Antiproverbs — Say what?


A proverb is a short, pithy statement of a general truth. It condenses common experience into a memorable form. Miguel de Cervantes defined a proverb as “a short sentence based on long experience.”

Well, now there are sayings called anti-proverbs. Another name for anti-proverbs is perverbs since they are a perversion of the original.

Wolfgang Mieder, a professor of German and folklore at the University of Vermont, says anti-proverbs are “parodied, twisted, or fractured proverbs that reveal humorous or satirical speech play with traditional proverbial wisdom”.

I discovered these phrases while surfing the web recently. All of them combine parts of one real proverb with a part of another one.

Here are some examples of these funny sayings. I bet you can figure out the original proverbs.

  • No news is the mother of invention
  • What doesn’t kill you makes you stranger.
  • Don’t count your chickens in midstream
  • The road to Hell wasn’t paved in a day or the road to Hell is the spice of life.
  • When in Rome, do it yourself.
  • Beauty is the best policy.
  • Once bitten, three’s a crowd.
  • Absence speaks louder than words or absence makes the heart go wonder.
  • One good turn is another man’s poison
  • A miss is as good as a molehill.
  • Virtue is its own punishment.

  • .Here is a group of anti-proverbs relating to animals.
  • You can lead a horse to water but you can’t have it both ways.
  • A bird in the hand is a dangerous thing.
  • The early worm gets picked first.
  • It’s the early bird that makes the most noise.
  • A rolling stone gets the worm.
  • I especially like this one–Every dog has a silver lining.

Next, how about some sayings relating to food?

  • Too many cooks are better than one.
  • An apple a day is worth two in the bush.
  • When life hands you lemons, don’t get mad—get even.
  • When life hands you lemons, declare them as a loss on your next income tax return.
  • There’s no such thing as a free lunch but there is always free cheese in a mousetrap.
  • An onion a day keeps everyone away.

People have many wise sayings about money.

  • A penny saved is a penny indeed or a penny saved is a penny taxed.
  • All that glitters is not dull.
  • A fool and his money is a friend indeed.

Lastly, I offer a timely and political anti-proverb. Laughter is the best medicine for when you cannot afford health insurance.

I will leave you with this— For every proverb, there is an equal and opposite proverb because all’s well that ends.


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