“Whimsy” columnist CLIVE WILLIAMS tackles aphorisms and proverbs and the results are hilarious.
AN aphorism is a brief saying or phrase that expresses an opinion or makes a statement of wisdom without the flowery language of a proverb.
The term was first coined by Greek physician Hippocrates in a work he insightfully titled “Aphorisms”.
The term is often applied to philosophical, moral and literary thoughts. Here are some anonymous examples.
- “I read that 4,153,237 people got married last year. Not wanting to be controversial, but shouldn’t that be an even number?”
- “It’s ironic that the colours red, white, and blue stand for freedom until they’re flashing behind you”
- “When wearing a bikini, women reveal 90 per cent of their bodies. Men are so polite they only look at the covered parts”
- “America produces citizens who’ll cross the ocean to fight for democracy but won’t cross the street to vote”
- “You know that tingly little feeling you get when you love someone? That’s your common sense leaving your body”
- “My therapist says I’ve a preoccupation with vengeance. We’ll see about that!”
- “Money talks… mostly it says goodbye”
- “You’re not fat, you’re just more visible”
“If you think nobody cares whether you’re alive, try missing a couple of payments”
- “The mailbox is as far as you can go in a dressing gown before you look like a mental patient”
- “It’s pretty cool how Chinese people made a language entirely out of tattoos”
- “Money can’t buy happiness, but it keeps the kids in touch”
- “Being a couch potato is not the same as being a failure. Being a failure implies you were actually trying to achieve something”
- “Remember: If you don’t sin, Jesus died for nothing”
- “War is God’s way of teaching Americans geography”
- “The first piece of luggage on the carousel never belongs to anyone”
Sometimes they are attributed:
- “Men are like linoleum floors; lay ’em right and you can walk all over them for 30 years” (Betsy Salkind)
- “Home cooking. Where many a man thinks his wife is” (Jimmy Durante)
- “Never argue with stupid people, they will drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience” (Mark Twain)
- “Compliments are often insincere, but fault-finding is always genuine” (Edgar Watson Howe)
- “I believe in luck: how else can you explain the success of those you dislike?” Jean Cocteau
- “It doesn’t matter what temperature the room is, it’s always room temperature” (Steven Wright)
- “If two wrongs don’t make a right, try three” (Laurence Johnston Peter)
- “Woman`s first duty in life is to her dressmaker. What the second duty is no one has yet discovered” (Oscar Wilde)
- “If life were fair, Elvis would still be alive today and all the impersonators would be dead” (Jimmy Durante)
- “America is the only country in the world where a significant proportion of the population believes that professional wrestling is real, but the moon landing was faked” (David Letterman)
PROVERBS provide worldly advice, but in an indirect metaphorical way. Here are some international ones.
- “Only a fool tests the depth of a river with both feet.” African – meaning: Consider the consequences before making a decision.
- “If your enemy wrongs you. Buy each of his children a drum” African – meaning: Self-evident!
- “The old horse in the stable still yearns to run.” Asian – meaning: Even the elderly have things they still want to accomplish.
- “No one is a prophet in their own land.” Latin American – meaning: People tend to value exotic and unfamiliar experiences to what they have in their own lives.
- “An army of sheep led by a lion would defeat an army of lions led by a sheep.” Arabic – meaning: Leadership is the most important factor in success.
- “Ask about your neighbours before buying the house.” Jewish – meaning: Don’t surround yourself with neighbours you won’t like.
- “After the game, the King and the pawn go into the same box.” Italian – meaning: In death we’re all equal.
Having a mathematical bent, my favourite aphorism is:
- “Relationships are a lot like algebra. Have you ever looked at your X and wondered Y?”
Clive Williams is a Canberra columnist
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