For today’s blog post, I’ve asked Terri of Finders, Not Keepers to explain her thoughts behind the English proverb Finders, Keepers. She had a lot to say. Without further ado, take it away Terri…
Or so goes the old English proverb. As every school child knows, it basically means that when an object is abandoned, whoever finds it first can claim it. The saying is based on an ancient Roman law but is longer a legal principle. Thank goodness! There is some application of “Finders, Keepers” principle involving shipwrecks that states that original owners may have lost all claim to the cargo if the shipwreck is of a certain age, though.
Maybe it’s because I’m a librarian and a librarian’s main purpose in life is to loan books to readers, but I am not a fan of the whole finders, keepers idea. What would happen to a library if someone decided a book left on a table was abandoned and claim it? Chaos, I tell you.
And the second line to the proverb? Losers, Weepers? It’s just plain mean. It’s like a big fat na na na boo boo, which is the verbal equivalent to sticking out your tongue to someone. The word ‘losers’ also implies an object is lost rather than abandoned.
My main problem with the saying is that it’s immoral. Instead of urging the finder of an object to do the right thing and find the owner, it claims you can keep it without having any obligation. That’s just plain lazy. I’m a big believer in doing the right thing no matter what it costs.
There’s a reason this is an ‘old’ English proverb. It just doesn’t compute in modern society. I can maybe (maybe!) agree that years and years ago it was impossibly difficult to find the owner of a randomly found object, but that’s not true today. With social media and the automation of society, it’s easier than ever to return objects to their owners. It doesn’t even take that much effort.
So, when I found a diamond necklace in my attic, there was no way I was going to keep it. My best friend urged me to keep it and even my neighbor pointed out how I could use the money if I sold it, but that wasn’t the right thing to do. Instead, I went on the hunt to find the actual owner. Sure, my hunt took a lot of effort and even involved some scary stuff happening, but that’s unusual. Even if I had known all kinds of scary stuff was going to happen during my search for the owner of the necklace, I wouldn’t have changed a thing. When something is the right thing to do, you do it – even if it takes more effort than anticipated.
So I say – Finders, NOT Keepers.