Sticks and stones

Sticks and stones is an idiom that is an allusion to a proverb. We will examine the meaning of the idiom sticks and stones and the proverb it alludes towhere the expression came from, and some examples of its use in sentences.

Sticks and stones is a retort one uses when taunted or insulted; the expression means that one is unaffected by the taunt or insult. The idiom sticks and stones is an abbreviation of the proverb, sticks and stones may break may bones but words will never hurt me. The earliest known use of the proverb, sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me, occurred in The Christian Recorder, an American publication for a Black audience, in 1862: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never break me.“ At the time, the publication referred to the expression as an old adage, so we may assume that the term had been in use for longer than its first known appearance in print. Today, sticks and stones is an abbreviated form of the proverb that is often used by adults; the full proverb is often chanted by school children in response to bullying.

Examples

Sticks and stones: Rep. Adam Schiff on what it’s like to be bullied by the president (Spectrum News)

“Sticks and stones hey,” he wrote, adding a shrugging emoji. (Us Magazine)

While racist sticks and stones are still breaking bones, do racist words really matter? (New England Journal of Medicine)

She lied when she said that sticks and stones could break my bones but words could never hurt me. (Jamaica Gleaner)