Thursday, September 20, 2007

What was that again?

Today, apart from the joy of finding 8 out of 13 Barn Owl boxes occupied by second or late broods, I was delighted to have two quotations fired at me. The first was the footer to an email:
The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed - and hence, clamorous to be led to safety - by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary. H.L. Mencken (1880-1956)
Just think, Mencken had not even heard of Global Warming or Climate Change at the time. Or am I being unduly cynical?
The second has left me with a niggling boggle in the mind: You cannot make a Pekinese by starving a Great Dane. I have no idea what that means.
I have a penchant for deeply meaningless aphorisms, and I am inclined to add that one to the list. Like the Chinese A mended pot lasts a thousand years, it leaves me befuddled. The Russians do quite well too with such pearls as Shchi da kasha, pishcha nasha ("Cabbage soup and porridge is our fare"). Try an English equivalent, such as "Cheese on toast and beefburgers are what we eat" and you see how it loses nothing in translation.
What on earth do these folkloristic apophthegms add to our understanding of life's vagaries? Because I love showing off, I will add a baffling Turkish proverb Kılavuzu karga olanın, burnu boktan çıkmaz. I am sure you don't need a translation, but it roughly says "He who chooses a crow as a guide will never get his nose out of the shit." Work that into a conversation if you can!

I will leave you with one more bon mot. I used to belong to a gentleman's club in Newcastle (the one under Lyme). One evening, the barman said, a propos a discussion about debts: I would rather owe forever than never pay at all. I wouldn't have minded, but the bugger didn't even smile: he meant it. Whatever it is.

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