Volume 49, Issue 2 - February 2014


Say What ???
by Lyle R. Hill

My good friend, well known Scottish historian and orator Wayne Rethford, would label them paraprosdokians. Scandinavians often refer to them as aphorisms. My father, Lyle Alvin, always called them old saws. More commonly, they are simply known as adages, maxims, or clichés. But regardless of what word one might use to describe them, I have always had a fondness for them. In fact, I have been collecting them for more than 25 years yet every now and then still stumble across one that I have not previously seen.

A few days back, I started to organize my collection with a hope that maybe I could put together a book about them, but the task soon became much harder than what I would have expected. I began by developing somewhat general categories … business, politics, life experiences and so forth … but quickly realized that many of them could apply to multiple categories. I also soon came to realize that many of the clichés we use on a daily basis are, in my opinion, inaccurate or in conflict with other clichés. This caused me some distress and because distress should always be shared, I decided to do so herein. Here we go …

Some clichés are simply contradictory. Take for instance, haste makes waste but at the same time, he who hesitates is lost. So which is it? Or how about absence makes the heart grow fonder but out of sight is out of mind. The bean counters might be inclined to say it’s better to be safe than sorry but my truly entrepreneurial friends would quickly counter with nothing ventured, nothing gained. And then of course, my kids, when trying to figure out how to deal with me, regularly debate if you can teach an old dog new tricks or if you’re never too old to learn. I was also a little confused about what to do with the early bird gets the worm but the second mouse gets the cheese. Not quite a contradiction but made me pause to consider it. Maybe a twist here would be to add the one where fools rush in where angels dare to tread. Not sure … but you see my dilemma.

After a couple of hours of working through all of this, I decided that it was too much for me. Just too complicated. Then I stumbled across what is easy is seldom excellent so I felt a little guilty about not staying with it. Fortunately for me, I then found a piece of paper upon which was written nothing is as easy as it looks, everything takes longer than you expect, and if anything can go wrong, it will at the worst possible moment. That settled it. I threw them back in the file cabinet and went to get something to eat.

During my time reading through and attempting to sort out all of the sayings and clichés I had gathered, I pulled out my favorites … or perhaps I should say the ones that intrigued me the most at the moment … and I decided to comment briefly on them. In some cases because I disagree with them, or in other cases because, in my opinion, they need a little refinement or explanation. My top ten are as follows:

1. The squeaky wheel gets the grease – maybe initially, but the wheel that continues to squeak or squeaks too loudly almost always gets replaced!

2. Nice guys finish las
t – not necessarily, but unfortunately, they usually have to work a little harder because the bad guys don’t typically play by the same rules.

3. Keep your friends close, your enemies closer – I think this saying was made famous by Don Corleone but I strongly disagree with it. You should spend as much time as you can with people you like and enjoy being with. The thought of spending any time near the few enemies I have (their choice to be such, not mine) actually turns my stomach.

4. What goes around, comes around – a popular saying among Chicago’s Southside Irish, I am a believer in this. What you give (to people and to life) is what is almost certainly going to come back around to you. I’ve seen it over and over!

5. Money can’t buy happiness – the older I get, the more convinced I become of this and in many cases a little too much money actually seems to assure unhappiness.

6. You’re never too old to learn something stupid
– I agree here, but please don’t tell my kids about this one.

7. Put up or shut up - atimeless classic which can always be tied to talk is cheap. Don’t you sometimes wish people could actually see and hear themselves as others do?

8. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it – is anyone from the government listening??? Why we have to continue to tinker with things that are working just fine always amazes me. I’m all for progress, but some things should just be left alone.

9. The customer is always right – no they are not, but it’s probably not a good thing to let them know how you feel. Although I am convinced that some customers would do you more good if they were buying from one of your competitors.

10. Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life – this adage, credited to Confucius himself, might possibly hold the key to career success although it is not always easy to get the job you really love … especially if a lot of other people love it too!

Last thing … paraprosdokian is a real word. I know, when you saw it in the opening sentence you had your doubts. Comes from two Greek words meaning “against expectation.” See, you can still teach an old guy new things. Even me!

Lyle R. Hill is the managing director of Keytech North America, a company providing research and technical services for the glass and metal industry. Hill has more than 40 years experience in the glass and metal industry and can be reached at lhill@glass.com. You can read his blog on Wednesdays at lyleblog.usglassmag.com. You can order his new book, “The Broken Tomato” at amazon.com.

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