Wednesday, 4 December 2013


I used to pride myself on being able to read Chaucer in the old English with an accent which hopefully, our beloved Geoffrey would have recognised.

I had fun practising on the original of this phrase: 'Every little helps'. Still in common use today and the meaning is very clear but the origin?

Well as far as I can discover it was:

'Every little helps said the wren when she pissed in the sea.' 

A wren of course is a very tiny bird but her little contribution helped to keep up the sea levels.

But in 1623 the olde English version was:

'Euery thing helpes, quoth the Wren when she pist i' the sea.'

Even earlier in 1602 they seem to have been a little more reluctant to use the bawdy words so we had:

'The wrenn sayde all helpte when she — in the sea.'

See what a prudish nation we used to be.


  1. Thank you for posting...