Why we say what we say

February 11, 2012

Preposterous Proverbs: Why Fine Words Butter No Parsnips, by Max Cryer (Exisle Publishing, RRP $30):

If you have a wordy person in your life, they will love this book.

We all know a few proverbs and while some are fairly self-explanatory, others seem to fall into the realm of ridiculous.

Broadcaster and entertainer Max Cryer is a language expert who knows a thing or two about a thing or two and in this book he attempts to lift the lid on those little pearls of wisdom we all use.

From our earliest years we have heard proverbs, and many of them are repeated without much thought. Yes, “birds of a feather flock together” and “absence makes the heart grow fonder” but these sayings are so familiar that we are scarcely aware they are proverbs.

Cryer looks into those sayings and will get you thinking more and more about the words you use. Sometimes the wisdom is odd, sometimes it has become outdated, and sometimes it is simply contradictory. After all, do ‘many hands make light work’ or do ‘too many cooks spoil the broth’? You can’t really have it both ways.

This is a great little book to dip into and apart from learning the origins of some of the more familiar proverbs, you’ll also learn some interesting saying from around the world: such as the Japan’s “fools and scissors must be carefully handled”.

Wise words indeed.

Jillian Allison-Aitken

I come from the other land down under, where men are men, and sheep are nervous. I'm a sub-editor and in the past have been a proof-reader, news editor and web editor. I am also an ex-columnist, and book and software reviewer for the local daily newspaper.I still read. A lot. And surf the web. Also a lot.You'll find a little about both of those pastimes here, and on By George.

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