The premise of this series is basically to recast what could be construed as old advice and find a new and relevant meaning. Not every old saying has value, however, and some advice, no matter how well intended it is, should probably just be avoided. Just for fun, I have assembled a few old clichés that I think fall into this category.
Let’s start with the clichés that purport to represent good and cozy feelings. Happy as a clam? Pleased as punch? Snug as a bug in a rug? These are all non-sensical.
Honest as the day is long. Almost every one of my days is shorter than I expect. If someone claims to be this honest, does it mean they really aren’t?
Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth. Does anyone even know what a gift horse is?
Don’t open that can of worms. Worms do not come in a can. Even when you buy bait, worms don’t come in a can.
Don’t let the cat out of the bag. For Pete’s sake, if for some strange reason you have a cat in a bag, please let him out! Note: the reference to a cat in this cliché is actually a shortened version of that cat of nine tails, which is a whip that was used to flog people who broke the rules 200 years ago. Used in the context from which it was originally taken, it makes sense, but now this saying is used to reference a potentially damaging bit of information, which makes no sense whatsoever.
Don’t let the bed bugs bite might be the worst advice ever given to a kid right before bedtime.
If you happen to be dieting, you most certainly do not want to “eat like a bird.” Many birds eat the equivalent of twice their body weight every day!
No matter how fun it may sound, never ever fly by the seat of your pants.
He who laughs last, laughs best. It also may mean he didn’t get it.
And lastly (for now), he who hesitates is lost. No deliberation? No prudence? Only snap decisions will do the trick?
Sometimes, you just have to “grin and bear it.”
By Scott Arney, Chief Executive Officer, Chicago Patrolmen’s Federal Credit Union.
This article is part of Arney's new series, entitled A New Use for an Old Cliché.
This installment is part of Arney's educational series, entitled The Serial Decision Maker.