” (Les oisons veulent mener les ois païtre).
There is reason in roasting eggs. Even the most trivial thing has a reason for being done in one way rather than in some other. When wood fires were usual, it was more common to roast eggs than to boil them, and some care was required to prevent their being “ill-roasted, all on one side,” as Touchstone says (As You Like It, iii. 2).
One likes the pheasant's wing, and one the leg; The vulgar boil, the learned roast an egg.
Pope: Epistles, ii.
To tread upon eggs. To walk gingerly, as if walking over eggs, which are easily broken. Will you take eggs for your money? “Will you allow yourself to be imposed upon? Will you take kicks for half-pence?” This saying was in vogue when eggs were plentiful as black-berries.
“My honest friend, will you take eggs for money?” —Shakespeare: Winter's Tale, i. 2.
Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894