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do not spoil the ship for a ha'porth of tar

Do not ruin something for an avoidable reason. "Ship" is thought to be a dialectical pronunciation of "sheep," and a "ha'porth" is a "halfpennyworth." Tar was used to protect sheep skin from flies (and thereby illness and death), so not having enough tar would contribute to the death of the sheep. You know your mom is going to be offended, so please call her before the dinner party—do not spoil the ship for a ha'porth of tar.
See also: not, of, ship, spoil, tar

spoil the ship for a ha'porth of tar

If you spoil the ship for a ha'porth of tar, you spoil a large or important piece of work completely because you refuse to spend a small amount of money on one aspect of it. I think it's a modest investment that is well worth making. You don't want to spoil the ship for a ha'porth of tar. Note: `Ship' in this expression was originally `sheep'. A `ha'porth' is a `halfpenny's worth'; a halfpenny was a British coin of very low value. Shepherds used to put tar on their sheep's wounds and sores to protect them from flies, and it would be foolish to risk the sheep's health in order to save a small amount of money.
See also: of, ship, spoil, tar

spoil the ˌship for a ha’porth/ha’penny-worth of ˈtar

(saying) spoil something good because you did not spend any or enough money on a small but essential part of it: Always buy good quality floppy disks. Don’t spoil the ship for a ha’porth of tar. Ship in this idiom was originally sheep and ha’porth or ha’penny-worth referred to a very small amount of money. The basic meaning of the idiom was originally ‘allow a sheep to die because you won’t buy a very small amount of tar’, tar being used to treat cuts on a sheep’s body.
See also: of, ship, spoil, tar
References in periodicals archive ?
The choice of homes at Porth y Gar should be seen to be believed, and I would urge those looking to move on to or up the housing ladder to pay us a visit," adds Robinson.
Having last won the trophy in 1999, Porth sounded a warningthey could go all the way this time after taking an eighthminute lead through Dave Farr.
PEOPLE in Porth are being reminded of essential road re-surfacing work which will take place this Sunday and the Sunday after.
Maureen Porth Koch BUFFALO GROVE - Maureen Porth Koch, age 78, of Buffalo Grove.
BLUE Badge Style Awards has named Bryn Williams, Porth Eirias as best restaurant for the second year running.
It was September 2000 when Tom Jones poignantly smashed a bottle of dandelion and burdock against the wall of the former Corona soft drinks factory at Porth to mark the building's new career in a different type of pop.
A "much-loved" nursery in Porth that was set to close has been saved at the last minute - after the Church of Wales agreed to let the youngsters stay another year until they get a permanent home.
Mark Theodore Porth, 37, was arraigned Monday in Lane County Circuit Court on charges of driving under the influence of intoxicants and being a felon in possession of a firearm.
BEDLINOG completed a trophy treble for the season as they defeated Porth Harlequins to lift the Glamorgan County Silver Ball after an entertaining final at Aberavon.
The 20-metre vessel Porth Nefyn has been supplied by Mainstay Marine Solutions to Turbine Transfers for work on European offshore wind farms between the Baltic and Irish Seas.
The beach at Abersoch is a firm favourite with watersports enthusiasts, as is Porth Oer, famed for its 'squeaky'' sand, and Porth Neigwl - otherwise known as Hell''s Mouth, pulling in the surfers every year.
Yn ffodus daeth Emrys Owen, Caergybi i'r adwy a rhoi'r hanes am newid yr enw o Porth y Sach i Porth Thomas Hughes.
Daimler AG (Daimler) (NYSE: DAI) (FWB: DAI), a Germany-based automaker, has named Wilfried Porth (49) as Member of the Board of Management for Human Resources and Labour Relations Director effective the end of the 2009 Annual Meeting.
The bill is needed, Porth said, because too many young lawyers are leaving those public service positions after only a few years of service because of "burdensome student loans.
President and Chief Executive Officer Wilfried Porth apologized Tuesday for the firm's delayed reporting of truck fires caused by defective parts.