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Saturday, January 21, 2012

Opposite Proverbs


What is the purpose of a proverb? Is there a proverb (in English or in your language) that captures the meaning of your life? Can you think of a proverb that you strongly disagree with?


Pat and Michael (two Americans) are talking:
Michael: Wow! I went on a date last night, and my mom made me take my little brother along.
Pat: Well, "the more the merrier," right?
Michael: Not in this case! Here it was: "Two's company, three's a crowd!"
Pat: Aside from that, how was the date?
Michael: Pretty good. I gave her a present. It was a huge stuffed animal.
Pat: Ah, "the bigger the better."
Michael: That's what I thought, But she said, "Big things come in little packages."
Pat: Hey, that's twice that we found two proverbs with opposite meanings. Do you think there are more?
Michael: Let's see. How about, "The pen is mightier than the sword"? And…
Pat: "Actions speak louder than words!"
Michael: Great! Give me one.
Pat: Ummm…"Absence makes the heart grow fonder."
Michael: "Out of sight, out of mind!"
Pat: Yeah! OK… "Nothing ventured, nothing gained."
Michael: That's easy. "Better safe than sorry."
Pat: OK, give me one more.
Michael: All right. "Look before you leap."
Pat: Got it! "He who hesitates is lost."
Michael: That's it!


It's funny how "conventional wisdom" can contradict itself. Maybe "wisdom" is more slippery than we thought.


Here are some more proverbs. Can you think of an opposite proverb?

1. Many hands make light work.
2. Beware of Greeks bearing gifts.
3. Clothes make the man.
4. The best things in life are free.
5. Birds of a feather flock together.
6. You're never too old to learn.
7. The squeaky wheel gets the grease.
8. Above all, to thine own self be true.


1. Are there "opposite proverbs" in your language?
2. Why do you think there can be two popular proverbs with completely opposite meanings?
3. How useful are proverbs, anyway?


Here are some suggested answers. If you found others, let me know! (Try searching the Internet under "opposite proverbs"--you'll find more!)
1. Too many cooks spoil the broth.
2. Don't look a gift horse in the mouth.
3. Don't judge a book by its cover.
4. There's no such thing as a free lunch.
5. Opposites attract.
6. You can't teach an old dog new tricks
7. Silence is golden.
8. When in Rome, do as the Romans do.

This lesson is ©2012 by James Baquet. You may share this work freely. Teachers may use it in the classroom, as long as students are told the source (URL). You may not publish this material or sell it. Please write to me if you have any questions about "fair use."

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