Tuesday, 18 April 2017


'A good wine needs no bush'

It was Emma McDowell who told me that Jó bornak nem kell cégér had been a favourite saying of Mária Hári's.

Emma was at a loss to offer a meaningful English translation. She has found the dictionary-stated English equivalent but that meant nothing to her – or at the time to me either. I had simply never heard the this proverb, and it rang no bells.

Custom and saying

The custom of indicating an inn with a green branch or bush goes back in Europe to at least classical times. It was known in China too.

The proverbial saying that Mária favoured occurs in various European languages. In modern terms it means:

A good thing needs no advertising

Many modern English pubs still include a bush in their names, 'The Old Bush', The Ivy Bush', 'The Holly Bush', 'The Bull and Bush' etc. The bush in this sense remains an unquestioned part of the culture.


The saying 'A good wine needs no bush' was enough established in English for Shakespeare to be able to assume that his audience would know what was it meant when he quoted it in Rosalind's Epilogue to As you Like it (1599).

Actually Shakespeare did not buy into the folk wisdom of this then already old adage. As a businessman and political publicist he knew better. Through Rosalind he said –

If it be true that good wine needs
no bush, 'tis true that a good play needs no
epilogue; yet to good wine they do use good bushes,
and good plays prove the better by the help of good

Climate change

It seems worthwhile remarking that at one time England was a wine-growing country. Presumably the custom of signalling wine with a bush died out in this country as the climate changed, with the proverb following it into extinction. I have to presume that further south in Europe, where the wine persisted over the centuries, the custom also persisted and, along with it, the saying.

Now in the 21st century the climate is changing again. Wine is once more grown in England, and rather good some of it, I am told – even the French say. so. The custom of displaying a bush or branch to signal the sale of wine just might reappear in the new English wine-growing regions, and Mária's favoured saying could therefore once more regain currency in the English language.

Whether this old saying is true or not, there are plenty of modern-day contexts in which it can be applied as a discussion point – not least in Conductive Education.

My own translation?

Good wine needs no bullshit

My own experience suggests that on balance I am, reluctantly, on the side of Shakespeare with this one, much as I should like the world to be otherwise.

A line of thinking

Emma's mention of this proverb favoured by Mária Hári''s had come up as part of a Comment on a posting on Conductive World. This posting has been itself written in response to a thought-provoking and salutary blog-posting on a most fundamental characteristic of Conductive Education – its essentially non-prescriptive nature:

I do wish that I could come up with a snappy and memorable way proverbialising that.

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