Honey and Vinegar

From an old WDTPRS article:

According to the Louis de la Rivière in his Vie de saint François de Sales (1624 – p. 584), the doctor and bishop of Geneva of St. Francis de Sales (+1622) told friend and prodigy Jean Pierre Camus (+1652) Bishop of Belley: “Soyez toujours le plus doux que vous pourrez, et souvenez-vous que l’on prends plus de mouches avec une cuillère de miel qu’avec cent barils de vinaigre… Always be as gentle as you can and remember that one catches more flies with a spoonful of honey than with a hundred barrels of vinegar."

This is the origin of the phrase and just about the only citation I have ever been able to come up with for it.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Ohio Annie says:

    The expression also appears in Introduction to the Devout Life.

  2. Memphis Aggie says:

    The “Introduction” is a great book too – exceptionally readable and surprisingly current. The great Dr. is one of the treasures of the Church.

  3. Dominic says:

    Devout Life is a marvellous book, but I don’t believe the honey/vinegar saying is included in it. It is excellent advice!

  4. TNCath says:

    Wise words we should keep in mind, especially when we deal those who disagree with us, especially in matters ecclesiastical and/or liturgical.

  5. lks says:

    Why would anyone want more flies? (Wink.)

  6. Warren says:

    Flies – food for bats and the play things of cats. If they are indeed flies (especially of a species akin to those annoying little fruit flies), why would one want to catch them? At the very least, open a window to let them buzz-off.

  7. Nathan says:

    Flies–one of the original reasons for the liturgical flabella! Of course we want more!

    In Christ,

  8. Maureen says:

    We want more flies so we can get more home runs.

    Btw, I was just reading an old post of Dr. Thursday’s about the Blessing of Telegraphs. It apparently includes the chanting of Psalm 103 with the antiphon, “”Blessed are You O Lord, Who makest the clouds thy chariot: who walkest upon the wings of the winds, Who makest thy angels spirits: and thy ministers a burning fire.”

    Fr. Z, I think we need to adapt this (including the smoke test) to a blessing of computers with Internet connections. Although I’m not sure about the “smoke test” lines. :)

  9. Luke D. says:


    Tres bon, merci! Vous parle francais, c’nest pas?

  10. Lindsay says:

    Oddly, the way I get rid of fruit flies is by putting cider vinegar in a bowl of water and dropping a drop of dish soap in. The flies are drawn to the vinegar, and the soap does something to the surface tension of the water and makes the flies fall in a drown. I haven’t actually tried it with honey, lol, but the vinegar works quite well.

    I, too, have gotten much out of Introduction to the Devout Life. I’m not sure that it has this quote, but he uses the analogy of honey and bees and vinegar in a lot of other ways! Apparently it was a favorite image for many areas of spirituality.

  11. John Enright says:

    Here’s a couple of additional citations according to Answers.com:

    Honey gets more flyes to it, than doth viniger.
    [1666 G. Torriano Italian Proverbs 149]

    Tart Words make no Friends: spoonful of honey will catch more flies than Gallon of Vinegar.
    [1744 B. Franklin Poor Richard’s Almanack (Mar.)]

  12. Lori Ehrman says:


    Father may speak french but your translation…should be…

    Tres bien, vous parlez francais, n’est-ce pas?

  13. Luke D. says:


    It wasn’t strictly a translation as I tried to do that from memory (I’ve only had a few french classes so far.) Thank you though, that is pretty embarrassing.

  14. Etienne says:

    Wee, wee, moan pair.

  15. Animadversor says:

    Actually, it should be Très bien, vous parlez français, n’est-ce pas?

Comments are closed.