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Teaching Grandmother to Suck Eggs: Origin and Meaning

This idiom refers to a situation in which someone (person A) is giving advice to someone else (person B) about something that they (person B) already knows a lot or even more about than person A. For example if a teacher was trying to advise a doctor on how to deal with a broken leg! Or indeed, if a doctor was advising an English teacher on how to teach the conditionals!

The idiom sounds very strange nowadays because people no longer suck eggs; however, in the past it was normal to eat eggs by making a hole at each end and sucking the contents out! It was a clean and easy way to eat them without cracking them and spilling egg everywhere! Naturally, as soon as we learning about the potential of getting food poisoning from raw eggs (salmonella), this method was quickly dropped!
Teaching grandmother to suck eggs It is unclear where exactly this idiom came from; however, the Oxford English Dictionary and other sources believe that it comes from a translation in 1707, by J. Stevens, of ‘Quevedo’s Comical Works’. Quevedo was a Spanish author who wrote, when translated:

“You would have me teach my Grandame to suck Eggs”

The earliest identified English use of the idiom is from 1736, when it was defined as follows in the Dictionarium Britannicum, by Nathan Bailey, George Gordon, Philip Miller, Thomas Lediard:

‘Teach your Grannum (Grandame) to suck Eggs (A Reproof to those, who think they have more Knowledge than the whole World, and will be ever and anon teaching those who have had more Experience than themselves.’
Customer: You know a great way of marketing this product would online via Facebook.
Marketing Manager: Thanks for your contribution but you’re teaching grandmother to suck eggs!

James: I think my teacher got her grammar confused today, she said we could use the Present Perfect with a time phrase.
Sarah: Why didn’t you correct her?
James: Well I didn’t want it to look like I was trying to teach my grandmother to suck eggs.

Patient: I hurt my ankle when I was playing football.
Doctor: I think it’s broken.
Patient: Well, you should put it in plaster then!
Doctor: Ok, ok, don’t teach your grandmother to suck eggs!
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