Adages, Proverbs and Sage Advice

Recently I was privy to a discussion among expats about adages and sage proverbs from various countries around the world.

Well-worn cultural wisdom, if you will. Those sayings we all hear from our parents and grandparents, or are so steeped in earnestness and simple truth that they become part of each culture’s psyche.

It got me to thinking of American adages, our ‘wit and wisdom’.

The musings of two Americans spring immediately to mind: 18th century author, inventor, patriot and Declaration of Independence signatory Benjamin Franklin; and 19th century author, humorist and racconteur Mark Twain.

Both were prodigious writers, and the pithy quotes and sayings attributed to them are legion.

Franklin is well known as the author of:

‘A penny saved is a penny earned’.

‘Marry in haste, repent in leisure’.

‘Haste makes waste’.

‘Necessity is the mother of invention’.

‘Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise’.

Ben also said ‘Anger is never without a reason, but seldom with a good one’.

And: ‘A house is not a home unless it contains food and fire for the mind as well as the body.’

Wow. Now if that doesn’t sound 21st century, I don’t know what does.

And this gem: ‘Applause waits on success’.

Twain was equally prolific:

‘A man may have no bad habits and have worse’.

‘You can’t reach old age by another man’s road’.

‘It is wiser to find out than suppose’.

‘Wit, by itself, is of little account. It becomes of moment only when grounded on wisdom’.

Here’s Twain’s take on the Ben Franklin oldie: ‘Necessity is the mother of taking chances’.

My personal favorite isn’t found in any reference book. It comes from an older woman I worked with, Flossie McManus, when I was just starting out in life.

Flossie was a dear, dear woman. She always had a warm smile and a wink when she caught your eye across the busy, crowded office.

When Flossie spoke with you, and I mean really spoke with you, she engaged you deeply, as if you were the only person in the world. She’d be so intent, she’d grab your arm as she spoke. She’d hold on, throughout your entire conversation. Her need to connect manifested itself physically as well as emotionally.

She was full of wisdom borne of experience; you just knew she’d seen and done and suffered more than most of us ever would. She had lived a challenging life, but never complained, choosing instead to believe deeply in her quiet faith.

I can still recall that moment when I heard her utter those words that have remained with me my entire life. They have held me in good steed. I’ve used them as my guide, and they’ve never failed me.

‘Baby, ain’t none of us been born knowing this’.

Bless you, Flossie.


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