Studying proverbs of dead wise men won’t make you wise.
Fact: Chinese proverb* writers never studied. They just said the first thing that came to mind. Wisers like Confucius or Sun Tzu or Laozi would look at a bleeding corpse and say “Geezy weezy, do not use a hatchet to remove a fly from your friend’s forehead.”
They were the first wise guys to sit cross-legged, thus pioneering the proverbial sit-down proverb business. Basically, they never stopped talking. Wildly popular. You couldn’t get a ticket.
But were they really wise? Look, the wisdom of Confucius was landing a gig where he sat around bloviating all day while everyone else was out working on the Great Wall. At day’s end they’d go into a bar and hear a fat guy in a bath towel say “Hey I got a new one: ‘A donkey’s lips do not fit onto a horse’s mouth.’ Shaboom! I’ll be here all week.’”
Here’s a tip: The first rule of wisdom says you don’t have to have any idea what you’re talking about. Partially-dead scholars will figure that out in the next century and they won’t have any idea of what they’re saying either.
So why break your back on the Great Wall when re-writing short proverbs for cash is a cinch. Take this proverb:
Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day; teach a man to fish and he can feed himself for life.
By changing a few words you can make that your own. Two examples:
Give a man a Brussels sprout and he will stare at it, maybe poke it with a stick for a day; teach a man how to get to Brussels and he will go there and say “Whose bright idea was this?”
Give a man a banjo and he will whang it for a day. Teach a man how to play the banjo and his neighbors will whang you for life.
Fact: You can self-publish your own book of updated proverbs and make up to $12 a year. That’s every year! Remember, proverbs have a long shelf life — as long as they sit on a long shelf.
Try it. Here are a few examples to prime your pump.
Old: Once you pour the water out of the bucket it’s hard to get it back in.
Rewrite: Once you pour the water out of the bucket, it’s hard to get it back in without a shop vac, Jack.
Old: A book is like a garden carried in the pocket.
Rewrite: Show the man a garden in your pocket and he will book you into a rubber room.
Old: Butcher the donkey after it has finished his job on the mill.
Rewrite: After the donkey has finished his job on the mill tell him there is a fly on his forehead and this little trick with your hatchet never fails.
Old: Even a hare will bite when it is cornered.
Rewrite: When even your hair bites, it’s time to Google head lice.
Old: Good fortune may forbode bad luck, which may in turn, disguise good fortune.
Rewrite: Good fortune may forbode bad luck or get you cars, sex, mansions and chocolate chip cookies up the Yingo. Who even knows what forbode means?
Old: How can you expect to find ivory in a dog’s mouth?
Rewrite: How can you expect to find ivory in a dog’s mouth? Wow, Dude, do you also expect a pig to have wings? (If, by the time you read this a pig does have wings, change it to “Do you also expect a pig to fly south at night without filing a flight plan?”)
Old: Pick up a sesame seed but lose sight of a watermelon.
Rewrite: Pick up a sesame seed and stick it in your eye and lose sight of a watermelon, a golf ball, a passing elephant, you name it. And don’t put beans in your ears.
*Proverbs, proverbs, they’re so true
Proverbs tell us what to do
Proverbs help us all to be
–Jimmie Dodd, circa 1956
©Patrick A. McGuire and A Hint of Light 2013-2014, all rights reserved.