Blood is thicker than water
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In modern society, the proverb "blood is thicker than water" is used to imply that family relationships are always more important than friends.
The equivalent proverb in German (originally: Blut ist dicker als Wasser), first appeared in a different form in the medieval German beast epic Reinhart Fuchs (c. 1180; English: Reynard the Fox) by Heinrich der Glîchezære. The 13th-century Heidelberg manuscript reads in part, "ouch hoer ich sagen, das sippe blůt von wazzere niht verdirbet" (lines 265-266). In English we read, "I also hear it said, kin-blood is not spoiled by water." which may in part due to the high seas being tamed refer to distance not changing familial ties or duties.
By 1670, the modern version was included in John Ray's collected Proverbs, and later appeared in Sir Walter Scott's novel Guy Mannering (1815): "Weel — Blud's [sic] thicker than water — she's welcome to the cheeses." and in English reformer Thomas Hughes's Tom Brown's School Days (1857).
The phrase was first attested in the United States in the Journal of Athabasca Department (1821)." On June 25, 1859, U.S. Navy Commodore Josiah Tattnall, in command of the U.S. Squadron in Far Eastern waters, made this adage a part of U.S. history when explaining why he had given aid to the British squadron in an attack on Taku Forts at the mouth of the Pei Ho River, thereby abandoning the strict American policy of neutrality.
Modern commentators, including authors Albert Jack and R. Richard Pustelniak, claim the original meaning of the expression was that the ties between people who've made a blood covenant were stronger than ties formed by "the water of the womb". However, no known historical sources support this.
The use of the word "blood" to refer to kin or familial relations has roots dating back to Greek and Roman traditions. This usage of the term was common in the English-speaking world at least as early as the mid 1300s.
Although not specifically related to the expression, H.C. Trumbull notes an interesting comparison of blood and milk in the Arab world:
|“||We, in the West, are accustomed to say that "blood is thicker than water" ; but the Arabs have the idea that blood is thicker than milk, than a mother's milk. With them, any two children nourished at the same breast are called "milk-brothers," or "sucking brothers"; and the tie between such is very strong. [..] But the Arabs hold that brothers in the covenant of blood are closer than brothers at a common breast; that those who have tasted each other's blood are in a surer covenant than those who have tasted the same milk together ; that "blood-lickers," as the blood-brothers are sometimes called, are more truly one than "milk-brothers," or "sucking brothers"; that, indeed, blood is thicker than milk, as well as thicker than water.||”|
In popular culture
More recently, Aldous Huxley's Ninth Philosopher's Song (1920) approached the proverb differently, stating, "Blood, as all men know, than water's thicker / But water's wider, thank the Lord, than blood."
"Blood is thicker than water" is:
- the title of a series of mixtapes by Nu Jerzey Devil, The Game, Black Wall Street Records, Dipset and Lil Wayne, produced by DJ Haze.
- a mixtape by Fredo Santana and Chief Keef .
- a song title by Impaled Nazarene, off the 1994 album Suomi Finland Perkele.
- a song title by Black Label Society, off the album Shot to Hell.
- a book by W. A. Hoffman, now out of print.
- tattooed on the forearm of NBA player Trevor Ariza, dedicated to his little brother who fell out of a window when he was 6 years old.
"Thicker than water" is:
- the name of a 1997 album and song by H2O
- a tattoo that M. Shadows of Avenged Sevenfold had across his chest.
- the name of a tattoo studio at 181 Avenue B in New York City.
- the English translation of the name of a 2014 Swedish TV show, Tjockare än vatten.
- the 2000 documentary surf film directed by singer/songwriter Jack Johnson and his film school friend Chris Malloy.
- the title of the 8th episode of the American TV series Under the Dome.
- the title of the 1st episode of the American reality TV series The Real Housewives of New Jersey.
- Hendrickson, Robert (1987). The Facts on File Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins. New York: Facts on File, Inc. ISBN 978-0-8160-1012-7.
- Rogers, James T. (1985). The Dictionary of Clichés. New York: Ballantine Books. ISBN 978-0-345-33814-3.
- Titelman, Gregory Y. (1996). Random House Dictionary of Popular Proverbs and Sayings. New York: Random House. ISBN 978-0-679-44554-8.
- Jones, Charles Colcock (1878). The Life and Services of Commodore Josiah Tattnall. Morning News Steam Printing House. p. 87.
- Jack, Albert (2005), Shaggy Dogs and Black Sheep: The Origins of Even More Phrases We Use Every Day, Penguin Books Ltd (UK), ISBN 978-0140515732
- Pustelniak, R. Richard (1994), "II. Terms", "How Shall I Know?" - The Blood Covenant, retrieved 2014-02-22
- "Blood: Online Etymological Dictionary"
- Trumbull, H. Clay (1893), The Blood Covenant - A Primitive Rite And Its Bearings On Scripture (2nd ed.), Philadelphia: John D. Wattles, p. 10 ff.
- Flexner, Stuart & Doris (1993). Wise Words and Wives' Tales: The Origins, Meanings and Time-Honored Wisdom of Proverbs and Folk Sayings Olde and New. New York: Avon Books. p. 208. ISBN 978-0-380-76238-5.
- "Nu Jerzey Devil Mixtapes - LiveMixtapes.com: Get It LIVE!". LiveMixtapes.com. Retrieved 2016-05-07.
- "Alien Perspective Publishing - W. A. Hoffman". Alienperspective.com. Retrieved 2016-05-07.
- Hoffman, Wynette A. (2002), Blood Is Thicker Than Water, Alien Perspective, ISBN 978-0972109802
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on November 14, 2012. Retrieved February 25, 2014.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on January 7, 2014. Retrieved February 25, 2014.
- "Needles and Sins Tattoo Blog | Valentine's Day NYC Tattoo Specials!". Needlesandsins.com. Retrieved 2016-05-07.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on March 6, 2014. Retrieved February 25, 2014.
- "Thicker Than Water". IMDb.com. Retrieved 2016-05-07.
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