I have said and used the saying “Never look a gift horse in the mouth” quite a few times. Also there is a similar styled saying in Malayalam, which has a similar meaning that goes like this – “appam kazhycha madhi, kuzhi ennenda”. Loosely translated, go ahead and eat the appam (unni appams are a sweet snack) and don’t count the holes (appams are made in a vessel with half hole shaped to give the appams it’s dome shape).
So what do they mean? Well the latter literally means when someone offers you something to eat, just be grateful for the free meal and eat it instead of enquiring the vessel it was made in and stuff. Similarly for the former, if you are gifted a free horse accept the fact that u got the animal for free and don’t check it’s teeth to see how heathy and therefore expensive he is.
Now that is the meaning behind the sayings. But – if I got a free horse and I knew something about horses will I not want to check on his health? So why can’t I look at his mouth? What if his teeth need cleaning? Or he is ill and has a sore throat? A look inside the gift horse’s mouth will be necessary then. Not so stupid now to look him in the mouth is it? Or what if he is being used to smuggle drugs and the said drugs are hidden in his mouth? What then genius?
And the appams – what if they were cooked in a dirty vessel? Or in bad oil? Wouldn’t u want to check the vessel it was cooked in? Or if you had never seen appams before, you’d be curious to know how it is cooked so you could make it at home yourself, right? Any harm in looking at and counting the holes? None whatsoever. So those two sayings……don’t always hold water!