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Can't see the forest for the trees


This phrase shows up, in print, in the book authored by John Heywood. The proverb reads, "Plentie is nodeintie, ye see not your owne ease. I see, ye can not see the wood for trees." The grammatical structure of the phrase is a bit off-putting in today's language but back in Heywood's day the word "for" was used as the words "because of". Tweaking it to today's grammar it would read, "Can't see the forest because of the trees." (source)

I confess, this phrase has always made me scratch my head. I think I was getting hung up on the word "for" and now that I know a bit more about the etymological information it makes a little more sense. But I still don't like it, I'm not keen on it. Maybe it's just because it is nature based and I'm an indoors girl. *wink* Another way to think about the phrase is, "to be overwhelmed by detail to the point where it obscures the overall situation." And then I am struck by the irony, I've allowed the details of this actual phrase to obscure the overall phrase. HA!  











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