Tag Archives: silk purse

Irish Proverb


“You cannot make a silk purse out of a cow’s ear”


This proverb was told to my informant by his Irish mother when he was a child, in regards to a poor job he did after completing his chores. The proverb itself speaks to how low-quality material cannot present itself to be more than it is, and cannot mask its inferiorities. So when my informant did a poor job doing his chores, his mother reprimanded him using this proverb to express that a half-assed cleaning job won’t make the stove look like a brand new model. With my informant’s parents being Irish, they communicated to my informant that it was an Irish proverb that they had heard growing up as well. My informant spoke of it as being typical of the “even-headedness of the Irish” and their “hard work ethic.”


I found this proverb to be quite interesting and humorous, and I agreed with my informant that to my knowledge it seemed very reminiscent of the Irish spirit. When looking for other examples of this proverb in use, I found that nearly everywhere else the word “cow” is actually replaced with “sow.” I found this rather funny, and wondered if it were my informant’s parents erroneously using the wrong word or my father hearing the proverb incorrectly. Either way though, the message of the proverb is quite clear and timeless.

Another reference to this proverb:

“Dictionary.com.” Www.dictionary.com, 2016, www.dictionary.com/browse/can-t-make-a-silk-purse-out-of-a-sow-s-ear#:~:text=Be%20unable%20to%20turn%20something,proverb%20in%20the%20mid%2D1500s.. Accessed 28 Apr. 2022.