Friday, June 10, 2011

The Friday 4: Puzzling Proverbs

We've talked about a slew of German and American proverbs in German class these past few weeks, and although none of these below were on our lists, perhaps I've got proverbs on the brain. But since favorites are too easy, here are some strange, stupid, or otherwise confusing proverbs to consider: 

4.  We'll cross that bridge when we come to it. 

One of my favorites: the Sixth Street (Roberto 
Clemente) Bridge in downtown Pittsburgh 

Like, obviously. Unless you're going to defy physics/logic/time/etc., you can't cross something you haven't yet reached. Maybe it should read, "We'll wait to fret insanely about that bridge until we come to it." Not quite the same ring, but at least it makes mathematical and scientific sense. 

(I do so adore bridges, though.) 

3.  Don't look a gift horse in the mouth.

I see a mouth, but no gift . . . 
I get the sentiment here, but why would you look a horse in the mouth anyway, gift or no gift? Are you checking for cavities? (Brad and I each have 3 by the way - eeks.) 

And I don't get the whole horse + gift thing. Is this like some medieval dude-was-fighting-other-dude-wearing-chainmail-and-first-dude's-horse-got-lanced-and-then-he-was-horseless-but-another-random-(gift?)-horse-came-trotting-up-to-the-rescue-so-he-could-kill-second-dude kind of thing? 

Whatever the case, this one just seems silly to me. 

2.  The exception that proves the rule. 

What does this mean?! For the love of all that is good, I wish someone would tell me. Smart people love to say this - it's something they think is witty and pithy and all that crap - and I never know what they're talking about. 

Just once I'd like to say to one of these people, "That sounds like a load of horse sh*t." But if he's given you a gift, then don't . . . . 

1.  You can't have your cake and eat it, too. 

This is a bunch of crap. Why would anyone want to have cake if she weren't going to eat it? Moreover, how could she eat it if she didn't have it? 

My guess is that "have" means something like "keep" or "retain" (?), so, you can't keep something but also use it up. But why cake? Why not something like a piece of gold, which would at least be pretty to look at? 

I don't particularly like cake, by the way, and I often pass on it at parties (unless it's cheesecake, which is heavenly, or ice cream cake, which it seems no one but me likes anymore), so maybe I'm biased.

1 comment:

  1. Re: Proverb #3:

    Re: Proverb #2: I think Bill Bryson, in his awesome book Troublesome Words, claims that phrase is a malapropism that has somehow developed into a proverb despite being incorrect and nonsensical