Proverbs and truth make strange bedfellows

The other day while eating lunch I happened to look out the window to witness a bird catching and eating a worm. My first thought of course was “oh, cool, nature at work.” But then I remembered that ever since childhood I had been indoctrinated to believe only “early birds” caught worms, and here I was watching an “afternoon bird” devouring a freshly captured invertebrate. Are proverbs just one big boring con?

Children are gullible, that’s why we lie to them to get them to do things we want them to do, without having to physically force them to do it. My parents told me all sorts of wild stuff to keep me in line, my favourite being “Not even Superman could touch that TV antennae and survive the electric shock”. Not suprisingly I didn’t mess with a pair of TV “rabbit ears” until I was a rebellious teenager (and I probably grew up thinking Superman was a bit of a wimp too…)

Likewise it’s time proverbs were revealed for what they really are – a product of puritanical conservatism from an era when we were meant to be reserved, compliant and to ration both food and fun.
We weren’t supposed to test boundaries, rock boats or rise above our station, and if you did, by golly gee there was a well worn proverb ready to go that would put you back in your place.

So here’s ten I picked out that are more than a little bit bullshit:

  1. You can’t have your cake and eat it too – This has been proven over and over to be complete rubbish. Whenever I get a cake I cut it up and freeze it – it lasts for months. And when that runs out I get started on my brother-in-law’s cake.
  2. A stitch in time saves nine. Since when has any sewing job required “a stitch”? Last time I found something that need a stitch there was no way even nine was going to get it done.
  3. It’s better to give than receive – LOL. Unless of course it’s a kick in a painful place that your receiving.
  4. Money is the root of all evil – OK I admit money is the root of some evil. But all evil? Try telling that to a charity that just received a million dollar donation to help save starving kids.
  5. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush – Hmm, I’ve often pondered this one. I think I’d better keep my conclusions to myself lest I’m misunderstood.
  6. Never look a gift horse in the mouth – If the saying was “never look a pitbull in the mouth” I could understand it – but a horse? Its bad breath is the only hazard I can think of.
  7. Waste not – want not – This was a bit of a mantra around my house when I was growing up. All right, all right, I get it – if I don’t waste things, I’ll never want for things. But what if I don’t want the waste? Eh? Eh? Explain that one people!
  8. A friend in need is a friend indeed – Problem is, a friend “in need” is usually in need of cash, and what “friend” would ask someone to give up their hard earned?
  9. An apple a day keeps the doctor away – Buddy, if all you’re eating is an “apple a day” then you most certainly will need a doctor to help you with all sorts of vitamin deficiency and malnutrition issues.
  10. A change is as good as a holiday – Assuming a “change” can take the form of anything from a new job to a fancy haircut, this is one I can certainly speak about from vast experience. Maybe this proverb was written with Blackpool or Bangor in mind as the “holiday” destination, but if anyone thinks a spiffy new suit could ever be the equal of a 3 week trek through Laos and Cambodia, they’re clearly deranged.

That’s it for this week – all good things must come to an end.

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