A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from January 01, 2013
“The early bird may get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese”

"The early bird catches the worm” is a proverb dating from at least the 17th century; it means that whoever does something first has the best chance of success. However, the person who does something first also encounters the first problems. For example, the first mouse gets caught in the mousetrap.

“The early bird may get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese” is a jocular anti-proverb that has been cited in print since at least 1994-95 and is of unknown authorship.

[This entry was prepared with the research assistance of the Quote Investigator.]


The Phrase Finder
The early bird catches the worm
Meaning

Success comes to those who prepare well and put in effort.
Origin
This is first recorded in John Ray’s A collection of English proverbs 1670, 1678:
“The early bird catcheth the worm.”

Google Groups: alt.buddha.short.fat.guy
Ernest Berg
12/14/94
(...)
Blessed is the Second mouse for he shall inherit the Cheese

Google Groups: rec.games.video.arcade
David Jacovac
2/2/95
(...)
“The early bird gets the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese!”

Google Groups: comp.sys.amiga.applications
Manou BILLA
1/4/96
(...)
The early bird gets the worm, the second mouse gets the cheese.

Google Groups: comp.sys.amiga.misc
Andre Hoffmann
6/21/96
(...)
The early bird gets the worm, the second mouse gets the cheese.

Google Groups: comp.sys.hp.mpe
Bill Lancaster
11/12/97
(...)
Early bird gets the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese

Google Groups: rec.music.dylan
George Spanos
Feb 14 1998, 2:00 am
(...)
“The early bird catches the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.”
(Guy Clark at the Barns of Wolf Trap, 2/12/98)

Google Groups: alt.fairs.renaissance
Early bird gets the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese
Ken & Patricia
4/7/98
ROTFL I never heard that one before !  ROTFL

18 May 1998, Daily Herald (Chicago, IL), “Humor is the cure for whatever ails you” by Jack Mabley, sec. 1, pg. 10, col. 2:
Early bird gets the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.

New York (NY) Times
NEWS WATCH; For Home Users, No Need To Rush Out for Windows 2000
By PETER H. LEWIS
Published: February 17, 2000
(...)
After all, the early bird gets the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.

Straight Dope Message Board
Mixed Metaphors
Gawain
09-13-2000, 01:16 PM
Originally posted by jjjfishe
The early bird catches the worm but the early worm gets eaten.

The early bird catches the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.

28 September 2001, Augusta (GA) Chronicle, “Naps are wasted on the young” by Bill Kirby, pg. 1C, col. 1:
The early bird may get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.
-- bumper sticker

OCLC WorldCat record
The second mouse gets the cheese
Author: Rulon R Garfield; Shirley Davis Garfield
Publisher: [S.l. : s.n.], 2002.
Edition/Format: Book : English

OCLC WorldCat record
The Second Mouse Gets the Cheese
Author: M Trombly
Publisher: [New York, N.Y.] : The Association, [c1987-
Edition/Format: Article : English
Publication: Business credit : publication of National Association of Credit Management. 105, Part 1 (2003): 20-23
Database: ArticleFirst

OCLC WorldCat record
The second mouse gets the cheese : proverbs & their uses
Author: C R W Spedding
Publisher: Cambridge : Rothay House, 2005.
Edition/Format: Book : English

Google Books
The Dictionary of Modern Proverbs
Compiled by Charles C. Doyle, Wolfgang Mieder, and Fred Shapiro
New Haven, CT: Yale University Press
2012
Pg. 173:
The second mouse gets the cheese.
1997 Sydney [Australia] Morning Herald 13 Sep.: “Thought for the weekend, culled from Greg Cocks, of Brooklyn, from the Internet: The early bird may get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese."The proverb might be thought of as an anti-proverb responding to “The early bird gets the worm”; often (as in the quotation) it appears in conjunction with the older proverb.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityWork/Businesses • Tuesday, January 01, 2013 • Permalink