A Collection of the Proverbs Found in English Literature and the Dictionaries of the Period, BY MORRIS PALMER TILLEY, Ann Arbor University of Michigan Press 1950


As white as WHALE'S-BONE

15th c. Songs in Reliq. Antiq., I 28:
And sche be whyte as whales bone.

1520-40 Songs in Rawl. MS C813 IV, p. 315:

With tethe as whyte as whalles bone.

a1547 SURREY Irate Host l. 8: Poems, p. 73:

As who wolde say there is none here I trow, will me forsake, I might parceave a woolfe, as whyte as whale his bone.

1566 L. WAGER Mary Magd., s. D4:

Your teeth as white as euer was the whales bone.

1590 SPENSER F.2. III I 15:

A goodly Ladie..Whose face did seeme as cleare as Christall stone, And eke through feare as white as whales bone.

1599 NASHE Lenten Stuff: Wks., III 204:

Herrings, which were as white as whales bone.

1609 T. RAVENSCROFT Deuteromelia, s. B4:

His beard was all on a white a, as white as Whale is bone.

SHAKESPEARE.-1594-5 L.L.L. V ii 331:

This is the flow'r that smiles on every one To show his teeth as white as whalëbone.


The PORPOISE, (dolphin) plays before a storm

1577 GRANGE Gold. Aphroditis, s. A4v:

I seeme to prognosticate thereby (as doth the Dolphin) that some storme or tempest approcheth at hande.

1593 NASHE Christ's Tears Ep. Ded.: Wks., II 9:

Give mee leaue, with the sportiue Sea Porposes, preludiatelie a little to play before the storme of my Teares.

[1604-17] 1647 FLETCHER Woman's Prize V ii, p. 84:

Or Porpisces, Made to all fatal uses.

1605 CHAPMAN, JONSON, AND MARSTON Eastward Ho III iii 140:

There was a Porcpisce, euen now seene at London bridge, which is alwaies the messenger of tempests, he sayes.

1606 J. HALL Heaven upon Earth XXV: Wks., III 192:

If thou swimest against the Stream of . . Providence . . every Wave turns the over like a Porkpisce before a Tempest.

[1613-14] 1623 WEBSTER Duch. Malfi III iii 61:

That Cardinall . . lifts up's nose, like a fowle Porpisse before A storme.

1666 TOR. It. Prov. 31, p. 208:

The dolfin appears, we shall have rain.

1718 R. SAVAGE Love in Veil III, p. 45:

Like a porpus before a storm.

SHAKESPEARE.-1608 P. II i 21:

Alas, poor souls! It grieved my heart to hear what pitiful cries they made to us to help them . .-Nay, master, said not I as much when I saw the porpas, how he bounc'd and tumbled?


To throw out a TUB to the whale

[To create a diversion.]

1651 TAYLOR Holy Dying I iii, p. 277:

He is at first entertained with trifles..and little images of things are laid before him, like a cock-boat to a whale, only to play withal.

1704 SWIFT Tale Tub Auth. Pref,. p. 50:

Seamen have a Custom, when they meet a whale, to fling him out an empty tub..to divert him from laying violent hands upon the ship.

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