I was only a boy when I first began protesting the “idiocy of so much of the folk wisdom handed down to us”, says Matthew Parris in The Spectator. Many proverbs and adages are simply untrue, while others contain “thoroughly bad advice” or are “flatly contradicted” by alternative nuggets of “sage proverbial wisdom”. Last week I heard a politician claim every little helps. No it doesn’t, or not much. The Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu was not wrong to say that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, but omitted to mention the remaining 1,999,999 steps. “You’d be well advised to think about that before putting your best foot forward.”
I want doesn’t get. “Oh yes it does.” This is supposed to encourage “supine passivity” in demanding children, but it’s nonsense. The truth is: “I want does get, and there’s no better advice for later life.” Patience is a virtue. Nope, patience will leave you hoping to catch the waiter’s eye while everyone else pushes in. Neither a borrower nor a lender be. “Prim, tight-fisted and ultimately impoverishing.” The Lord will provide. “No He won’t.” A problem shared is a problem halved. Wrong again – “a problem shared is a problem doubled”. Keep your problems to yourself. Sharing them just adds to the number of people worrying.