Friday, 18 December 2015

The Blog of Proverbs


I dug out my Bible and had a look, and some of them are almost comprehensible, and may even be wise.  I rather liked 26: 16, ‘The sluggard is wiser in his own conceit than seven men that can render a reason’, though please don’t ask me to explain why.  (Something to do with Z’s policy of short bursts of efficiency enabling long stretches of laziness, maybe?)

But few if any biblical proverbs, at least from the Book of them, have made it through to everyday usage, so I’m going to deconstruct a couple of non-biblical ones that have.  They have two things in common: in deference to the season, they’re both culinary; and, as metaphors, they’re both crap.

Firstly: “You can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs.”  This is used to justify harming, or sometimes killing, other humans in the interests of a greater objective.  In other words, the end justifies the means.  But whereas most of us will agree on what an omelette is, and that it’s a good thing, the argument from the particular to the general never works.  If I said, for example, “You can’t construct smartphones without starving people in China”, I doubt I’d get much support.  (Except from smartphone makers who starve people in China, of course.)  And eggs aren’t human beings.

Secondly: “Too many cooks spoil the broth.”  In other words, “trust me and don’t interfere.” Now broth, or stock as I tend to call it (in Italian, it’s ‘brodo’) is very easy to make, as any cook kno.  You bung your ingredients (e.g. chicken carcass, vegetables, etc.) into a pan, add water, bring to the boil and immediately reduce to a near-simmer, and then leave it alone for hours.  The key to not spoiling it is not to touch it.  It doesn’t matter how many cooks don’t touch the broth.  If they do, then by definition they’re not cooks.

“Too many cooks spoil the omelette”, now that I could go along with.  But it doesn’t work very well as a proverb, does it?  Or as a metaphor.

1 comment :

  1. Taken literally, the first one is true, though, innit?

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