If you’re reading a random diatribe on whether C and C++ are good for numerical computing and happen to come across the curious expression “teaching your grandmother to suck eggs”, and decide to learn more about it, you’ll quickly find references to early usages in the 1749 Henry Fielding novel, Tom Jones, in which the protagonist recounts:
I remember my old schoolmaster, who was a prodigious great scholar, used often to say, Polly matete cry town is my daskalon. The English of which, he told us, was, That a child may sometimes teach his grandmother to suck eggs.
And if you then think to yourself, what the heck is “Polly matete cry town is my daskalon”? you need only grab your handy copy of William Shepard Walsh’s 1909 Handy-book of literary curiosities, look up “Polly matete” in the index, and find that it’s the transliteration (transphoneticization?) of:
πολλοι μαθηται κρειττονες διδασκαλον
which is the last line of a Greek epigram attributed “sometimes to Phillippus of Thessalonica, sometimes to Lucilius (both of whom lived in the early days of the Roman Empire)”, translated as:
Hermes, the volatile, Arcady's president, Lacquey of deities, robber of herds, In this gymnasium constantly resident, Light-fingered Aulus bore off with these words: Many a scholar, by travelling faster On learning's high-road, runs away with his master.
So there you go. And if you’re wondering what the original phrase means, Walsh provides this helpful explanatory rhyme:
Teach not a parent's mother to extract The embryo juices of an egg by suction: The good old lady can the feat enact Quite irrespective of your kind instruction.
As a side note, Whisper now supports poems, and I just learned how to type Greek in Ubuntu.