I just came across the idiom " to count one’s spoons" which means " to make sure that the guests have stolen nothing" I could understand that the origin is from parties etc, but I would like to know how and when it is used. Is it common? Does it have a figurative use too?


Hi Tom,

As I understand (maybe, wrong), you ‘count spoons’, when you don’t trust to someone, who are talking tooooo much and sooooo loud about his/her honesty, arousing suspicious that it certainly will result to some negative profit for you :).
It also can be the Government or a presidential contender, who talks very much about his honor and your benefits, promising you a very-happy-life :slight_smile:

Hi Tom

I’ve heard the expression, but I don’t think it’s used terribly often. I’d say you could use it in any context where there is the suspicion that a person is considered likely to take something from you or cheat you in some way. In other words, the person is not to be trusted.
“Better count your spoons.”

I’ve also heard people say “count the silverware”.


Dear Amy

Could I ask you a question? What course have you done in English and from where? Please answer!


Hi Tom

Sorry, I don’t understand your question… :?: :?: :?:

Didn’t you like my answer? :?: :?: :?:

No no , nothing of the kind :shock:

I want to know something about my teachers, and that is all. Alan told us that he was a graduate from Oxford, Mr. Micawber has his own website, Conchita and Jammie have told about themselves in some mails, but you are the only one who…

And, by the way, call it flattery or whatsoever, you seem to know a lot about the English language. How did you improve it? Did you also love this language since childhood?
Have you done Masters in English from some reputed university? Please tell us something about the relationship between yourself and this language.And just to remind you:

Please do not be economical with words.


This made me smile, because it reminded me of when I was living in the Czech Republic and some other American would come through town on vacation. We’d get into a conversation, and he’d say to me, “Your English is extremely good! Where did you learn it?!” They’d be a little embarrassed when I’d tell them that it’s my native language. :smiley:

I can’t count the number of times that happened to me over there.

I’ve never heard the idiom “to count one’s spoons”, but in my area we do tell people, “You’d better count the silver” (or silverware), after some untrustworthy person has left.

Tom,Amy is a native speaker :smiley:

(Just to give an example) What I’ve found is:

“The louder he talked of his honor, the faster we counted our spoons.” (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

Okay, but keep in mind that Emerson died in the 1880s, and he was also a poet. That may or may not have been a common phrase when he was alive.

I get 40 Google hits for the exact phrase “count your spoons”; about 253 for “count our spoons” (most of which seem to be in very archaic language); only 2 hits for “count one’s spoons”; but I get 353 for “count the silverware”, and those seem to be in modern English.

Hi Jamie (K),

I agree with you, Google’s statistics represents an actual picture of modern use of English.

P.S. Does it mean that silverware gets increasingly popular? :slight_smile:

One the one hand, yes. On the other hand, in the US we call almost any eating utensils “silverware”, so you’ll hear people use seemingly contradictory expressions like “stainless-steel silverware” or “plastic silverware”.