never give a sucker an even break

never give a sucker an even break
This saying has been attributed to various people, including E. F. Albee and W. C. Fields. It was popularized by Fields, who is said to have used it in the musical comedy Poppy (1923), though it does not occur in the libretto. Poppy was made into a silent film in 1925 and called Sally of the Sawdust. This was in turn remade as a ‘talkie’ in 1936 (see quot. 1936). The proverb means that one should not allow a fair chance to a fool, or one who may be easily deceived.

1925 Collier’s 28 Nov. 26 ‘That line of mine that brings down the house always was true, wasn’t it?’ ‘Which line?’ I asked. ‘Never give a sucker an even break’ he [W. C. Fields] answered.

1936 N. Y. Herald Tribune 15 Mar. v. 1 Wasn’t it ‘Poppy’ that provided him with his immortal motto, ‘Never give a sucker an even break’?

1940 WODEHOUSE Eggs, Beans & Crumpets 158 Never give a sucker an even break... But your sermon has made me see that there is something higher and nobler than a code of business ethics.

1979 Daily Telegraph 3 Nov. 24 The basic American business philosophy of ‘never give a sucker an even break’ runs rampant in those [money] markets.


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  • Never Give a Sucker an Even Break — Theatrical poster to Never Give a Sucker an Even Break Directed by Edward F. Cline …   Wikipedia

  • never give a sucker an even break — Meaning Origin W.C.Fields made a film of this name in 1943 and said the line as an ad lib in a stage production of the musical Poppy in 1923. It appears this was more than just a dramatic line as it expressed Fields true sentiments. As well as… …   Meaning and origin of phrases

  • Never Give a Sucker an Even Break —    Voir Passez muscade …   Dictionnaire mondial des Films

  • break — noun see never give a sucker an even break verb see hard words break no bones if it were not for hope, the heart would break it is the last straw that breaks the camel’s back obey orders, if you break owners …   Proverbs new dictionary

  • Even — GeneralEven may refer to: * Even, a Scandinavian male personal name (coincidentally, Odd is also a common Norwegian name). * Even (people), an ethnic group from Siberia and Russian Far East **Even language, a language spoken by the Evens * Even… …   Wikipedia

  • give — see give and take is fair play give a thing, and take a thing, to wear the devil’s gold ring give the devil his due it is better to give than to receive give credit where credit is due give a dog a bad name and hang him …   Proverbs new dictionary

  • even — adjective see don’t get mad, get even never give a sucker an even break adverb see even a worm will turn …   Proverbs new dictionary

  • sucker — see never give a sucker an even break …   Proverbs new dictionary

  • Passez muscade — Never Give a Sucker an Even Break    Film burlesque d Edward Cline, avec W. C. Fields, Gloria Jean, Leon Errol.   Pays: États Unis   Date de sortie: 1941   Technique: noir et blanc   Durée: 1 h 11    Résumé    L oncle Bill tente de placer un… …   Dictionnaire mondial des Films

  • W. C. Fields — Born William Claude Dukenfield January 29, 1880(1880 01 29) Darby, Pennsylvania, U.S. Died …   Wikipedia

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