lion

The UK currently accounts for the lion’s share of web budgets

This sentence led me to look up the origin of the expression "the lion’s share". It means to take everything, to not share at all, although I’ve heard it used in the sense of taking the biggest part of something. It comes from a fable written by Aesop, a slave who lived in Greece in the mid-sixth century BC. Here is a translation of it:


W. Aractingy

The Lion’s share

The Lion went once a-hunting along with the Fox, the Jackal, and the Wolf. They hunted and they hunted till at last they surprised a Stag, and soon took its life. Then came the question how the spoil should be divided. "Quarter me this Stag," roared the Lion; so the other animals skinned it and cut it into four parts. Then the Lion took his stand in front of the carcass and pronounced judgment: The first quarter is for me in my capacity as King of Beasts; the second is mine as arbiter; another share comes to me for my part in the chase; and as for the fourth quarter, well, as for that, I should like to see which of you will dare to lay a paw upon it." "Humph," grumbled the Fox as he walked away with his tail between his legs; but he spoke in a low growl. "You may share the labours of the great, but you will not share the spoil."

This was then translated into Latin by Phaedrus, another slave. Here is the English translation of his version:

The Heifer, the Goat, and the Sheep, In Company With The Lion


The heifer, the goat, and their sister the sheep,

Compacted their earnings in common to keep,

It’s said, in time past, with a lion, who swayed

Full lordship over neighbours, of whatever grade.

The goat, as it happened, a stag having snared,

Sent off to the rest, that the beast might be shared.

All gathered; the lion first counts on his claws,

And says, "We’ll proceed to divide with our paws

The stag into pieces, as fixed by our laws."

This done, he announces part first as his own;

"It’s mine," he says, "truly, as lion alone."

To such a decision there’s nothing to be said,

As he who has made it is doubtless the head.

"Well, also, the second to me should belong;

It’s mine, be it known, by the right of the strong.

Again, as the bravest, the third must be mine.

To touch but the fourth whoso makes a sign,

I’ll choke him to death

In the space of a breath!"

And finally, Jean de la Fontaine adapted it in French:

La Génisse, la Chèvre, et la Brebis, en société avec le Lion

La Génisse, la Chèvre, et leur sœur la Brebis,

Avec un fier Lion, seigneur du voisinage,

Firent société, dit-on, au temps jadis,

Et mirent en commun le gain et le dommage.

Dans les lacs de la Chèvre un Cerf se trouva pris.

Vers ses associés aussitôt elle envoie.

Eux venus, le Lion par ses ongles compta,

Et dit : "Nous sommes quatre à partager la proie."

Puis en autant de parts le Cerf il dépeça ;

Prit pour lui la première en qualité de Sire :

"Elle doit être à moi, dit-il ; et la raison,

C’est que je m’appelle Lion :

A cela l’on n’a rien à dire.

La seconde, par droit, me doit échoir encor :

Ce droit, vous le savez, c’est le droit du plus fort

Comme le plus vaillant, je prétends la troisième.

Si quelqu’une de vous touche à la quatrième,

Je l’étranglerai tout d’abord."

This explains why the exact same expression exists in French (se tailler la part du lion).