Say What You Want About Mussolini; At Least The Trains Ran On TimeWhat It's Supposed To Mean
Although some profess that this cliche is now merely a cynical expression of good things happening in terrible circumstances, I only hear it uttered by angry and fatigued commuters dying for a powerful man to set their travel schedule right.
Why I Hate It
No one can deny that Benito Mussolini was a fascist, a Nazi ally, and a proponent of censorship and propaganda. But, apparently, all that was a small price to pay for the 8:32 out of Venice always running on time! Somehow, there was a direct correlation between torturing political opponents and getting someone else off to work on schedule.
So why limit this cliche to just Mussolini when clearly fascism is the key to this success? Just look how reliably those trains carted Jews off to Auschwitz! And I'm sure if Cambodia had anything resembling a railroad system, Pol Pot's mass murder would have assured prompt delivery of countless corpses to mass graves. Well, it should be noted that the first thing wrong with this cliche is it's complete bullshit. Mussolini was better at propaganda than train propulsion. And should that be so hard to believe? I mean, when you're hanging out, stalled on the tracks do you really think the problem is that we have a political system based in representative government, featuring checks and balances? Look, I hate being trapped on a train with no air conditioning as much as my fellow commuters, but rarely am I struck by the wish, "please, Lord. Just get this train running and come November, I'll be sure to renounce my right to vote!"
The Exception That Proves The RuleWhat It's Supposed To Mean
Ignore that thing that disproves my theory; It only proves my theory!
Why I Hate It
Most of the entries on this list are here because they actually represent an idea or conviction that I find offensive, but this one is just stupid. The exception that proves the rule is an Alice-in-Wonderlandian leap in twisted logic, claiming that something that breaks a pattern merely reveals the existence of a pattern. Well, sure that might be true, if you don't understand...anything. Let's say I have some marbles arranged in what seems to be a pattern. Red, Black, Blue. Red, Black, Blue. Red, Black, GREEN. Some might say, "Well, I see a pattern establishing a rule: 'a blue marble will always follow red and black marbles. Oh, and that green one? Well, it's the exception that proves the rule." Thank you, Professor, but actually, it's the first six marbles that exhibit a pattern - not the green one. The green one is at best an aberration to be disregarded and, at worst, proof that there is no pattern. Meaning your rule is, um, what's the word? Wrong.
I have no proof, but this expression seems like it was written by some insufferable blowhard who's terrible in bed: "All the women who have sex with me experience multiple orgasms. Oh you didn't? You must be the exception that proves the rule." " I never experience erectile dysfunction. Oh, my penis is presently retracted like a scared turtle in midwinter? Must be the exception that proves the rule." "No, I never need to imagine a young Alec Baldwin in Hunt for Red October to achieve orgasm when I'm with a lady. Oh, I screamed out 'sink me with your torpedo, Jack Ryan,' during my climax? Hmm. Must be the exception that proves the rule."
(Editor's note: despite the historical meaning of this phrase, this column is addressing the foolishness of how this expression has come to be used.)