An Apple a Day is a book of proverbs. It’s not a proverb dictionary, rather it is looking at proverbs in relation to their relevance today. The introduction goes through the progression of some proverbs. They can start out being quotes, like in Shakespeare or the Bible, and then be a proverb, and then if overused can become a cliché. Here are some of my favorite ones, usually due to some of the extra bits the author included. So a lot of quotes.
“A cat may look at a king,” which I have heard before, but the Irish addition of “The cat has leave to look at the queen, and the queen has leave to shoot it” does add a little something.
“Cleanliness is next to godliness” is all well and good, but Christopher Fry made the point in his play The Lady’s Not for Burning: “What after all is a halo? It’s only one more thing to keep clean.”
There are quite a few proverbs about the devil, and one I had not heard was “The devil sick would be a monk.” It makes sense that if the devil were not feeling himself, he would act contrary to his normal behavior, but then go right back to normal once he got better.
“Give a dog a bad name and hang him” is one I had not heard before, but the quote from Teddy Roosevelt’s daughter Alice was glorious: “If you haven’t got anything good to say about anyone, come and sit by me.” (Alice would have fit in quite well with my coworkers, it seems!) (This also showed up in The Wizards of Once!)
“Familiarity breeds contempt” started with a tale from Aesop about a fox who was scared of a lion, but then as he spent time with the lion he became less afraid, but also less respectful. The author had the same thought I did, that it would have been more interesting if the lion had eaten the fox anyway.
“A friend in need is a friend indeed” is one that is fairly popular, but the Scandinavian version “Go often to the house of a friend; for weeds soon choke up the unused path” is a bit more concrete.
“God helps those who help themselves” has an old joke attached to it. A man prayed week after week to win the lottery, and when he died, God told him “For heaven’s sake, give me some help. Buy a ticket!”
In “Good wine needs no bush,” the bush is the advertising on the sign in front of the establishment. So good product will get around by word of mouth, I guess.
Ah, the good old “The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.” Most people just take it to mean that what someone has always looks better than what you have. But take into account the literal meaning. In an overgrazed pasture, the grass is indeed greener and healthier outside the fence than the scrubby overeaten stuff inside the fence. That’s often why grazing farm animals escape – to get to that sweet, sweet greener grass.
“Hope springs eternal in the human breast” changes a bit when you hear the rest of the quote: “Man never Is but always To Be blest.”
“You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink” has a raunchier version by Dorothy Parker: “You can lead a whore to culture but you can’t make her think.”
If “Knowledge is power,” but “Ignorance is bliss,” do you prefer power or happiness?
“A leopard cannot change his spots” was brought up in a speech by President Truman: “The leopard has not changed his spots; he has merely hired some public relations experts.”
“A man is known by the company he keeps” was used in regards to marriage in the sixteenth century. That changes it a bit, I think.
Apparently William Cowper wrote a poem about a sofa. Nice.
“No news is good news” has been rendered a bit obsolete by technology – everything travels quickly, bad news or good news or viral videos. You could take out the “good” and it would almost still be true.
“The pen is mightier than the sword” is certainly true. See what a single tweet can do. (Hey, I rhymed!)
“Practice makes perfect” is indeed more accurate as “Practice makes better.” You gain proficiency by practice, not perfection. A golfer said in praise of a lucky shot, “The more I practice, the luckier I get.”
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is also improved by seventeenth century clergyman Thomas Adams who said, “Prevention is so much better than healing, because it saves the labor of being sick.”
“A rolling stone gathers no moss” has changed in meaning as time went on. A rock gathering moss was seen as a good thing, but today it is the opposite.
A quote from W. C. Fields that isn’t a proverb, but seems appropriate: “Hell, I never vote for anybody. I always vote against.”
“You can’t take it with you,” or “There are no pockets in shrouds.” I like the latter, but people are buried in their best clothes sometimes, and they can have pockets, so…
“There’s many a good tune played on an old fiddle,” where the author acknowledges the mystery surrounding just why old violins made by the masters are so good.
So there you have it. My thoughts on this book of proverbs. I learned a lot of fun quotes and passed them on to you!
This fulfills the CBR10 Bingo square of “Delicious!”