Monday, April 14, 2014

Proverbial Lessons?

One of the main reasons why I never learnt what people chose to call the 'lessons of life' is because people never talk straight when they are giving such advice. That is probably because they find it difficult to string together sentences all by themselves when it comes to abstract ideas. So, they dip into a pool of what people from before had said, in similar circumstances, and, apparently, in the days of yore, people believed in not saying anything unless it could be said with a metaphor, however obscure the metaphor made the meaning.

The first time I ran into these proverbs was when a friend said, "The early bird catches the worm." Considering that we were talking of how I had missed the school bus by a whisker AND that I had made no query about the breakfast habits of birds, I could not understand why he thought that this bit of ornithological information would brighten my day. Upon stringent cross-examination, he revealed that THAT was a proverb meaning that if you needed to get something, you ought to be early. I really did not get the point, still. I mean, if I were a bird it is all right since I would get the worm to eat. BUT, the worm was early too and I could not see that it benefited greatly by being early. If it had lazily yawned its head off, stretched its body and crawled out, well after the birds had done with breakfast, it would have been the better for it. When I questioned my friend on the applicability of the proverb, on these grounds, he glared at me and departed in a huff.

There is this other proverb, also meant to push the message of timeliness. "A stitch in time saves nine", is what it says apparently. Of course, with my 'acute' intelligence, my first confusion about it was the fact that it seemed incomplete. It is all very well saying, "..saves nine" but it left me asking 'Nine what?' Apparently, it means '...saves nine stitches later' and whoever wrote the proverb decided to save a couple of words, even if it left the meaning a shade ambiguous to people of 'acute' intelligence like me. What with this confusion and all, the proverb left me feeling that I should be perpetually moving around with a threaded needle in hand, an eye to the clock in order to be in time, and an ear keyed to the sound of tearing. The very thought was so fatiguing that I gave up any idea of taking up stitching. (WHAT? You mean it was meant to say that action should be timely in any endeavor and not only in stitching? I don't believe you. If that was what was meant, why not say so in so many words instead of giving tailoring lessons?)

Anyway, I found myself unable to understand most of what people tried to teach me. I bemoaned the fact to another friend and he says, "You can take a horse to water but you cannot make it drink." Huh! What the hell sort of reaction is that? Who wanted to know anything about the drinking habits of horses anyway?

36 comments:

  1. Proverbs should have been changed to suit the times.

    "Early bird catches the worm" shoud have become "Early commuter escapes the traffic"
    "A stitch in time saves nine" should become "A bug fixed during design saves ninety during Acceptance Testing"
    "You can take the horse to the pond" should become "A placecommer can get you a Day 0 shortlist but she can't clear the interview for you."

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    1. Hahaha! TF! I prefer simple words :) All metaphors are context-related and do not communicate the same thing to everyone.

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  2. Very true !!!
    Proverbs are indeed life lessons

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    1. They are - provided they are understood correctly :)

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  3. Haha, great arguments there, CS! Your post reminded me of Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes, my favorite. And yes, I do agree with your point, I prefer simplicity in words too. :)

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    1. Long time, Arti! Me - I get confused with metaphors :)

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  4. You know what, I have been using a lot of proverbs lately....and my first thought was to wonder if my posts had inspired this post!! and the next thing i'm going to do now, is go back to my own posts and re-read them if they sound like incoherently threaded together proverbs...:P

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    1. Not at all Titli! Like they say - this was independently derived :)

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  5. Taking a bow at your intelligence sir! Haha never heard about how being early for the worm was a disaster for it! Great read! Still smiling!

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    1. Thanks Danny! I think this worm's point of view has struck many :)

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  6. I can't decide what is funnier, the post itself or The Fool's comment with his Proverbs 2.0 :)

    His comment is the proverbial 'icing on the cake' as far as this post is concerned.

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  7. Awesome! It makes me yearn for the analysis of more such proverbs though. Probably in a future post? Or, is "too much of anything good for nothing"?

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  8. Haha. So true! Sometimes when people talk in circles on some little less known proverb, it's difficult to actually understand what they are trying to convey :-D

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    1. haha! True! And,some people spout proverbs without knowing what they mean as well :)

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  9. Those are all such endearing spins to the age old adages! I loved all of them, especially the last one about the horse and water: I am the incorrigible rebel! :D

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  10. Birds of a feather flock together, especially the ones with a lack of imagination.

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    1. True, Purba and what they cackle is 'full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.' :)

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  11. I loved the new take on proverbs by TF. Your point is very valid. My kids have taught me never to throw proverbs at them :D. Or if I do, I immediately explain. Complexities of language or a way to show that you KNOW your language :).

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    1. Hmm :) Looks to be becoming a standing feature - a comment stealing the thunder of my post :) Well - as long as it is happening on my blog... :)

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  12. But tell me how did whoever it was know that one saves nine stitches?? Why not eight or ten? I tell you, these guys coming up with the proverbs do no research, they just throw words at us poor souls.. errr except Fool though :P :P

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    1. Hahaha! I had a sneaking suspicion that the fellow thought 'nine' rhymed with 'time' :P

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  13. hahah the post is hilarious, the proverbs you mentioned are still understandable but the modified version of those in the first commentis epic...

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    1. Thanks Ankita! Though, I think, it is TF who should be doing the thanking :)

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  14. I prefer the more sensible ones like, Cough and the world coughs with you. Fart and you fart alone.
    This was a gem Suresh. How do you mange to make the mundane so interesting?

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    1. Hahaha! For me it is 'Yawn and the world yawns with you; sleep and you sleep alone' :) Thanks Alka!

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  15. Wonderfully stitched together, Sureshji :)
    If the worm is a late-riser, then the bird who arrives on-time will get it!
    Being late helps!
    But, late also refers to dead! Phew!

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  16. Oh God, this was just undoubtedly your very best (of course, I say that every time). I imagine a worm crawling out of its hole and stretching and lighting a cigarette and snickering at all those already fed birds.

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    1. Thanks Achyut! Now why did I not think of the the cigar and the Times :)

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  17. Ha ha ! A very nice take on the proverbs. TF has some valid points there !
    You have plenty of fodder for the blog here...What about .. Don't count your chickens before they're hatched ? All good things come to those who wait but time and tide wait for no man..
    The pen is mightier than the sword but actions speak louder than words eh :)

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    1. Ha! Yes! And I intend relentlessly inflicting them on you all :P

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  18. Nice one! I have heard of thinking out of the box but in your case I guess the box doesn't exist?! And could the worm have been a nocturnal one, too lazy to burrow back? Humorous as always!

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    1. Thanks Ramesh - my besetting problem. All my life I have been searching in vain for this mythical box :)

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