Horrible old sayings
January 21st, 2018
You know how there’s sometimes a good deal of common sense and wisdom in the old sayings that have been passed down through the generations?
Yes, well sometimes there isn’t. This last week I’ve stumbled across three old sayings that fill me with horror.
The first is probably the worst. ‘A wife, a dog and a walnut tree; the more you beat them the better they be.’
It’s hard to know how to react to such an obviously appalling statement, except with open-mouthed wonder that there were once enough people who believed it to turn it into a common saying.
I don’t even know if it’s true about the walnut tree. Probably not. Ugh.
Here’s the second saying: ‘You have to be cruel to be kind.’
Now there’s actually a teensy weensy bit of truth in this. There are some things that are better done quickly, to get them over with, rather than dragging out the agony. E.g. ripping off a band-aid, breaking up a relationship. I guess you could ALMOST call that having to be cruel to be kind.
But whenever I see this saying, I remember Mr Goss, who lived next door to my family when I was a kid. When I was about seven he got a new pup, and he was determined to make it obey him. When it didn’t (because it was only a pup, and he was a rotten dog trainer) he whipped it. And when I protested, he said, ‘You have to be cruel to be kind.’ And kept whipping it.
I have loathed that saying ever since. Want to be kind? Then be KIND!
The third saying is a bit more subtle in its revoltingness. ‘A coward dies a thousand deaths, a brave man only one.’
I suspect this is a remnant of the British Empire, where being a coward was the worst possible fate, and Honour and Courage were all that really counted. Except Honour and Courage were defined in a really strange way.
Because the people who die a thousand deaths (i.e. imagine their deaths over and over again before they actually happen) aren’t cowards. They are simply people with very good imaginations. And anyone who never ever thinks about their death before it happens probably has no imagination at all. Nothing to do with courage. Nothing to do with cowardice.
So – glad I got that off my chest. Anyone got another saying that they hate?
Lian Tanner has been dynamited while scuba diving and arrested while busking. She once spent a week in the jungles of Papua New Guinea, hunting for a Japanese soldier left over from the Second World War. Nowadays she lives by the beach in southern Tasmania with a large fluffy tomcat called Harry-le-beau.More about Lian