Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Grasp all, lose all

This is a warning not to be greedy and try to get everything. In the stock market wealthy investors say "leave something on the table" meaning sell out before a market top. If you stay too long looking for the very top price the market can suddenly drop and you lose all. In other walks of life examples can be: being too possessive in a relationship and getting dumped; demanding too high a pay rise and being made redundant; setting you prices too high and attracting no customers.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Great and small makes up a wall

This is particularly appropriate to the country craft of building stone walls or drystane dykes. The mason skilfully places the naturally shaped stones together using different sizes to bind together and form a solid and lasting structure. People come in all shapes and sizes and we often find fault with what we have inherited in our physical make up - too tall, too short too dark, too fair, too fat too thin We all want to be perfect but is their such a thing? If we were all the same it would be very boring. Nature is very wise and makes us all different for a purpose - so that we can come together in groups and teams each helping the other with specific abilities derived from our inherited characteristics. We are stronger as a multitalented group. Interlocked we present a strong "wall" to all the storms and trials of existence - whether we are great or small we are an important part of the whole.

Monday, May 29, 2006

A bad workman blames his tools

It is of course a fact that some people will blame their failings wherever they can and this saying has some validity, yet anyone who does practical work soon discovers the importance of good, well maintained tools. So a saying such as "a good workman is highly critical of the state of his tools and makes sure he has the best" would be quite appropriate! It could be that this saying was originated by disgruntled employers whose miserly nature meant their work people had to make do with rubbish equipment. A good workman with bad tools will struggle to do a good job; a bad workman will do a bad job even with good tools - and probably damage them in the process!

Sunday, May 28, 2006

A rugged stone grows smooth from hand to hand

How many times have you heard someone referred to as a "rough diamond"? People can acquire smother manners and ways of coping as time and experience knock off the rough edges. When young we tend to be opinionated and definite in our views willing to annoy others in our self-righteousness. With time and experience we learn that things are never that simple there is always shades of grey where we thought it was black and white. The rock that stands up to the sea does not go unchanged. Time modifies all..

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Least said soonest mended

Most people talk too much because they wish to express their emotions. Humans are not governed by logic and calm, cold thinking; we tend to distrust those who seem to have too much of this trait. But learning when to shut up and move on can be a useful way of avoiding the "opening your mouth and putting your foot in it" scenario. "Look before you leap" and "Only fools rush in where angels fear to tread" are the watchwords to accompany this saying. Learn to walk away and leave your antagonist flabbergasted.

Friday, May 26, 2006

A bad Jack may have as bad a Jill.

If a man is bad tempered and drinking a lot he might just be a foul natured person but this saying suggests that perhaps his wife could be part of the problem. Is it her nagging or slovenliness that is making him moody and driving him to drink? How often have you observed that many couples appear to deserve each other? This is advice for men and women to consider their own faults and how they might affect their partners. Learning to make allowances and a willingness to compromise might reduce the queue at the divorce courts.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Don't look a gift horse in the mouth

To anyone unfamiliar with horses this saying might seem a bit mad but the informed know that examining a horse's teeth gives a good indication of its age, health and value. It therefore follows that to examine a gift immediately for its value would be rather boorish. More generally this is advice to appreciate the advantages and good things of life without worrying about the details too much - enjoy a good thing while you can.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Strike whilst the iron is hot.

In the age of the horse this saying would have required no explanation as most people would have watched the blacksmith at work. Taking action at the right time is important to the success of any enterprise. As Shakespeare put it: "There is a tide in the affairs of man which, taken at the full, leads on to success". In the stock market the experts stress the great importance of timing. People with good judgement and experience usually have an edge over others as they know the right time to start and finish, to buy or sell, to plant or harvest. They know when the situation will yield to appropriate action.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

A barley-corn is better than a diamond to a cock

What would you rather have if you were dying of thirst in the desert: a bucketful of water or a handful of diamonds? It's a no-brainer. Value is relative. Learning to discern what is the most important and relevant of the many choices you have in life helps to separate the successful from the failures. Good judgement is one of the hallmarks of the winner personality.

Monday, May 22, 2006

A danger foreseen is half avoided.

