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You Can Give Them Books and Give Them Books, but They Just Chew the Covers

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Tim from Kalamazoo, Michigan, reports his dad used to say You can give them books and give them books, but they just chew the covers right off. He’d use this expression when he felt someone wasn’t following instructions or failing to understand an explanation. This saying is usually applied to people failing to appreciate what they’ve been given. Variations include: You send them to school, you buy them, the books, and what do they do? They eat the books and I buy books and books and all you do is chew the covers. In 1949, a newspaper columnist joked: The folks keep sending me to school, but all I do is eat the covers off the books. Bookworm, you know. The expression has been around for decades, and might be as simple as a reference to an infant chewing the cover of a board book to relieve sore gums. Another possibility is that this notion originated in the wacky craze of competitive eating during the 1930s and 1940s, where college students showed off by eating live goldfish, worms, the leather covers off of baseballs, and yes, magazine covers. This is part of a complete episode.

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