Proverbs Exposed: Part Two

Abraham Lincoln, the sixteenth President of th...

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I am quite pleased at the reaction to these so far. Many of you appear to be in complete agreement with me. And while I have never been attacked by a masked, machete-wielding proverb in a back alley in New Orleans during Mardi Gras, as one correspondent reportedly endured, I nevertheless take (what I hope was) the metaphorical point: Proverbs are a societal blight and must be eradicated before it’s too late. We, my friends, have centuries of damage to undo, so let us recommence the public stoning, with nary a pause for breath…

“A true friend is the best possession.” – Ben Franklin (1706-1790)

…unless you own a game console, in which case the only friends you need are the strangers you sometimes buddy up with on multiplayer, and who you think you connect with on some intimate level, until they turn out to be fifty-eight year old drunk ex-postal workers whose mastery of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 suddenly makes you rethink your relationship.

“A true soldier does not admit defeat before the battle.” – unknown

Because that would make him a jerk of the highest order. “Dudes, hate to be a downer here, but we’re totally gonna lose.” It would also make him (a) least likely to be put in charge of troop morale, and (b) least likely to receive covering fire.

“A watched pot never boils.” – unknown

Really? Water with heat underneath it will not reach boiling temperature just because I’m staring at it? Really, Mr. Anonymous Proverb Troll? Even if I just watch it from the corner of my eye, real sneaky-like? Huh. So what you’re saying here essentially is that water is shy? Screw that, I’m testing this one for myself. Back in a minute.

It boiled. Even when I shoved my face real close, stared hard at it, and dared it not to. So either you’re wrong, Mr. Unknown, or I’m one of those rare individuals lucky enough to have faucets that produce confident water.

“Absence makes the heart grow fonder.”- Thomas Haynes Bayly

Unless they cleaned your ass out when they left, in which case you probably hate them a lot, or you discover the reason for their absence was infidelity, in which case…same.

“Actions speak louder than words.” – Abraham Lincoln

Unless you’re Kathy Griffin or Roseanne Barr.

“All cats are grey in the dark.” – John Heywood

No, in the dark, all cats are invisible, just like everything else. Because it’s, you know, dark. You’re that rolling stone-moss guy again. Dude…what was in that pipe, and where can I get some? Does a rolling cat gather moss?

“All in good time.” – Horace

All what in good time, Horace? Don’t leave us hanging. And why do you only have one name, anyway? Were you like the Prince or Rihanna of your time? Did they call you H-Lo?

“All roads lead to Rome.” – Unknown

This guy is “unknown” because in the process of proving his theory, he drowned in the Atlantic.

“All that glitters is not gold.” – Latin Proverb

True. Sometimes it’s just the cast of a Stephenie Meyer novel.

“Always be prepared.” – unknown

For what? Is this Horace again?

“Another day, another dollar.” – unknown

I know times are hard, but if you’re only making a dollar a day, you need to find another job. Homeless guys make more than that. Get yourself a lemonade stand or a squeegee and consider it a promotion.

“Any port in a storm.” – unknown

Wouldn’t it more sense to pick the nearest one?

“Anything with scales counts as a fish.” – Malay

Hear that Lady Justice? Not only are you blind; you’re a mackerel.

“Be careful what you ask for; you may get it.” – unknown

Isn’t that kind of the point? I mean, I don’t know about you, but when I go to the trouble of asking for something, I’m pretty sure I want it. Otherwise, why ask, unless you’re playing some kind of weird mind game?

“Be gracious in defeat.”- unknown

In other words, be nice to the person who just handed you your own ass. I prefer “Be gratuitous in defeat”, which advises waiting in the parking lot with a tire iron after the game.

“Because we focused on the snake, we missed the scorpion.” – Egyptian

Bummer. Were you at least gracious in defeat?

“Before healing others, heal yourself.” – Gambian

Unless the other guy is a doctor.

“Beggars can’t be choosers.” – John Heywood

Sure they can. They can choose where to beg.

“Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without one.” – Chinese

Obviously, people believe this one. If they didn’t, the nightly news would be full of stories about criminals getting snatched trying to smuggle truckloads of uncut pebbles across the Canadian border.

“Better a thousand enemies outside the tent than one within it.” – Arabic

Actually that means you have a thousand and one enemies, and you’re surrounded. Kudos for trying to stay positive though.

“By crawling, a child learns to stand.” – Hausa

And also how to get a hold of all those tasty chemicals in the cupboard under the sink.

“Can’t get blood from a stone.” – unknown

We learn pretty early on what kind of things have blood in them. If, after all that, you still find yourself trying to get a boulder to hemorrhage, you might need to re-enroll.

“Can’t see the forest for the trees.” – unknown

Unless you were looking for DeForest Kelly, the arboreal density suggests to me that you’re already in the forest, jackass. But go right ahead and keep looking for it. Word of advice though: when you get to the water, don’t stick your head under it to see if you can see the river.

Actually, on second thought, go ahead.

“Chickens don’t praise their own soup.” – Martinican

You’re right. They also don’t praise the new Lexus, advances in modern science, or the season finale of Lost. They cluck, lay eggs, and they taste good a l’orange. And if they did praise their own soup, what of it? They made it; let them take pride in their culinary accomplishments, you jerk.

“Children are a poor man’s riches.” – English Proverb

This means, for the parents of Charlie Sheen, Shia LaBeouf, LeBron James, Miley Cyrus, Heidi Montag, Spencer Pratt, or any of the cast members of Jersey Shore, it’s time to file bankruptcy.

“Choose to be forgiven.” – unknown

These “unknown” guys are a real bunch of geniuses. Choose to be forgiven? Imagine the following scenario: Your friend comes home early and catches you in bed with his wife. He pulls out a gun and levels it at you. You raise your hands and say, “Wait! I choose to be forgiven!” What do you think happens next? Yeah, keep 911 on speed-dial.

I suspect all these anonymous proverbialists (see, I can make up junk too) met hasty and unpleasant ends.

“Curiosity killed the cat.” – E. O’Neill

This one is hard to disagree with, because any cat’s death can be attributed to curiosity. For example, if a cat falls twenty stories and gets smushed on the pavement, it’s easy to say it happened because the cat was curious about the effects of gravity. It’s not like the cat is going to dispute the claim. Wise words from a guy best known for playing a chauvinistic slob on Married with Children.

“Cutting off a mule’s ears doesn’t make it a horse.” – Creole

No, it makes it an ugly, mutilated mule. And since when do horses not have ears?

“Dally not with other folk’s spouses or money.” – Ben Franklin

For money, on the other hand, is perfectly all right. If you get caught, just choose to be forgiven.

“Dead men don’t bite.” – Plutarch

Thank God George A. Romero had the good sense to ignore this one, or we’d have been forced to endure a bunch of movies featuring zombies that, instead of nomming on your skull to get at the juicy goodness within, simply do lame impressions of Christopher Walken while hoping you’ll offer them your cerebral candy as a tip, and then sulk when you laugh at them. Night of the Living Buckwheats just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

“Deeds are fruits; words are leaves.” – English

I am Spartacus.

“Destroy your enemy by making him your friend.” – Abraham Lincoln

If you think merely making someone your friend will be enough to destroy them, you might have self-esteem issues.

“Do not be like the cat who wanted a fish but was afraid to get his paws wet. – William Shakespeare

Or the otter who broke his neck trying to do the Electric Slide up a waterfall.

“Dog is a man’s best friend.” – unknown

…unless there’s an outstanding warrant for your arrest, in which case, he’ll probably drop a few notches on your Christmas card list.

“Don’t believe everything you hear.” – Aesop

…unless it’s a gunshot or an explosion, or someone shouting rather loudly that they’re going to kill you, in which case, it’s probably best not to be cynical.

Stay tuned for Part Three…


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