Proverbs are fantastic little literary gems; they represent oodles of wisdom in a compact package.
A few well-known examples:
The early bird catches the worm.
It's no use crying over spilled milk.
When the cat is away, the mice will play.
Don't bite the hand that feeds you.
Rome wasn't built in a day.
Curiosity killed the cat; satisfaction brought it back.
If you lie down with dogs, you'll get up with fleas.
Don't count your chickens before they hatch.
Different strokes for different folks.
You can't tell a book by its cover.
A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.
An apple a day keeps the doctor away.
There are hundreds, probably thousands, of these nuggets of advice, but I won't go further. You'll notice many relate to food and animals, easy to remember for illiterate and uneducated folks when many of the proverbs came into being.
Some of these may be taken out of context, such as the last one, "an apple a day keeps the doctor away." It seems reasonable to believe that the phrase is championing fruits and vegetables for a healthy diet and thus healthy body, but according to the book The Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan (highly recommended if you enjoy the point where history and food meet), the proverb actually dates back to prohibition. While alcohol and spirits were illegal to sell and consume, many people resorted to home-brewing methods. This was still illegal, but presumably more difficult to catch. Since alcohol has the power to kill off bacteria, and apples were used to brew cider, the true meaning of the proverb more closely aligns with a way to get around prohibition under the radar. Either way, there is wisdom in the wording.
Back when I was in first grade, my teacher gave us an assignment concerning proverbs. She gave us the first half of the proverb, and we had to complete the phrase and make an illustration. After we completed several of these proverbs, she spiral bound them into books for us to take home. Since we were just on the verge of understanding the complexities of English idioms, the results were a mish-mash of accurate proverbs and utter (entertaining!!) nonsense. To this day, I think "don't bite the hand that holds the fork" is the accurate proverb; my false six-year-old idea is so firmly ingrained in my memory. Today's writercize challenges you to harness that innocent child within you, throw out the proverb you know, and substitute it for new age wisdom.
writing exercise: Pick any three of the proverbs listed above (or another familiar favorite of yours). Create a new ending to the proverb, using the true first half of the line and your imagination.
Click "read more" for writercizer sample response about birds, books and tears.writercizer response:
A bird in the hand may peck out an eye.
The early bird didn't know how to hit snooze.
It's no use crying over downers and frowners.
and a bonus for all you writers out there: You can't judge a book by its author bio. ;)