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Many of us have come across them whilst casually reading, we may have even heard them all in everyday conversation, but you might be very surprised to know that just a few people know them in their full form.
Most of the old sayings that are popular in the English language are only partially known and that their true meanings remain unfamiliar to the vast majority of the world’s population. Perhaps it happens because whenever someone tells a story they tend to leave out some of it, or maybe there is another reason for their unpopularity nowadays.
Let’s take an example that is very well known: “Great minds think alike”. Just like most of the popular sayings, it is incomplete. It ends with: “…but fools rarely differ”. So, the complete saying is “Great minds think alike, but fools rarely differ”. As you can see, it shows that conformity isn’t always a positive outcome, and just because more than one person has the same idea, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good one.
Here is another instance: “The early bird catches the worm” ends with “but the second mouse gets the cheese”.
It is implying that we don’t always need to rush into doing things as if we were wasting time if we waited, as it’s just as wise sometimes to hold back a while until it we feel it is appropriate and we are ready to act.
Furthermore, the saying “Blood is thicker than water” is incomplete as well: the original form is “The blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb”, which means that relationships that we choose to nourish are more relevant to us than those we are tied to by blood.
The sentence “curiosity killed the cat” actually is “curiosity killed the cat but satisfaction brought it back”, meaning that you shouldn’t allow anyone to tell you not to be curious and interested in new things!
Once more, “Birds of feather flock together” ends with “until the cat comes”.
The expression here starts by saying that people with similar qualities can be complementary, but it ends it tell us that we should be aware of fair-weather friends.
It is very interesting to observe how the half-finished proverbs encourage uniformity and uphold the status-quo as the complete sayings encourage lively, exciting, wide-ranging lives driven by personal passion and free choice.
These proverbs have been passed down the generations for a millennia and it’s not surprising that most of them have lost a few words and changed their original meanings. Nowadays we only hear them partially as they are slices of the popular culture which is constantly changing.
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