Proverbs…aphorisms…saws…maxims…morals…adages…axioms. We’ve all grown up with these short, pithy sayings that reportedly state a universal truth or provide a piece of advice.
Their popularity waxes and wanes, but people have been espousing these pungent putdowns, pronouncements, and purportedly practical advice forever!
Some are useful. Some are not. Some are outdated. Some have been wrongly appropriated. The New Yorker recently published an entire page of updated sayings related to science and climate. When it rains it pours became when it rains it acid-rains.
We like this concept of updating, and thought it might be fun to critique, discuss, and recommend eliminating some common aphorisms.
We’re sure you’ve heard someone emphatically assert that we should kill all the lawyers. Shakespeare included the line in his play Henry VI written in 1591. But, it was the bad guy who wanted to be king who said it. Historians write that Shakespeare meant it as a compliment to attorneys and judges who instill justice in society.
Interestingly, the American Bar Association published an article titled: “Why Is It That Lawyers Get Such A Bad Reputation?” It surprisingly referenced defending the guilty, charging outrageous fees, and chasing ambulances. But, proclaimed in the end, as does Shakespeare, that lawyers are the “glue that holds a civil society together and keeps America and other nations from being anarchist states or volatile, chaotic republics.” Okay, let’s give this one a MAYBE since it still has some appeal.
How about a watched pot never boils? Benjamin Franklin is said to have alluded to this proverb in the mid-1700s. Of course, it is literally not true. It’s meant to describe how time seems to go slower when waiting for something to happen. And, even if we did take it literally, forget it. Today we have microwaves! So, into the dust bin. We’re giving it a NO.
We enjoy irritating the kids with one of our favorite maxims—with age comes wisdom. Studies appear to confirm this. Weseniors are better at solving social conflicts, seeing multiple points of view, searching for compromise, and acknowledging what we don’t know. But, scientists also point out that wisdom is knowledge gained through experience, not age, so we oldies can’t claim all the wisdom. This should be a NO, but we’re going to give it a YES because we’re old and like to flaunt it.
Beauty is only skin deep. Amen. A YES! It is what it is. True, but incredibly annoying. Stop using it so it dies. A definite NO. Is revenge best served cold? YES! We would note that Game of Thrones may have revitalized this one. But, all’s fair in love and war? NO. We don’t advocate winning by ignoring the rules or behaving unethically. Think Wells Fargo.
The only certainties in life are death and taxes. Well, we would include insurance and trash! So MAYBE? Too many chiefs, not enough Indians. NO. Not PC. Let’s just drop it! Maybe substitute too many cooks spoil the broth?
Strike while the iron is hot. Hmmm. This maxim is dated. Millennials don’t iron, they buy clothes that don’t require ironing, spray them with “wrinkle release,” or steam them in the clothes dryer. Besides, this one really refers to blacksmithing. Guess it could work in an updated context like playing a hot game of golf. A MAYBE, maybe?
Children should be seen and not heard. When we were young, we totally disagreed. Now? Not so much. A YES. Where there’s smoke there is fire. Wait. We live in Colorado. Marijuana is legal. That means vaping. So, NO.
And, we love axioms that accurately describe opposing truths. Absence makes the heart grow fonder or out of sight, out of mind. We’ve experienced both. YES!
So our wrinkled wisdom for today? Shakespeare’s Polonius dishes advice: clothes can make the man. Don’t repeat verbatim. It’s 2019. Include women! But, don’t judge a book by its cover reminds us that we shouldn’t prejudge the worth or value of someone or something by outward appearance alone. Also, be aware that nothing ventured is nothing gained, but sometimes it is better to be safe than sorry. And, yes, a penny saved is a penny earned. All the more reason young people should invest in an IRA.