Silver Spoons

Keith Tysseen, Serving Spoons
Keith Tysseen, Serving Spoons

I went looking up the phrase ‘born with a silver spoon in his mouth’ partly I’m exploring all things silver, but also because we welcomed a new nephew last week (not that he was born with a Silver spoon!)

It is defined as “opportunities that you did not earn but that you have from the influence of your family”

Etymology: from the idea that silver spoons were given at the birth of wealthy children

Like most children of the 80’s I associate silver spoons with Ricky Schroder living it up in the TV sitcom ‘Silver Spoons’. So even from a young age I knew a silver spoon had something to do with inherited wealth because they had a huge toy train set running through their house!

Ricky Schroder, Silver Spoons
Ricky Schroder, Silver Spoons

I was thinking, if the phrase is to denote being born into wealth why not say born with a gold spoon as it is of higher value.

Anyway it turns out that it is more the properties of silver than its value that have lead to the saying. Beyond their value and beauty silver cutlery self-sanitizes as silver is a natural anti-biotic. I knew it had been used for dressings for wounds and burns to prevent against infection but it seems it has other properties which have been utilized for centuries.

Silver was used by royal and wealthy families to detect poison. In the Korean Joseon Dynasty this was used to great effect to protect the heir to the throne. During this Dynasty the king would have a number of wives all vying for their sons to inherit the throne. Usually the first born would inherit everything so the queens would attempt to poison his food so their sons might succeed him. The silver spoon would tarnish when it came into contact with sulphur which is present in arsenic. Therefore protecting the king from his ambitious family!

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