Tuesday, February 2, 2016


Adages are old & supposedly wise sayings which, unfortunately, have changed over the years.  In today’s society I think it would help to understand them if we were aware of their reason for being & what the original adage was.  Below are 28 examples.   As you will note, many of them pertain to businesses.

1. The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.
This was Sherwin-Williams Paint's original ad campaign.  AstroTurf also used it for a while but stopped when threatened with copyright & trade mark lawsuits from Sherwin-Williams.

2. Out of sight, out of mind.
A suggested slogan for the Alzheimer’s Foundation which they forgot to tell the printers about.

3. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Obviously an attempt by the pharmaceutical companies to sell vaccines.

4. Look before you leap.
Originally a warning by the government to make consumers aware of the dangers of eating raw pork.  The original version was “Cook before you eat.”

5. One man's meat is another man's poison.
An attempt by a French seafood company to sell fish in the United States.  It was originally "One man's meat in another man's poisson."

6. Put the cart before the horse.
This was an early slogan of the ASPCA.  Many horses were injured while attempting to push heavy carts.  It became relatively obsolete with the invention of the truck.

7. The pen is mightier than the sword.
Paper Mate used this slogan to get people to use a pen as a weapon in a duel, being significantly lighter & therefore easier to handle than a sword.  It was replaced after duelers realized that they couldn't get close enough to their sword-wielding opponent to make it a fair fight.

8. Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.
An early ad campaign by people who were deadly serious about banning smoking.  Non-smokers would often attempt to set smokers on fire.

9. Nothing is certain but death & taxes.
Perhaps accurate once, but in today's world you must add "Shipping & handling."

10. Little strokes fell great oaks.
A warning by the American Medical Association which became convoluted.  It was originally "If you try to fell a great oak, you'll probably have a little stroke."

11. If at first you don't succeed, try, try again.

 Warning!!  Ignore this adage if you are attempting to learn to skydive.

12. Out of the mouths of babes.
This is now used to showcase the smart things children sometimes say.  It was first used as a warning; have you seen what comes out of the mouths of babes?

13. He who hesitates is lost.
This adage has inadvertently been shortened & its meaning altered.  It should say "He who hesitates has lost his GPS."

14. The early bird gets the worm.
Prior to the advent of refrigeration, a family member (the "early bird") would be designated to remove the worms from the morning meal before the rest of the family awoke. 

15. No peace for the wicked.
This adage is merely the result of an early misspelling.  If children misbehaved, they would be denied a share of their family’s dessert pie.  The saying should read, “No piece for the wicked.”

16. An elephant never forgets.
This was supposed to be "An elephant never forgets the day that the stampede is scheduled." & was to be placed on the veldt as a warning for tourists.  The sign painter had the flu & was off work for some time.  On his return to work, he had only completed half the sign when, sadly, he was crushed to death in the elephant stampede.

17. Don’t bite the hand that feeds you.
This was printed on a sign used by lion tamers in early circuses. Unfortunately, they were never able to teach lions to read.

18. A penny saved is a penny earned.
The first attempt by Bank of America to get people to have large savings accounts.  Originally it was "A penny saved is not nearly enough for anything."

19. Make hay while the sun shines.
This one is logical.  Who wants to work with wet hay in the dark? 

20. Familiarity breeds contempt.
A Planned Parenthood slogan; it was "Familiarity breeds children."

21. A fool & his money are soon parted.
A convoluted version of the Nigerian lottery's "Dear fool, send me a large part of your money."

22. God helps them who help themselves.
An early anti-shoplifting slogan.  It should read "God help you if you help yourself to our stuff."

23. Beggars can't be choosers.
It was once forbidden for people to enter Indiana & become residents when intending to beg for a living.  The original saying was "Beggars can't be Hoosiers."

24. You can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink.
In the days of the Model T many cars broke down because of the sheer weight of the horse sitting in the passenger seat.  Drivers going out to hit the local bars would often take their horse along as a drinking buddy.  Ford Motor Company had meant the slogan to be "You can lead a horse to water but don't drive him to drink."

25. People who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.
This was part of a campaign by wholesale flower growers who were tired of replacing windows in their greenhouses after rock fights between disgruntled employees.  It originally was "People who work in glass buildings shouldn't throw stones until they are outside & well clear of the building."

26. Cleanliness is next to godliness.
When dictionaries were first printed, they only contained about 100 words or so & "cleanliness" appeared directly before "godliness".  Even in my 1981 Webster's Third New International Dictionary "cleanliness" is on page 419 & "godliness" on page 973, so obviously this saying has lost all meaning over time.

27. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
Early photographers had trouble storing their negatives & prints so that they would be readily accessible.  One clever man had the idea of having special acid-free folders made so that he could keep them in a filing cabinet.  They were sorted by subjects & alphabetized.  Animals were kept under “A”, sunsets under “S” & any woman he considered to be a beauty was, of course, in the “B” folder. 

28. Never look a gift horse in the mouth.
This adage was originally “Never look a gift horse in the butt” but since it originated in the Victorian era the word “butt” was in disfavor.  The picture below clearly shows the reason for the original saying.

An apple a day won't keep ME away!!----fishducky