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2017-11-26 17:17
By Robin Rhee



Whether you call them axioms, adages, maxims, proverbs or old saws, grandparents and parents have used them as teaching tools for countless generations.

English teachers tell their students they are both stale and trite expressions, yet the elderly continue to use them to pass on the values they think are important to learn.

As a child I spent a lot of time with my grandmother and she had a saying for everything. Among her favorites were these: Anything worth doing is worth doing well. Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today. A stitch in time saves nine. Never buy a pig in a poke. You can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear.

I often wondered why my grandparents had so many sayings which had to do with money. See a penny pick it up and all the day you'll have good luck. Mind the pennies and the dollars will take care of themselves. A penny saved is a penny earned. A fool and his money are soon parted. Later in life I realized that in the years which led up to their retirement there were no government safety nets for the elderly.

When I went away to college and met students from around the world I found it interesting that many of their adages had the same meaning as ones used by my family although they were expressed differently.

The following pairs are examples. The first proverb is American/British. The second is attributed to a specific nation.

Charity begins at home.
It is better to do a kindness near home than go far to burn incense. (Chinese)

Never reward bad behavior.
He who goes unpunished never learns. (Greek)
Birds of a feather flock together.
If it is difficult to know a man, find out with whom he associates. You will then know him.
(Yugoslav)

You reap what you sow.
"If" and "when" were planted and "nothing" grew. (Turkish)

Hindsight is easier than foresight.
When the ship has sunk, everyone knows how she could have been saved. (Italian)

If at first you don't succeed, try, try again.
Fall seven times, stand up the eighth time (Japanese)

Topping my list of favorite pairings are these:
Too many cooks spoil the broth.
Too many captains and the ship will sail up the mountain. (Korean)

This pair, if taken literally, makes me chuckle. If they are applied to those who make decisions in conglomerates, financial markets and governments, it makes me question everything.


The writer (rrkoram@aol.com) is a former weekly columnist for The Korea Times and currently resides in Centerville, Ohio


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