burn one's fingers, to(redirected from To burn one's fingers)
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burn one's fingers
Harm oneself, as in I'm staying away from risky stocks; I've burned my fingers often enough. Some believe this expression came from a legend about a monkey who gets a cat to pull its chestnuts out of the fire (see cat's paw); others hold it is from an English proverb: "Burn not thy fingers to snuff another's candle" (James Howell, English Proverbs, 1659). [c. 1700]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer. Copyright © 2003, 1997 by The Christine Ammer 1992 Trust. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
burn one's fingers, to
To hurt or harm oneself. Some writers believe this term comes from the old story about a monkey who persuades a cat to pull its chestnuts out of the fire (see cat’s paw). Others believe it comes from an old English proverb stated by James Howell in 1659 as, “Burn not thy fingers to snuff another man’s candle,” and by Samuel Palmer in 1810, “The busiebody burns his own fingers.” The connotation of interfering in someone else’s affairs has vanished, and the modern cliché means simply to get hurt by performing any hazardous or foolhardy action.
See also: burn
The Dictionary of Clichés by Christine Ammer Copyright © 2013 by Christine Ammer