This echoes the sentiments of "look before you leap" and the Boy Scout motto: "be prepared". Other sayings such as "meet trouble half-way" and "a little forethought saves much afterthought" are telling us the same thing; and judging by the number of them many people must have come to the same conclusions: Stay alert and look ahead. Obvious, really, isn't it? But how often do we do the exact opposite and "rush in where angels fear to tread". Wisdom does not come easily and we usually don't learn till "the school of hard knocks" teaches us a lesson or two

Sunday, May 21, 2006

April showers bring forth May flowers

This is deceptively simple - a statement of an obvious bit of weather lore but look a little deeper and it is telling us that what we may not like can be the cause of something good. Difficult times can and often do lead to better times so we must put up with difficulties and look forward to the good times. Nasty medicines can be the means to better health. Saving can lead to prosperity. Hard work can create the funds for a good holiday. Tears at parting can be the precursor to the joyful sunshine of return.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

A beggar can never be bankrupt.

Would this really be much comfort to a beggar? Alliteration always seems to give a saying a bit of authority. People who have a lot to lose have a lot of worries but if you are poor you might sleep better. The rich man contemplating financial disaster or about to take a major risk might quote this out of bravado but only to focus his mind on the consequences of failure.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder

Our appreciation of the opposite sex is fairly subjective: one person's great catch is another's total reject. There are probably people who would be acknowledged to be "beautiful" by most observers where their features are of a certain regularity and proportion but often the person we personally find beautiful does not conform to the ideal - we love them for their faults and say things like, "beauty is only skin deep". There is a matching type for all of us and finding that good match is the true aim of the lover everywhere.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Don't get between a dog and his bone.

The practical truth of this is obvious if you want to avoid being bitten. The dog is programmed to protect that which is most important to it. In general life situations recognising another's property, rights or territory can help you avoid damaging confrontations. Respect the rights and interests of others and expect them to do the same for you.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Run your profits cut your losses.

This comes from the world of investment where investors have discovered the wisdom of getting out of a bad situation early and sticking with the good. It can be applied to other life situations like dumping an unsuitable friend and working to keep the good ones. A good job is worth persevering with a bad one will never get you where you want to be. The difficulty sometimes is making a judgement as to what has potential and what does not. Obviously "flogging a dead horse" makes no sense but what if it is just sleeping? With horses you could ask a vet or a knowledgeable friend. In other life situations it can help to get good advice from a reliable source - don't let your ego get in the way.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

A bad excuse is better than none at all

Often said sarcastically but perhaps a lame excuse will lessen the likelihood of a row than the blunt statement that the reason you didn't turn up was because you couldn't be bothered. It all depends on the person you are dealing with.

Monday, May 15, 2006

You must crawl before you can walk.

This of course applies literally to babies and it is good counsel for beginners to learn the basics first. Very often failure to progress in a subject or training is because the early stages have not been fully absorbed - you must build on secure foundations. Remember: "Rome was not built in a day".

Sunday, May 14, 2006

A bad shift is better than none.

To the modern reader this might seem to have something to do with promotion at work but "shift" here refers to a shirt. It is another proverb encouraging people to make the most of something even if it is less than perfect. Similar to "half a loaf is better than none", it reminds us that today in the developed world we can take things like clothing for granted unlike our not-too-distant ancestors who found it a struggle to afford a decent "shift".

Saturday, May 13, 2006

The good a man does is oft interred with his bones - the bad lives for ever.

The good a man does is oft interred with his bones - the bad lives for ever.
Unfortunately people are more likely to remember a slight than a favor. Politicians who fall from grace are remembered for their calamity rather than the positive work they might have achieved. We tend to get an adrenaline buzz from wrong doing that makes events memorable - murder mysteries are more popular entertainment than stories of someone doing a good deed.

Friday, May 12, 2006

A bad bush is better than the open field.

Making the best of a bad job or contenting yourself with what you have or even being grateful for small morsels is the idea behind this saying. We all grumble a bit and feel we have drawn the shorter straw on occasions but you have to get on with life no matter the disadvantages or injustices. Where there's life there's hope.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

A bad padlock invites a picklock.

This a counsel to look after your property and be suitably security conscious. Most thieves are lazy opportunists and will go for the easy chance. It can be applied more generally as advice to keep your guard up and deter your opponents by looking strong and capable. Competitors will exploit your weaknesses so be prepared and cover the chinks in your armor

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

It is not always May.

