Don’t Throw Out the Baby with the Bathwater

The idiom “throw out the baby with the bathwater” offers this advice: don’t rid yourself of something valuable in the process of getting rid of something undesirable.

The phrase has been in use in English from the late 19th century, and in German way before then. Where did it really come from?

One swirling rumor suggests that in Medieval times, shared bath water became so dirty that by the time the baby was bathed in it, the water was so dark with dirt that one risked forgetting the baby and throwing it out with the water. Obviously this source is untrue, as no one was ever so careless as to let their child drown in a murky tub of water.


The true source of the phrase does still come from the 16th century, however. Its first use occurred in the satire Appeal to Fools (Narrenbeschwörung) by Thomas Murner in 1512 and since then it has been a common German phrase. (The book used woodcut above, showing the quite literal interpretation.)

In the 19th century Thomas Carlyle translated the proverb into an essay against slavery, using the dirty water as a metaphor for slavery.

Since then, “throw out the baby with the bathwater” has been used regularly in the English language.

Traveling with Art: Shrewsbury, Ireland


A town with mostly medieval architecture, Shrewsbury, Ireland’s rich history includes being founded around 800 AD and being the center of wool commerce. Evidence also suggests that Shrewsbury had its own mint in its early days, making it an especially important area. The site also saw a number of battles and conflicts in the Medieval era.


The postcard image you see above is a color photo lithograph of some of Shrewsbury’s mansions, a view from around the 1900’s showing a building that was built in 1596.



Shrewsbury Castle Keep in Ireland. (Via Rev Dan Catt CC 2.0)

If you want to see a piece of royalty first hand, the town’s Shropshire Regimental Museum at Shrewsbury Castle has a locket with a lock of Napoleon’s hair. (Yes, THAT Napoleon.) To add to the list of famous names, Charles Darwin was born in Shrewsbury and grew up there.



A grave for the character Ebenezer Scrooge even exists in a Shrewsbury graveyard, made for a movie version of “A Christmas Carol” and never taken out.



A watercolor scene of Shrewsbury, signed ‘Louise Rayner’.

The town also contains “the grandfather of skyscrapers”, the Ditherington Flax Mill, the oldest iron framed building in the world.



Shrewsbury has many more claims to fame than you can really keep track of! Today the town has a refined culture and plenty of architecture from various time periods, especially the Medieval era, that make the town a sight to behold.