Many of us have been told not to cry over spilled milk, most likely by our parents. Although spilled milk is a pain in the butt to clean up, it is hard to imagine why people would cry over it; unless the milk was chocolate, or laced with gold flakes. So; what does this saying mean and where did it originate?
This term in modern times, has very little do with actual milk and more about not regretting things that have come to pass or decisions that have been made that cannot be unmade. While no one can be entirely sure where this saying came from, the earliest known use of this phrase comes from the collection of English proverbs by James Howell in 1659:
“No weeping for shed milk.”
The fact that it was a book of proverbs suggests the saying had been around for a while before the book was published.
Later uses come from Andrew Yarranton’s England’s Improvement by Sea and Land, in 1681:
“Sir, there is no crying for shed milk, that which is past cannot be recall’d.”
The actual reason why it had to be milk spilled remains unclear, but the saying could very well be meant for children; who sometimes will spill their bottle of milk. The meaning is clear and is still in usage today. This proverb has staying power!