Worldly Wise

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Proverbs from around the world:

  • If two people tell you you are blind, shut one eye. (Georgia)
  • Those who have free seats at a play hiss first. (China)
  • It is in sugar that you see the dead ant. (Malaysia)
  • Seven days is the length of a guest’s life. (Myanmar)
  • Silence is a fence round wisdom. (Germany)
  • Good things sell themselves; bad things have to be advertised. (Ethiopia)
  • Where there is most mind there is least money. (Latin)
  • Better a free meal of acorns than a honey feast on trust. (Wales)
  • Only an owl knows the worth of an owl. (India)
  • Good luck is the guardian of the stupid. (Sweden)
  • At birth we cry — at death we see why. (Bulgaria)
  • Errands are small on a spring day. (Iceland)
  • The nail suffers as much as the hole. (Netherlands)
  • The higher the castle the nearer to the lightning. (Russia)
  • There never was a five-pound note but there was a ten-pound road for it. (Scotland)
  • A contented mind is a continual feast. (England)

(From David Crystal, As They Say in Zanzibar, 2006.)

Misc

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Salman Rushdie suggested that if Robert Ludlum had written Hamlet it would be called The Elsinore Vacillation.

Larry Rosenbaum observed that a gigolo is a million million billion piccolos.

The Greek god of theatrical criticism was named Pan.

Most pygmy hippos in American zoos are descended from William Johnson Hippopotamus, a pet given to Calvin Coolidge.

BISOPROLOL FUMARATE is an anagram of SUPER MARIO FOOTBALL.

Illinois considers Pluto a planet.

“It is as if children know instinctively that anything wholly solemn, without a smile behind it, is only half alive.” — Iona and Peter Opie, The Lore and Language of Schoolchildren, 1959

Misc

  • Queen Victoria and her future husband, Albert, were born with the help of the same midwife.
  • Ulysses Grant and Harry Truman had the same meaningless middle initial.
  • SLICES OF BREAD is an anagram of DESCRIBES LOAF. (Dean Mayer)
  • France’s longest land border is with Brazil (via French Guiana).
  • “A creed is an ossified metaphor.” — Elbert Hubbard

(Thanks, Tony.)

All God’s Creatures

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“Animals seen as sport become to the mind meat, and cease to be individual creatures, so that you may feed fishes, but catch fish, ride elephants, but hunt elephant, fatten turkeys and pigs, but chase turkey and pig, throw bread to ducks, but shoot duck; and some creatures, whom God would seem to have created merely for the chase, such as grouse and snipe, require no plural forms at all. And even as few as two pigs become pig if hunted.” — Rose Macaulay

In Thomas Tryon’s Country-Man’s Companion (1684), the birds upbraid man, “O thou Two-Leg’d unfeather’d unthinking Thing,” for his slaughter:

How many thousands of our innocent kind have been murthered by Guns, Traps, Snares, &c? and many thousands both of our Males and Females have lost their loving Mates by the like Stratagems, and no Pity or Compassion taken by Man on our miserable Sufferings, but rather they encourage each other to our destruction, and cry, Hang these scurvey Birds, shoot them, destroy them, they are good for nothing but to eat up our Corn: As if God that created us had done it in vain, as if he intended us not a subsistance and Food? What right I pray, has Man to all the Corn in the world? or why should he grumble and repine if we take a few Grains to supply our Necessities, whilst he squanders away such Heaps upon his Lusts? Wherein I fear he has so much besotted himself, and by continual Practice is become so harden’d, and has so powerfully irritated the dark Wrath in himself, that all our Remonstrances to him to move him to Mercy and Compassion, and to forbear polluting himself with the Blood of the Innocent, will be but in vain, and that we must still sigh and groan under his Cruelty and Tyranny, which as long-run will return seven fold upon his own guilty Head.

Unquote

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“While there is a chance of the world getting through its troubles, I hold that a reasonable man has to behave as though he was sure of it. If at the end your cheerfulness is not justified, at any rate you will have been cheerful.” — H.G. Wells

Borrowed Trouble

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“There is nothing so wretched or foolish as to anticipate misfortunes. What madness it is in your expecting evil before it arrives!” — Seneca

“How much pain have cost us the evils which have never happened!” — Thomas Jefferson

“Our worst misfortunes never happen, and most miseries lie in anticipation.” — Balzac

“Ills that never happened, have chiefly made thee wretched.” — Martin Farquhar Tupper

“I remember the old man who said he had had a great many troubles in his life, but the worst of them never happened.” — James Garfield

“Let us be of good cheer, however, remembering that the misfortunes hardest to bear are those which never come.” — James Russell Lowell

“Real difficulties can be overcome; it is only the imaginary ones that are unconquerable.” — Theodore N. Vail