Saturday, April 30, 2011

Proverbs That Shaped My Life

My grandmother, Vivian Smith, mother to my mother, loved proverbs--those tiny sharp bites of pithy wisdom--and had one for almost any occasion. I thought, when I was a teen, that they were beneath her intellect. She was a bright woman with mostly A grades all through her early schooling and her college and university educations. Surely, she could come up with an original thought.
This from the girl who said: “See you later alligator,” and “After a while, crocodile.” “What’s life? Life is a magazine.”
Now I have adopted many of her succinct sayings: “A stitch in time saves nine.” “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.” “A man’s home is his castle.” “Better late than never.” “A stitch in time saves nine.” “Discretion is the better part of valor.” “He/she also serves who only stands and waits.”
There really is a saying for every occasion. “You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear,” was one of my favorites. Another, that covered the same subject was: “A goat dressed in silk is still a goat.” Perhaps there is a nuance of difference but to a little girl they carried the same impact. “A leopard cannot change his spots.”
“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”
Some of them, as I once pointed out to Grandma, conflict with each other. Such as: “All good things come to he who waits, Vs “All good things must come to an end.” Ask a silly question and you'll get a silly answer," Vs “There is no such thing as a silly question.” “A rolling stone gathers no moss,” Vs “Home is where the heart is.” Or: “A house is not a home.”
“You can’t judge a book by its cover” was one I heard whenever I found fault with someone else. Along with that went: “Birds of a feather flock together.” The last came into play when I was choosing friends who, according to Grandmother’s standards,  were not good for me. “A person is known by the company he keeps.” “Actions speak louder than words.”
“Those who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.” “Those who sleep with dogs will rise with fleas.”
“A word to the wise is enough.” “Still waters run deep.” “Don't cast your pearls before swine.”  “Don't count your chickens before they are hatched.”
Then there is: “Happy is the bride the sun shines on,” 
“Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.”
My father also had fun with proverbs. He had a bunch of ball caps made up for his business. He owned an auto salvage yard and vehicle repair shop (and had a trucking and construction business). The caps read, tongue-in-cheek: “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”
“An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” That one may be more true than was supposed. “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
“Patience is a virtue,” was a proverb I heard often. So was: “It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.” 
Some of them, I think, were just family sayings. One of those was: “Ask your ma for ten cents to see and elephant dance on a fence.” To us, that meant do not follow the crowd and to, no matter what others did, dress appropriately, as the case may be.
One of my sons quotes: “A train leaves no tracks.” He claims it is a conversation-stopper because it doesn’t make sense but those pondering it often try to make it do so. They will nod wisely and wander away.
“A fool and his money are soon parted.” Now that is a saying we could all benefit from in today’s world what with internet scams and crooks trying to take advantage of the clueless. “All that glitters is not gold.” 
“A penny saved is a penny earned.” “Money doesn't grow on trees.” “Money is the root of all evil.” “Money isn't everything.” “Money makes the world go round.” “Money talks.” “You can’t get blood out of a stone.” “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” “Time is money.”
Then there is:  “A man who is his own lawyer has a fool for his client.” “The shoemaker's son always goes barefoot.”
“A chain is only as strong as its weakest link,” was meant to remind me that the family was counting on me to do my best. “Blood is thicker than water.” “Charity begins at home.”
“A change is as good as a rest.” Now that one may, or may not, be true. I have had some changes in my life that were truly restful and others, such as a 14-day stay in a hospital bed, that nearly drove me mad.
“A picture paints a thousand words.” “A thing of beauty is a joy forever.”
I was not a very tidy girl and I often heard: “A place for everything and everything in its place.” When I reached adulthood and was responsible for my own things, I learned that was true. “Cleanliness is next to godliness.” “Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today.” “The devil finds work for idle hands to do.”
“As you make your bed, so you must lie upon it.” “As you sow so shall you reap.”
“A prophet is not recognized in his own land.”
“Adversity makes strange bedfellows.” Contrast that with: “Politics makes strange bedfellows.” “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” “Those who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.” "The best-laid schemes of mice and men often go astray."
The proverb I needed most? “Brevity is the soul of wit.”

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