ENGLISCH/937: Questions to Mrs Gobbledygook (201) silver spoon (SB)

Dear Mrs Gobbledygook

I found a very interesting idiomatic expression, but not being an expert on this matter, I would like to ask you, what is the meaning of "to be born with a silver spoon in the mouth"? And are there any similar expressions with the same meaning?

A. S. (Mumbai, India)


Dear Mr S.

Thank you for your letter and for your interest. The idiom "to be born with a silver spoon in one's mouth" means, to be born with a lot of advantages and privileges, that other people don't have and really to be born into a very rich family. Well, you could say he really is lucky devil.

The origin of this expression is from silver being such precious metal. Babies usually have to be fed with spoons and godparents often give spoons as a gift or as a present to their godchildren or to their parents at christening ceremonies. There are special spoons for feeding babies, which are available today in all possible child-oriented designs and more or less valuable variations.

In former times among the British aristocracy it was popular to use silver wear when dining and the phrase is speculated to have originated from these feeding spoons particularly because wealthy people would make such a precious gift, because they could afford it.

But the idiom stresses the fact, that this person was born with a lot of advantages. That means he or she was either born to parents who are rich and have a high social standing, or someone who was born into a privileged and wealthy life, where everything is done for him or her, and unlike others this one doesn't have to fight for it. So with a little sympathy you could also call this individual a very "lucky devil".

You would never use this expression for yourself of course. "I was born with a silver spoon in my mouth" is very rarely used. Usually it is used with a note of envy, if the speaker doesn't have the same opportunities as the one he is talking about.

There aren't any similar expressions you could use instead. Even "lucky devil", "a child of fortune", or "a Sunday's child", which stand for the same lucky circumstances, wouldn't indicate the wealthy family background.

In other countries, Germany for example, the same phrase is used but only the other way round: "not to be born with a silver spoon in the mouth". This means that one had to work and fight for everything he had achieved and didn't get anything for granted.

But native speakers of English only use the silver spoon in a positive statement, to describe someone who gets everything he wants without any effort.

So if you are not born with a silver spoon in reach, you are in the good company of people who fight their way through life and also strengthened for the hard times, the world has to face in the future.

Miranda Gobbledygook

24. Mai 2018

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