I know that someday you'll find better things.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Words of Wisdom

Years ago at Jennifer’s bridal shower, we played a game that involved completing time-honored adages. The first few words of the proverb were provided, and each guest independently recorded the tried-and-true words to finish the phrase. I’d thought I was the daughter of the Cliché King, so I was surprised at how few I knew. It’s tempting to try to blame my youthful age for this indiscretion, but more likely it was my pervasive oblivion. There was only ONE that I was certain about, so when it was time for the group to call out the answers to each one (Family Feud chorale-style, as is the protocol in these events) my contribution was especially exuberant and decidedly different from the more mellow—but unanimous—‘spoil the soup’.

Spoil the soup?

I thought it was ‘Too many cooks crowd the kitchen!’ I’d probably heard my dad say a thousand times throughout my childhood. It was usually followed by ‘We’ll call you when it’s time for dinner. Go pick up your room.’ And sometimes ‘Do you think money grows on trees?’

The embarrassment of that day had almost faded when I received an email forward of a similar nature. Apparently a teacher of first-graders had conducted a similar activity and the results were pretty humorous. (You'll have to google it on your own. You know how copyright laws make me nervous.)

Ah, little kids.
So honest.
So naïve.

I began to wonder about my own students. Sixth graders pack a whopping eleven years of life-wisdom. How would they respond? I provided them with the sentence starters and directed them to complete the phrase independently. If they weren’t familiar with the phrase, they were to make a reasonable guess, as logic is at the heart of nearly every proverb, nestled snugly between collective experience and universal truth.

Here were some of the more notable contributions:

Don’t change horses…
color/hair (this was mentioned several times)
who don’t want to be changed.
if you already have one that works.
until it wants you to.
change yourself, instead.

Strike while the…
moon is out.
day is young.
cobra is still.
enemy is sleeping.
getting is good.
Don’t bite the hand that…
is germy.
you write with.
is covered in spikes.
shares the news.
has already been bitten.

You can lead a horse to water, but…
it might not get in.
good luck leading it away.
you can’t lead water to a horse.

If you lie down with dogs, you’ll…
learn something new.
smell like a dog.
earn their trust.
probably be dog-piled.
make a few new friends.
never achieve your goals in life.

A bird in the hand…
is a calm bird.
will eat your seeds.
is probably dead.
and a foot in the bush.

Don’t put off ‘til tomorrow…
what is due tomorrow.
whatever it is that you do.

There are none so blind as…
(both were very popular answers)

Better late than…

And finally:

An idle mind is…
Extremely stupid. Not to mention boring.

I whole-heartedly agree.

I laughed until my sides hurt. It’s why I kept that stack of papers in the first place. Their reasonable responses may not jive with the language of the traditional proverbs, but the spirit of their message is as clear as the wisdom of those lovely ladies at the bridal shower and all the generations that came before them.

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