We are ready for the concluding segment of the series on phrases that have entertained me over the years. The next number is . . .
79/”Just because you’re paranoid, doesn’t mean someone isn’t out to get you.”
If you think about this one for a little bit, it turns out to be logical. A person can be paranoid–overly willing to see enemies around every corner–and yet this does not change the fact that there really may be someone out to get that person. Maybe someone believes, incorrectly, that he has seven people wanting to do him harm. He is paranoid. But at the same time there really may be at least one person out to get him. This phrase gives us an unexpected truth, and is very funny.
80/”Do something even if it’s wrong.”
This is a phrase I got from my father. I worked with my father. Sometimes things would go wrong, with the machinery or otherwise. In such situations it was my tendency to be passive, waiting for the problem to be fixed rather than pitching in and helping fix it myself. This annoyed my father, who wanted to see me showing some kind of effort to help fix the problem. Hence, “Do something even if it’s wrong.” I really do see his point. We need to be active in life, rather than passive. Of course there are situations where doing something, even if it’s wrong, can lead to disaster. For one example, if you are dealing with electricity, if you are not sure of the wise way to proceed, doing nothing is better than doing something which might turn out to be foolish and dangerous. Still in most circumstances there is a lot of wisdom in my father’s advice. We need to be active in life, not passive.
81/”Be careful what you wish for, you might get it.”
This phrase reminds us that we are not always wise in our desires. We may think a certain outcome is devoutly to be wished. Then the outcome occurs, and it turns out it is a disaster for us. This phrase can be applied to many of our wishes both small and large. For a large example, we may think attaining the hand of a certain member of the opposite sex will lead to wonderfully good things. We wish for such an outcome. Then it turns out that such an outcome was a disaster. (For a fictional example, Mr. Bennet of Pride and Prejudice wanted to marry the woman he did marry. She turned out to be a fool. He married in haste, and repented at leisure.) So we really need to be careful what we wish for, in small things but especially in large.
82/”What, me worry?”
This is the phrase associated with Alfred E. Neuman. He is the mascot of “Mad Magazine.” His feckless grin indicates a foolish overconfidence about life, and the phrase fits the grin perfectly. Still, I can’t help but admire his cheerfulness. I find myself using the phrase fairly often, to indicate that we are in deep doodoo, but that we are not aware of the fact. Perhaps this should be the phrase emblazoned on our national coat of arms. We rush in where angels fear to tread–another lovely phrase.
83/”That teaches you how not to be.”
This came from my mother. I would be complaining to her about the perfidious behavior of some other person, and she would often tell me, “That teaches you how not to be.” She was completely correct. We can learn from observing the folly of others. When we see how harmful that folly can be, to us or to anyone, we really do have an opportunity to learn how not to be. We shouldn’t have to perform every form of folly ourselves, in order to learn that folly is harmful. We can learn just by watching others. Surely we don’t lack for examples.
84/”A puncher’s chance.”
The phrase comes from boxing. It refers to the situation of a boxer who is an underdog in the upcoming fight. He is most likely to be defeated. Still, because he is a puncher–is capable of striking a strong blow–the fighter is not necessarily going to be defeated. One of those punches he throws might hit home in a powerful manner, and allow him to win the fight. He is still the underdog, but he has a chance–a puncher’s chance. We should take heart from this phrase. Often we are underdogs in our endeavors. But we can throw a punch now and then, and who knows, we might just surprise ourselves and others, and accomplish more than we expected. Maybe all of us have a puncher’s chance, if we only knew it.
85/”One over the eight.”
This comes from England. If a person has had one over the eight, that means he is intoxicated. Eight shots of whiskey, eight glasses of wine, or eight beers? Fine. No problem. Ah, but he went one over the eight, and now he is tipsy. The humor of course resides in the outlandish notion that it takes eight drinks of alcohol to become drunk. Two or three will surely suffice, for most of us. “One over the two” would be a more realistic phrase. Which, paired with our knowledge of the original “One over the eight,” is pretty funny in its own right. (Or, for some of us, “One over the one” would be appropriate.)
