Proverbs Exposed: Part Three

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow on the Isle of Wigh...

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I am heartened to see that the revolution is picking up steam, but I should add that I don’t condone vigilantism. So for those of you who are considering taking to the streets and persecuting local proverbs…let the law take care of it. If it doesn’t, the shame these proverbs will feel upon reading my continuing manifesto should force them to out themselves eventually anyway. So, without further ado, I give you, Part the Third:

Cold hands, warm heart. – V.S. Lean (1903)

Unless…you know, you’re dead.

Do not allow sins to get beyond creeping. – Hawaiian

So stalking is cool in Hawaii, huh? Neat.

Don’t bypass a town where there’s a friend.- Malagasy

Unless you owe him money.

Don’t cross the bridge til you come to it. – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Assuming we’re not talking about an age in which remote viewing is the norm, explain to me how you could cross a bridge before you came to it. Exactly how long are you, Mr. Longfellow, that you thought it worth cautioning people about resisting the temptation to tackle bridges they hadn’t arrived at yet? It’s like saying don’t watch the TV until you turn it on. There’s a certain critical process that needs to happen first for it to be in any way beneficial.

Don’t cry over spilt milk. – James Howell

Unless it got spilt because you fell while carrying the glass jug it was contained in and suffered major cuts and lacerations and now you’re bleeding all over the place and you have so many shards sticking out of you, you look like a translucent hedgehog, in which case, go nuts. No one will blame you.

Don’t cry before you are hurt. – Scottish Proverb

Unless you see it coming. Like, if there’s a wall of fire racing toward you, or a bomb is falling and headed straight for your skull, or you’re falling headlong out of an airplane, or the bungee cord snaps, or the rollercoaster derails…all of these are perfectly fine reasons to bawl like a three year old who got his underpants caught in a revolving door and is being repeatedly slammed against the glass.

Don’t cut off your nose to spite your face. – Mid 14th century French Proverb

 Yes. Don’t cut your nose off for that reason.  Casting aside all medical, superficial, and psychological reasons, that’s the reason you shouldn’t mutilate yourself. If you need to be told this, your face must be one hell of a jerk.

Don’t expect things to go right the first time. – unknown

Unless you’re a skydiver.

Don’t go barking up the wrong tree. – Davy Crockett

Or the right tree, for that matter. Not only does it look ridiculous, it courts suspicions of either lunacy, or lycanthropy. Plus, it’s just off-putting, and tends to annoy the squirrels who only went up there in the first place to avoid having to look at your jerk of a face.

Don’t look where you fell but where you slipped. – Liberian

I would think looking where you fell is kind of unavoidable when the ground is rushing up to meet your face at a thousand miles per hour. But I do see people looking at where they slipped all the time. You know the ones. And I’m willing to bet you’ve done it yourself—when you almost fall, or stub your toe on the pavement? You turn back and glare at it like it just suggested you do something unsavory with your mother, just so everyone around you (the people struggling not to laugh) know you’re a badass that doesn’t take crap from sticky-outy pieces of pavement.

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. – Miguel de Cervantes

Why not? Seems to be a perfectly reasonable action if I want to avoid putting them in my pockets. Why would I make the simple act of taking home a couple of eggs more complicated? Your suggestion would have me contending with multiple baskets and that seems, not only like unnecessary work, but a recipe for disaster. Why don’t you put an egg in your shoe and beat it, genius?

Don’t reinvent the wheel. – unknown

Who wakes up and thinks: Today, I’m going to invent a wheel! Who is so sheltered that they’ve missed this rather important development in the history of mankind? But let’s say for the sake of argument that such a person exists. Perhaps without knowledge of the wheel, they may streamline the process and invent a rounder and rollier, perhaps more fragrant and attractive version of the traditional wheel, that not only rolls, but plays music and cures cancer. What then, smarty pants? I’m guessing you’d probably try to steal the patent so you’d no longer be unknown.

Don’t shoot the messenger. – Old Latin Phrase

I will if he trespasses. The yard is clearly marked. And filled with suspected werewolves barking up the wrong tree.

Don’t toot your own horn. – unknown

Unless you’re about to mow down a few pedestrians. Then you should probably toot your own horn until you break your hand. If nothing else, it might generate some sympathy from the jury when the case goes to trial. If you’ve been ejected from your own vehicle and find yourself sticking out of somebody else’s, it may be a little redundant, not to mention too late, to toot their horn. Unless you just feel like messing with them.

Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. – unknown

Until this proverb, history was rife with reports of parents simply forgetting their children were in the tub and flinging them into bathroom walls, out windows, off porches, or simply allowing them to swirl down the drain. Thank you, Unknown. A thousand children with tile marks imprinted on their cherubic little faces are forever in your debt.  You may, in fact, be responsible for the invention of the big fat, heavier bathtub, which negates the chances of the baby being thrown out with the bath water unless you’re pretty determined to do so.

Even a fish wouldn’t get into trouble if it kept its mouth shut. – Korean

Yes, it would only have to suffer the minor irritation of starving to death.

Even children of the same mother, look different. – Korean

Particularly if they have different fathers.

Every Jack has his Jill; if only they can find each other. – R. Cotgrave (1611)

“Hey Jill…look down! See that bloody mess at the foot of the hill?” There, you’ve found each other.

Everything is lovely when the geese honk high. – unknown

Well yeah, but not just for the geese. Anyone who gets high thinks everything is lovely.

Falling is easier than rising. – Irish

Unless you’re horrifically drunk, in which case both actions can be equally challenging.

First things first. – G. Jackson (1894)

If you’ve already made clear that it’s the first thing, it seems rather redundant to dictate the order in which it should occur, don’t you think? It’s not like you’d announce that the first thing should come ninth, right? Dummy.

Fish don’t get caught in deep water. – Malay

Yes, so far, and only because they’re classified as being outside the jurisdiction of most police departments. If the crime is bad enough though (like, say, sexual assualt), the coast guard’ll get ’em. They’ll get ’em good. So all you haddock rapists in the bad trenches of the Atlantic…your days are numbered.

For news of the heart, ask the face.- Guinean

Unless the person whose heart you’re enquiring about has recently cut off their nose to spite their face, in which case, eye-contact may prove difficult.

God grant me a good sword and no use for it. – Polish

Why would you ask for it, then? Is your nose a jerk?

Stay tuned for part four…


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