One Reporter's Ramblings: Everything you know is wrong

There’s a great song by Weird Al Yankovic that includes the lyrics, “Everything you know is wrong ...” It’s catchy and is more true than we like to admit.

My latest reminder of how much I still had to learn came Friday on my 34th birthday. Thus, it was actually a little comforting. If you start to feel old, it’s nice to learn that you can “teach an old dog new tricks.”

These new tricks came in the form of a list of commonly misused phrases and proverbs.

For example, the phrase “curiosity killed the cat” was reported to end with “satisfaction brought it back.”

Besides being a much better outcome for the cat, the second part of the quote changes the meaning to be that curiosity is dangerous but worth the risk if it leads to discovery.

Further investigation reveals this to be an unattributed Irish saying although it was preceded by another common quote actually even used by Shakespeare in “Much Ado About Nothing,” “Care killed a cat.”

The list also claimed that “Blood is thicker than water” was originally a more clinical proverb, “The blood of the covenant is thicker than water of the womb.” This interpretation refers to the bonds of soldiers on the battlefield being the strongest, even stronger than family relations.

That almost has the same meaning in that it’s completely the opposite. It’s fair to point out that there’s a separate claimed origin of the quote that stresses family ties. I would quote it but it was written in 14th century German so ... I’m not going to.

Also on the list was the encouraging “great minds think alike,” which most of us have used as a sort of verbal high five to someone for thinking the same as us. It’s too bad the phrase originally ended with “though fools rarely differ,” stressing the importance for different ideas and debate. Yeah, it’s Greek.

The list was definitely “food for thought,” but as I researched the quotations, I found the origins weren’t as “cut and dry” as they were reported to be. The list got me thinking about the things I say though, which was a “step in the right direction.” Fortunately, we live in an age where it’s easy to research and cross-reference facts to find the truth. 

It’s like the old Chinese quote, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” Wait ...  I meant a quote by 19th century British author Anne Isabella Ritchie. Guess I have a lot to learn. Yay!

Paul Gaudette is a staff writer at the Dublin Citizen and can be reached at 445-2515 and report@dublincitizen.com.

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