86/”He won’t set the Thames on fire.”
This is another one from England. If you say someone won’t set the Thames on fire, you are saying that he is no genius, because only a genius could set a river on fire. But of course the phrase is saying more than that. You are subtly trying to hint that the person is a bit thick.
87/”If you keep your head when everyone around you is losing theirs, you don’t understand the situation.”
There can be a lot of truth to this. While we all admire the ability to keep calm in a crisis, there seem to be lots of situations in which calmness indicates that we really don’t understand the situation. For example, the American Christian church seems for the most part to be completely calm as the Deep State endeavors to fasten the chains of slavery on us. I don’t think we understand the situation. Squawking like a chicken would make more sense. We are keeping our heads, but only because we don’t understand the situation. “God is in control.” True, but He gives us the ability to think and act and influence history. I suspect we need to “do something even if it’s wrong,” rather than keep our heads so sedately.
88/”Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.”
This is a line from Robert Frost’s poem, “The Death of the Hired Man.” It seems like there is a lot of truth just in that one line. It speaks about failure, and about how difficult it is to have a family and a home where you are wanted. We often go home because we “have to go there.” That is, we have made a mess of our lives, and as a last desperate resort we are trying to retreat to home and family. But the hard truth is, the people at our home don’t really want us. They take us in only because “they have to.” They don’t really want our messed up presence among them, but they have to take us in because they are the only home we have. Some of us, of course, are so defeated and alone that there is no place where they have to take us in.
89/”Today is a day of great solemnity. Today I become the king of Spain.”
This is a line from “The Diary of a Madman,” which was a television play I saw many decades ago. The author was the nineteenth century Russian writer Nikolai Gogol. I don’t remember details of the play, but those few words have always stuck in my mind. The madman of the play had convinced himself that he was to be crowned the king of Spain. Because that day was supposedly the day of his coronation, it was a day of great solemnity. He uttered those few words with appropriate dignity befitting the seriousness of the circumstances. It is indeed a serious, solemn thing, to become the king of a country. (Solemnity is a mellifluous word, vastly entertaining all by itself.)
90/”One word of truth outweighs the whole world.”
I have saved my favorite phrase for last. I first heard it when Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn used it in his speech accepting the Nobel Prize for literature in 1970. (He stayed in the Soviet Union, because he didn’t want to be refused reentry to his home country by the Soviet authorities. Thus someone else delivered his speech in Sweden.) But Solzhenitsyn made no claim to have created the phrase. He was quoting a Russian proverb. It seems to me that the depth of wisdom in that phrase is astonishing. The world weighs how many tons? According to one Internet source, the earth weighs 6,585 billion trillion tons. But as heavy as is the earth, one word of truth is still more weighty than the entire earth. The truth being spoken of is not ordinary undoubted truths. “The bookshelves in this room go all the way to the ceiling.” That is true, but that is not what the proverb is saying. The proverb is telling us that when lies are powerful, and numerous, and everywhere, one word of truth outweighs the lies. Truth may be hated and outnumbered, but truth outweighs lies. As we look around us, we are now inhabiting a world in which lying is constant. It is going to take lots of people willing to imitate Solzhenitsyn by trying to speak unwanted truths, if we hope to defend Christian civilization. I am finishing up a book right now. There will of course be triumphant world tours celebrating Books I Have Loved. But those won’t last forever. I’ll be home again eventually. The book I plan to write next will be entitled One Word of Truth Outweighs the Whole World. I will try to show how dramatically the Bible instructs us that we need to love truth. And I plan to show the cost we are going to have to pay, if we want to be in line with biblical teaching. Are we willing to pay the price? Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was willing to pay the price. He changed world history vastly for the better. We can imitate him.
This ends my series on phrases that have entertained me over the years. I hope to try some other topic next week.