The cobbler’s children go unshod!

Don’t you love earwigging? Not in an unpleasant way – just overhearing because you can’t help it.

Today I was reading a book but also half-listening to a conversation going on nearby. A man was explaining to a colleague that, although his wife was training others in horticulture, their garden was not very praiseworthy. To which he added, ‘The cobbler’s children go unshod!’

I had never heard this expression before – and indeed the word ‘cobbler’ is not often heard in its proper sense nowadays. But I was able immediately to see (a) what the saying signified, and (b) the analogy to the expert gardener with an untidy garden at home.

So much of everyday comment and educational practice relies on pupils being able to see associations and understand analogies. I just know that most of the children I work with would be completely perplexed by the link between the saying (with its two unusual words) and what appears to be a completely unrelated context!

PS I see in an article in Waitrose weekend 4.8.11 that the idea behind the saying is multi-national! A French speaker writes, ‘There’s a phrase in French: Often it is the shoemaker who wears the worst shoes. The idea behind it is that if you work with something all day, you don’t want anything to do with it in your spare time.’

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