Proverbially Speaking

Laura‘s provided this week’s Friday Five question, which I’m answering a couple of days early because I’m going to Canada in the morning. So here goes:

I’ve always hated the proverb “Practice makes perfect,” especially if uttered when I’m desperately trying to do something that’s just not coming out right. I just don’t care how true it is, I want things to happen NOW! What are the proverbs that make most impact in your life; the ones you use the most, the ones people keep saying to you, the ones that strike to you as the greatest wisdoms or wildest inaccuracies, or simply the ones you loathe above others?

Well, I tend not to know a lot of proverbs, to be honest, but here are a few that stick out in my mind:

  1. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. I have to admit it wasn’t until late in my twenties that I actually understood what the hell this was supposed to mean. I am of two minds about it: I know that having something in hand is far preferable to a promise of something, but on the other hand sometimes you have to take a risk on something that’s simply not a sure thing.
  2. Silence is golden. This, I’ve learned living in Korea, is absolutely true. Actually, I forgot what it meant until I was in a little house on the side of a mountain at the start of the Himalayas, and I heard the quietest silence I’ve ever heard, and realized what this proverb means.
  3. Every dog has its day. From what I’ve seen in my travels, this doesn’t really seem to be true of much of the world. It seems like a lot of people never really get their fifteen minutes of fame, their moment in the sun. Most people still seem to live short, difficult lives full of what is now to some degree unnecessary atruggle. Sometimes I feel the fact that this is expression isn’t really true so clearly I don’t even know how to feel about my own situation, whether to just feel grateful, or feel obligation, or embarrassed that I don’t do more to help others around me. It’s strange and difficult for me to work through this one.
  4. 인간만사 세옹지마. (In Gan Man Sa, Sae Ong Ji Ma.) This is the Korean form of a Chinese proverb that comes with a story attached. It’s about a man who loses a horse. Actually, the horse runs off, and though people curse his luck, he thinks this may turn out to be a great thing; sure enough, the next day the horse returns, bringing with it a new, bigger, stronger horse. Everyone celebrates his good fortune, but he warns that it could go badly for him. Well, of course it does: his son, while trying to tame the horse, breaks his leg, and then the man decides that finding the damned horse was a misfortune. Then, an army wanders through drafting all able-bodied young men to go to war and probably die in battle. But of course, with his broken leg, the son is not able-bodied and escapes the certain death of battle. And so on the story goes, reversal of fortunes following one after another. This expression is kind of a combination of, “Every cloud has a silver lining,” and “Don’t count your chickens before the’ve hatched,” though it feels slightly more negative to me. The saying literally is apparently something like “Luck is like an old man’s horse.”
  5. 호사타마. (Ho Sa Ta Ma.) This, one of my friends explained to me, kind of means, well, look, things are good now, so now’s the time to be extra careful. Just when life looks like it’s going well, that’s when disaster strikes. So be wary! It’s another Chinese expression though the form I know is in Korean.

That’s it. What a tough question, Laura. But a good one. Thanks!

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One thought on “Proverbially Speaking

  1. I’ve heard of a kung fu master who remarked that practice makes permanent, and so it is of paramount importance to make sure that what you are doing is correct before practicing it over and over again.

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