Last week Tami and I were talking about an opportunity that seemed almost too good to be true. She used the phrase “never look a gift horse in the mouth”. Immediately after our conversation she sent me an email about the origin of this phrase, which is so commonly used and probably rarely understood. In all honesty, until I saw her email I thought the phrase was “never lick a gift horse in the mouth,” which made it even more difficult to comprehend the origin of the saying.
According to Trivia-Library.com, the lesson and story behind it is:
This proverb is based on the fact that a horse’s value is determined by his age, which, in turn, can be roughly determined by an examination of his teeth. The message conveyed is that a gift should be appreciated for the thought and spirit behind it, not according to its value. St. Jerome, who never accepted payment for his writings, first used the phrase in reply to his literary critics. His exact words: “Never inspect the teeth of a gift horse.”