Adage, saying – by either name they are bits of wisdom or observations based on personal experience or observation. They are handed down over the years and centuries. We all use at least a few of them.
If, like me, you wondered how they originated – no problem. There are emails being forwarded daily that purport to explain how each one originated. And each explanation sounds plausible, if not accurate. Not wanting to be left out in creating these explanations, I thought I’d create a few of my own. And yes, each one is 100% accurate and true and should be taken with a few grains of salt. With that said, let’s begin with:
Take with a grain of salt – This idiom is not that old. By 1946 most rationing of food stuff had ended. The rationing included salt which was used by the US Army air Corps. During WW II, they used special shaped bombs made of salt. These bombs were dropped in Italian water reservoirs to taint the water. Consequently any wife/mother adding salt to boiling water to cook their spaghetti would unknowingly over-salt the water thus making the spaghetti inedible. Thus half the Italian army experienced salt poisoning and half of those affected died from the salt. In a few instances soldiers, who had been raised by mothers who were lousy cooks, thought the over salted spaghetti tasted great.
From that experience the CIA had gained a new weapon to combat evil. They secretly added many grains of salt to Communist leaders’ food causing abdominal pain, coughing, diarrhea, shortness of breath and vomiting. Several actually died. Thus came the referenced saying – take with a grain/few grains of salt.
It is better to return a borrowed pot with a little something you last cooked in it – A few mother teaching their little daughters how to clean up after diner often gave them this advice. Widespread returning of dirty pots fractured the friendships of neighbors. This practice was so often used in Doylestown Ohio that the Chamber of Commerce there was forced to cease calling their city the Friendliest City in the United States.
Fools rush in where wise men fear to tread – This adage has with us for 2,000 years. Following the birth of Christ in Bethlehem the village idiots saw that shining star and thought it actually was an advertisement for Lone Star beer ( contrary to popular belief in Texas, they were not the first one to brew up some tasty beer). Being idiots and drunks to boot, they headed out keeping their eyes on that star knowing a bar and free beer was ahead. Unfortunately, while looking up they walked directly into the only quicksand in the Middle East and slowly disappeared forever. The very last thing they ever saw was the shining star while visions of free beer danced in their heads.
Footnote: The Three Wise Men really were.
Don’t bite off more than you can chew – Many years ago in the beautiful mountains of West Virginia there lived an old man, a mountaineer. He had lived there alone ever since he was a young man. It had been many, many years since that day he set out for the mountains never to return. Although he had been gone for decades, he didn’t forget the many pleasures he enjoyed when living in the city. The touch of a woman’s hand, a medium rare steak, a hot bath in a tub. But be that as it may, he knew he was destined to live his life out in those mountains.
One day a hunter happened to wander into his so-called yard. Although leery, he welcomed the stranger. In time their discussions led to all the pleasures and comforts of city life. In an attempt to gain the old man’s confidence, the stranger offered him a hearty plug of tobacco. The old man almost passed out with joy in once again being able to enjoy a good chew. He eagerly grabbed the plug and took a mighty bite. Unfortunately the chew slipped and lodged in his throat blocking off his breathing. Sadly, in spite of the stranger’s best effort to unlodge that chew, the old man’s heart and lungs gave out and he died.
The stranger considered what happened, wisely learned and passed that learned wisdom to his family and friends. He told tem time and again that you shouldn’t bite off more than you can chew.
A man is known by the company he keeps – There once was a young, industrious man, named Joseph, who worked as a bagger in a grocery. He made it a point to put most of his wages in a bank account. Finally one day he had enough money to buy a dry cleaning business. He worked hard and in time was successful enough to open a second dry cleaner, then a third. Before long he had a string of dry cleaning stores. Having amassed a small fortune he bought a gas station. In time, just like the dry cleaning stores he also owned a string of successful gas stations. His fortune grew so he bought a car dealership. His success continued. Soon he was a highly admired businessman both in his own town and Washington, DC. On a roll he bought 50 pizza places, named the parlors the “Pizza Man” and was selling his pies as quickly as his stores could bake them.
Then one day the competition for his dry cleaning businesses caused them to fail. Not long after that, competing, newer gas stations caused his gas stations operate at a loss causing them to close. His deal to sell Yugo automobiles went belly up. He was left with his pizza parlors that also failed one by one as Pizza Hut and Domino’s captured the market. Soon his fortunes were depleted and he ended up owning just one pizza parlor, and had make, bake and help by delivering the pizzas.
In no time he no longer was Joseph the tycoon but rather he was forever known by all his customers – Joe the “Pizza Man”, the owner of his last and only business.