Turning Old Clichs into New Maxims:
Get Your Recycled Clichs Here!

By Richard Eyre

Editor’s Note: This column (which, every two weeks, attempts to debunk an old, false, outdated clich and replace it with a current and true maxim) is now resuming after a brief hiatus as the author was traveling. Today’s article begins with an introduction to the resumption and continuation of this column.

The funny thing about some of our most familiar clichs is that they are so outdated and meaningless that new generations mix them up and unintentionally produce hilarious hybrids.

A young Boston chef is stirring a soup tureen, telling his employer, “Spare the rod, spoil the broth.” A San Diego child who had been incautious with fire is hospitalized with burns, and her young mother tells her, “You’ve cooked your goose, now lie in it.” A boy working in a St. Louis zoo declares, “Monkey do, but you can’t make him drink it!”

An article in The New Republic cites a study in which 76 percent agreed with the statement that, “It is impossible to see the forest while the cat was away,” and 86 percent accepted that, “Blood is thicker than the milk of human kindness.”

The same article suggests that some of the misquoted adages may subconsciously reflect a more accurate grasp of emerging political, social and economic realities. Perhaps “a penny saved is worth two in the bush”; maybe “an empty barrel will keep the doctor away,” and who’s to disagree if someone says, “There’s more than one way for every dog to do as the Romans do.”


The first fourteen columns of this series replaced some old clichs on the subjects of attitudes, paradigms, and personal management. The final twelve columns, starting with the next one in two weeks, will provide new maxims having more to do with priorities, relationships, and families – the things that are the most important to us – and the power we have to make them more like we want them to be.

2005 Meridian Magazine.  All Rights Reserved.