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 October 28, 2017
“The early bird catches the worm, but the early worm gets eaten”

"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, what about the worm?

Chambers’s Journal printed in April 1887:

“Many of our maxims and aphorisms are decidedly contradictory; for instance, the example held on to us of the early bird is somewhat upset by the fact that ‘the early worm gets eaten.”

The New York City humor magazine Puck published on November 3, 1897:

“The early bird may get the worm, but the early worm gets eaten.”

The saying has been printed on several images. “The early bird may get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese” is a related saying.


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 Books
9 April 1887, Chambers’s Journal of Popular Literature, Science and Arts, pg. 225, col. 1:
Many of our maxims and aphorisms are decidedly contradictory; for instance, the example held on to us of the early bird is somewhat upset by the fact that ‘the early worm gets eaten;’ ...

3 November 1897, Puck (New York, NY), pg. 6, col. 2:
THIS SOUNDS TRUE.
You should not be the first on hand,
Unless you would be beaten;
The early bird may get the worm,
But the early worm gets eaten.

Google Books
March 1898, Outing, pg. 638, col. 2:
THIS SOUNDS TRUE.
You should not be the first on hand,
Unless you would be beaten;
The early bird may get the worm,
But the early worm gets eaten. — Puck.

Chronicling America
26 August 1910, Rock Island (IL) Argus, pg. 4, col. 1:
The early bird gets the worm, but on the other hand the early worm gets eaten.

Chronicling America
6 September 1910, Guthrie (OK) Daily Leader, pg. 4, col. 3:
The early bird gets the worm, but on the other hand the early worm gets eaten.

Google Books
The Comic Encyclopedia:
A Library of the Literature and History of Humor Containing Thousands of Gags, Sayings, and Stories

By Evan Esar
Garden City, NY: Doubleday
1978
Pg. 236:
The early bird gets the worm, but the early worm gets eaten.

Google Books
20,000 Quips & Quotes
By Evan Esar
New York, NY: Barnes & Noble Books
1995, ©1968
Pg. 250:
The early birds gets the worm, and the early worm gets eaten.

Twitter
Janae‏
@796girl
“The early bird eats the worm, but the early worm gets eaten.” So, should I get up early and go to yoga tomorrow morning?
11:08 PM - 6 Apr 2008

Twitter
Aaron Punzalan‏
@kuwestiyonmark
Late, but then again the late worm doesn’t get eaten by the early bird.
7:46 PM - 10 Sep 2008

Twitter
Will 🇳🇱 👀‏
@Squidsuckss
Dear “the early bird gets the worm”, But the early worm gets eaten… Sincerely, sleeping in. http://lil.as/5Qw
5:15 AM - 28 Oct 2011

Twitter
@nation
The Early Bird Gets The Worm, But The Early Worm Gets Eaten. Don’t Be A Worm.
8:24 AM - 19 Mar 2014

Reddit—Shower Thoughts
The early bird gets the worm, but the early worm got eaten.
submitted August 27, 2014 by hoppers2k9

Reddit—Shower Thoughts
The early bird gets the worm but the worm that sleeps in doesn’t get eaten
submitted November 19, 2014 by doowi1

Facebook
Jay Quophi
October 19, 2015 ·
It’s true the early bird catches the worm but it’s also true the late worm avoids getting eaten by the early bird. Don’t rush too much....the snail got to the ark eventually..

Reddit—Shower Thoughts
The early bird gets the worms, but the early worm gets eaten
submitted July 31, 2016 by lpbug

Reddit—Shower Thoughts
In reality, the early bird would get the worm, but the late worm would not be eaten by the early bird
submitted September 27, 2016 by WestOfHades

Reddit—Shower Thoughts
The early bird gets the worm… but what about the worm? He was up early and got eaten alive.
submitted September 5, 2017 by dweakz

Reddit—Shower Thoughts
The early bird catches the worm, but what about the worm? It was up early but still got eaten.
submitted October 28, 2017 by goldcheries

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityWork/Businesses • Saturday, October 28, 2017 • Permalink