I find cliches interesting.
They solidify a discrete piece of shared knowledge and are passed down over time, yet still new ones are coined to apparently describe some unique insight or guidance to our lives.
The problem is there are just so many cliches at hand, the moral (and therefore usefulness) of each one has lost almost all value. In fact some cliches are in clear conflict with others, yet they both have their own pride of place. And it can be entirely appropriate to drop either one, despite them providing incompatible advice.
I thought a register of contradictory cliches would make an interesting read. Following is the list I have started, and will continue to maintain:
- Slow and steady wins the race | The early bird gets the worm
- Lead by example | Do as I say, not as I do
- Never look a gift-horse in the mouth | Beware of Greeks bearing gifts
- Strike while the iron is hot | Revenge is a dish best served cold
- Distance makes the heart grow fonder | Familiarity breeds contempt
- You can’t teach an old dog new tricks | You’re never too old / Age is nothing but a number
- Many hands make light work | Too many cooks spoil the broth
- A chain is only as strong as its weakest link | Strength in numbers / The whole is greater than the sum of all parts
- To know a little about a lot | To put too many eggs in one basket / To spread yourself too thinly
- You can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube | Don’t die with the music in you
- Can’t see the forest for the trees | Can’t see the trees for the forest
- Two wrongs don’t make a right | Fight fire with fire
Please email me if you think of any more.