If only it were - spring is bursting out and the dreary days of winter are fast fading from memory; birds sing, people fall in love and to be alive is joy unending. Our lives also have their seasons and the zest of youth is a veritable May. Sadly it does not last and we move into busy summer, fruitful autumn and then the snows of winter. This proverb reminds us of the need to "make hay while the sun shines". "Lost time is never found again" so you must use the energetic days of youth as fully as your circumstances permit. It also alerts us to a best time for doing things, but it does not last - so get on with what you have to do while conditions are suitable.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

If at first you don't succeed try try and try again.

Perseverance is nominated by most successful people as the primary factor in their achievements - their enemies probably retort: you were just lucky. But common sense tells us that more than one go is usually required to achieve something new. Budding authors usually experience many rejections before success arrives - all the time they are learning and improving. Athletes, no matter how naturally gifted they might be with excellent physique, need to train long and hard to get anywhere. It is also important to have good judgement and not waste your time on something that definitely wont happen - persevere but avoid being pigheaded

Monday, May 08, 2006

Seeing's believing.

Since language began the older generation has been telling the younger what they should and should not do - but do they ever listen? The fact is that that we rarely understand from words alone. Does any child really understand what "don't touch - that's burnie" means until they have actually been burned, hopefully in a minor way. So much of Grandma's wise words never sink in till some experience makes you aware of their good sense. If you are "on the ball" you will try to combine what people tell you with what you discover by trial and error - the trick is to wise up as fast as possible before a major mistake gets you.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Most really good things in life take time.

We live in an age of instant gratification but some things take time. Planting a seed and waiting for the bloom requires patience. Sensible investment is usually a long-term affair. Love, for some, might be at first sight but good, strong relationships grow steadily and build on solid foundations of trust and dependability. Many proverbs confirm this: "Patience is a virtue". "Rome wasn't built in a day". Can you think of any more?

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Cometh the hour cometh the man.

"It is always darkest before the dawn" says one well known proverb and in times of crisis we look for a capable leader. Nobody suitable seems to be available but when the situation reaches critical it can stir the sleeping abilities of their hero to burst forth and shine. The ordinary seeming individual will find strengths within and rise to the challenge. Such as William Wallace, Oliver Cromwell, George Washington or Mahatma Gandhi.

Friday, May 05, 2006

The grass is always greener on the far side of the hill.

Have you ever stood looking at a far view and wondered what lay beyond? All our ancestors were nomads - stopping briefly in one spot and moving on. Packing up the tent and following the deer herds was a lifestyle for countless generations. This proverb is often used to counsel young people that though the attraction of elsewhere might seem superior to what they know - it very often isn't.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

What you never had you'll never miss.

Our expectations lead us to want things which perhaps we would be as well without. If you lived in a small village, in times gone by, the many attractions of the big, glittering city would not attract you because you would not know that they existed. Once an awareness is created we feel we are missing out. It is wise to remember that "all that glistens is not gold".

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

A little of what you fancy does you good.

This is often used as an excuse for indulgence but there is some truth in it. It is important to enjoy your food and a little of the kinds that are fattening etc. won't do much harm and might cheer you up. It can be applied to many life situations but beware that it can be a prelude to overindulgence which does you harm.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

In for a penny in for a pound.

This is about total commitment expressed in old UK money terms. It is when you decide to "go the whole hog" in any situation. It's most likely origin would be the world of investment where people might decide to "bet their shirt" and "go for broke" or perhaps it was an excuse originated by gambling addicts to justify "throwing it all away". The alliteration seems to add some validity to the expression but other proverbs such as "look before you leap" and "only fools rush in" come to mind. A proverb with a bold statement usually has a corresponding one with the exact opposite sentiment. It all boils down to "use your common sense" and "don't believe every thing you are told".

Monday, May 01, 2006

Don't put all you eggs in the one basket.

This could conjure up an amusing image of a wise peasant staggering around with dozens of baskets with a few eggs in each, but it is quite a sensible strategy in many walks of life. It is often applied to investments where you are advised to spread your risk so that one company failing doesn't wipe you out. It can also be applied to relationships - encouraging the idea of having a number of friends in case one lets you down. Having more than one job skill can also be useful when your principal employment is slack.

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Author of "Stirring Western Poems" "How to Write Lyrical Limericks & Poems that Pay" "700 Limericks & How to Write Them"
"Clean Limericks For All Occasions"