Cliche Sunday

I haven’t mentioned my accident much on this blog, although anyone who also reads my RunnerwithaBlog knows I was in a car accident in February. I think the worst part was the broken knee, as that is what I am still fighting with. I am a bit depressed that, even with my PT exercises, the amount I can bend my knee did not change in August 😦 It really hasn’t changed since July.

So I thought today would be a good day to explore proverbs, as they tend to teach us to accept life, as well as encouraging us. My favorite site to find meanings at,, has an extensive list of proverbs. The site even went far enough to analyze the phrases, and found that ‘good’ and ‘never’ are the most used words in proverbs. Apparently we prize virtue while being negative?

accidents will happen: even though we try to prevent it, things will go wrong. In this day and age, the phrase “shit happens”  is more common. But the original cliche has its roots in John Muller’s 1755 A treatise containing the practical part of fortification. But it may owe its popularity to Charles Dickens, who used it in 1850:

A little learning is a dangerous thing;
drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring:
there shallow draughts intoxicate the brain,
and drinking largely sobers us again.
  –the personal history of David Copperfield

a little knowledge is a dangerous thing: knowing something about a subject can make one think they know everything about that subject. Used interchangeably with ‘a little learning is a dangerous thing,’ which is actually a misquote of the original by Alexander Pope:

A little learning is a dangerous thing;
drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring:
there shallow draughts intoxicate the brain,
and drinking largely sobers us again.

Except that Pope was simply refining an idea put forth by Francis Bacon in 1601, indicating that this phrase was certainly a joint effort. Particularly since we don’t know where Bacon might have got the idea from.

an Englishman’s home is his castle: also known as ‘a man’s house is his castle’ (particularly in America), this phrase means that his home is a man’s last refuge:

et domus sua cuique est tutissimum refugium (and each man’s home is his safest refuge)
–Sir Edward Coke, 1628.

What exactly was a ‘castle’ was defined in 1763 by the British Prime Minister, William Pitt:

The poorest man may in his cottage bid defiance to all the forces of the crown. It may be frail – its roof may shake – the wind may blow through it – the storm may enter – the rain may enter – but the King of England cannot enter.

unfortunately for many an Englishman, this did not mean that acts that would be illegal outside of the home were forgiven in the home.  But it did mean that no one was able to come in the house unless invited, giving rise to search warrants and probable cause for authorities.

And, one I definitely need to keep in mind:

carpe diem: seize the day. Although many Latin scholars may be unhappy with you if you use that meaning, as ‘carpe’ actually means pluck. It is commonly used with fruit, and the phrase more accurately means ‘enjoy the day, pluck the day when it is ripe.’ The phrase has been shortened to the ‘seize the day’ meaning, but originally it was:

Dum loquimur, fugerit invida
Aetas: carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero
While we’re talking, envious time is fleeing: pluck the day, put no trust in the future
Odes Book I, Horace


As with many other proverbs, it is a warning to enjoy what we have, as no one knows what tomorrow may bring. Lord Byron made it popular in his 1817 Letters, although that work wasn’t published until 1830.





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