Camel’s Nose In/Under the Tent

Image result for the camel's nose

What was said? This may be a little bit like “the camel’s nose is in the tent,” but have we thought about…

Did someone really say that? Yes, in a team meeting when discussing our 2019 strategy, someone was brought up an off-topic suggestion and prefaced it with the camel saying.

What does it mean? It basically means opening the door to something small (like the camel’s nose) may lead to something larger and more undesirable (the entire camel in your tent!).

Origin: Apparently an old Arabian fable where a camel, after poking his nose into a tent, was allowed in to seek warmth, then (as camel’s are stubborn) wouldn’t leave!The phrase has a few forms: The camel’s nose is in the tent, is under the tent, is under the tent too far… and so on. Either way they all refer to a situation where permitting a small, seemingly innocent act will lead to a larger, undesirable result.

As for the origin, a common belief is that it originated as an old Arabian fable / proverb – however finding this tale is difficult. The only discussion around a printed publication was in 1858 where the story is told as an Arab Miller letting a camel in his bedroom. The first sighting in print/speech in the US was in 1958 where US Senator Barry Goldwater used the expression while opposing the National Defense Education Act – referring to it as an old Arabian proverb.

Similar phrases include “Give them an inch, they’ll take a mile,” “Slippery Slope,” and a popular children’s book “If you give a mouse a cookie!”

Historically Speaking
Idiom Dictionary

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Filed under Business Sayings, Idiom, Idioms, Phrases, Sayings

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