notes on ‘no joy without alloy’

The proverb no joy without annoy, also no joy without alloy, means: there is a trace of trouble or difficulty in every pleasure.

This proverb occurs, for example, in Can there be joy without pain?, by the Rev. Jim Cooper, Minister of Chesham and Prestwood Methodist Churches, published in the Bucks Examiner (Chesham, Buckinghamshire, England) of Friday 15th January 1993:

An old proverb says “No joy without annoy” or “No joy without alloy”. I don’t know which was the original one but, either way, it means that when we are having a good time and getting all our own way, somebody else should suffer for it. We may also discover that our selfish enjoyment leaves a bitter taste for us as well.

In the proverb no joy without annoy, also no joy without alloy:
– the noun annoy denotes a feeling of discomfort or displeasure;
– the noun alloy denotes an undesirable element which impairs or debases something good.

This proverb, therefore, is based both on the common /ɔɪ/ sound in the nouns joy, annoy and alloy, and on the semantic opposition between joy and annoy, and between joy and alloy.

The proverb is first recorded as no joy without annoy in The Treasure of the Soule. Wherin we are taught how in dying to Sin, we may attayne to the perfect loue of God, & our neighbour, and consequently vnto true blessednes and Saluation. Many yeares since written in the Spanish tonge, & and [sic] now newly translated into English: By A. P. (London: Printed by John Wolfe, 1596)—the author specified that There is no gaine without paine, No ioy without annoy was already a “common prouerbe”:

It is called the way of Patience: and if it were not so ful of stones, prickles and thornes, and not so troublesome to walke in it, it should not beare the name, which it doeth, and the house where it bringeth a man vnto, not of such a great estimation, if the way were euen and pleasant, and euery one could walk in it according to his owne will and liking. But nowe none come thether before they be first well exercised in vertue. For dost thou not remember the common prouerbe. There is no gaine without paine, No ioy without annoy. And seeing thou art now entred into it, bee of good cheere, for it will not last long: for thou knowest that be who desireth to fish, must not feare the water: and doest thou thinke then to finde so costly and precious a treasure as is the Loue of God, without paine?

The proverb occurred as no joy without annoy in A Collection of English Proverbs Digested into a convenient Method for the speedy finding any one upon occasion; with Short Annotations. Whereunto are added Local Proverbs with their Explications, Old Proverbial Rhythmes, Less known or Exotick Proverbial Sentences, and Scottish Proverbs (Cambridge: Printed by John Hayes, Printer to the University, for W. Morden, 1670), by the English naturalist and theologian John Ray (1627-1705):

No joy without annoy.
Extrema gaudii luctus occupat. 1 & Usque adeò nulla est sincera voluptas, Sollicitúmque aliquid lætis intervenit. 2

1 extrema gaudii luctus occupat is from the Book of Proverbs, 14:13, in the Vulgate:

Risus dolore miscebitur, et extrema gaudii luctus occupat.

This verse is as follows in the King James Bible (1611):

Euen in laughter the heart is sorrowfull; and the end of that mirth is heauinesse.

2 Usque adeo nulla est sincera voluptas, Solicitumque aliquid lætis intervenit is from the Metamorphoses, by the Roman poet Ovid (Publius Ovidius Naso – 43 BC-circa 17 AD), and translates as follows:

For there is no pleasure perfect, some anxiety always intervenes.

The proverb occurred as no joy without annoy, s.v. joy, in A New Dictionary French and English, With Another English and French (London: Printed by Thomas Dawks, for Thomas Bassett, 1677), by Guy Miège (1644-1718?), and was translated into French as “nous n’avons point de joie sans fâcherie”, i.e., “we have no joy without fâcherie”. In Le dictionnaire de l’Académie françoise (Paris: Chez la Veuve de J. B. Coignard et chez J. B. Coignard, 1694), the noun fâcherie (which was spelt fascherie 3) was defined as denoting “Deplaisir, Chagrin, Regret”, i.e., “displeasure, sorrow, regret”.

3 The spelling fascherie in Le dictionnaire de l’Académie françoise shows that, in the Modern-French noun fâcherie, the circumflex accent, ^, is a trace of the etymological s—as in Modern-French nouns such as fenêtre (window) and île (island).

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