5 Staples Of Wisdom That Need To Be Retired

Aphorisms are all those fun little sayings we use to live our lives. Some are incredibly practical, such as "Don't kill the goose that lays the golden eggs," which we all use each morning when deciding which of our many geese to kill. Others are a little dated, and although you can still see the intent behind them, they're now of limited relevance. A saying like "Don't count your chickens before they've hatched" is now essentially meaningless with today's modern chicken-counting smartphones.

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Hard to believe we all used to have to do this by hand before bed every night.

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But there are some old sayings that could never have made any sense, whether because they describe a situation that could never exist or because they have such a simplistic view of the world that they're completely impractical. These sayings should never have been invented in the first place, and it's only thanks to the work of people with head injuries and hack writers that they've survived to this day.

So, on behalf of people with head injuries and hack writers, I'd like to apologize and begin the long process of rolling some of these back.

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5
"The Best Thing Since Sliced Bread"

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What It's Supposed To Mean:

That we're talking about a really great thing, one of the best things humanity has ever managed, something almost but not quite as good as the shining pinnacle of human accomplishment: sliced bread.

What It Actually Means:

Sliced bread was invented in 1928, which is a little before my time, so I can't say for sure how people reacted to it. I guess it was, like, pandemonium? Fistfights in the streets, with people all stepping on each other's necks to get their hands on this miracle of the modern age, sliced bread. "No longer must we live in the darkness!" they shouted, voices as one.

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Is this what bread lines were about?

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But that doesn't seem likely. Sliced bread makes the process of making a sandwich somewhat easier. It definitely saves a minute or two there and results in more consistent sandwiches. That's not nothing.

But it's not much either, is it? In 1928, there were already several thousand things better than sliced bread. Powered flight, medicine, and oral sex are the first three that come to mind. And sliced bread wasn't even the greatest thing invented that year. Even the biggest fan of consistent sandwiches would have to admit that penicillin, discovered later that year, was probably a greater and more significant leap forward.

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"Billy, which do you like least, inconsistent sandwiches, or dying of meningitis?
Because if it's the one I think it is, I've got good news."

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4
"Crime Doesn't Pay"

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What It's Supposed To Mean:

If you commit a crime, you're going to get caught, or you're not going to get a good price selling stolen goods, or you'll go mad from the sound of a heart beating under the floorboards. Something like that. "Stop committing crimes, children," essentially.

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What It Actually Means:

There's a reason crime has been so consistently popular for the last 10,000 years. Crime has always paid. It pays in the short run and the long run and any other length of run.

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Every one of these people is training to commit crimes.

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Granted, this saying could refer to a different kind of analysis, where, sure crime pays, but not in the long run. Yeah, you get your filthy ill-gotten gains, but there's a pretty good chance you're going to get caught, or destroy a friendship, or have to kill a guy on your first day of prison. There are a lot of well-established downsides to crime.

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Horizontal stripes are incredibly unflattering.

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But it still pays, doesn't it? Also, isn't that a really terrible way to warn someone away from crime? Why take something that can be a simple, easily understood moral statement -- "Crime is wrong" -- and replace it with an often-incorrect cost-benefit analysis? How many people have heard "Crime doesn't pay," and taken that not as a warning but a challenge?

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No more than one or two, right?

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3
"Live Every Day As If It Was Your Last"

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What It's Supposed To Mean:

We should live for the moment. Do things you want to do instead of things you have to do. Live without regret.

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What It Actually Means:

First, this saying is so goddamned vague, it could mean at least a few different things. It could be taken very literally and mean someone is suggesting you should die tonight. Or it could mean you should suffer through the horrific torment that comes with knowing your fate but being powerless to stop it. In which case I imagine this advice would cause you to weep uncontrollably, or curse the gods, or do other things of that nature.

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Beg for sex.

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But even if we take this advice at face value and just live for the moment, this is terrible advice that is never useful. If you know you're going to die today, that there would be no tomorrow to suffer the consequences of your actions, there would probably be a lot of reckless things you'd do. BASE jumping, or pit fighting, or eating gas station sushi. Even if you weren't a thrill-seeker, you probably wouldn't go to work. Good chance you'd spend a lot of money. Or slap someone that needed to be slapped.

All of which might be a problem if there actually is a tomorrow.

If you genuinely lived each day like it was your last, you would find that each day would be significantly worse than the previous one. You would soon find yourself unemployed, on the run from debt collectors and people with huge red welts on their faces, all the while dealing with a stomach twisted into just the worst kind of knots from your Texaco nigiri.

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"Should have stuck with the yam rolls."

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2
"People Who Live In Glass Houses Shouldn't Throw Stones"

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What It's Supposed To Mean:

Don't criticize someone when you could be criticized for the same thing.

What It Actually Means:

First, what the fuck is a glass house? Is that supposed to mean a greenhouse? Because people don't live in those. Or is this a joke about making sure gardeners know their place?

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"Enough backtalk, Chauncey."

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I guess it doesn't have to be a literal object; no one expects there actually is a golden-egg-laying goose. It's a metaphor to describe just a pretty great goose. But if you're not restricting yourself to describing a real object, if the entire infinite realm of the imagination is open to you, why would you pick a metaphor with so many different interpretations? Because this could also mean "Don't do something that hurts you too," or "Understand your surroundings," or even just "Don't play indoors."

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"That's coming out of your salary, Chauncey."

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1
"The Meek Shall Inherit The Earth"

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What It's Supposed To Mean:

The meek shall inherit the Earth. Not much room for interpretation here, is there?

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What It Actually Means:

So this comes from the Bible, where Matthew 5:5 says, "Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the Earth." If it's God saying this, it's a little hard to criticize it or claim it doesn't make sense. It might not make sense yet, but if God wants this to happen, it will happen, however much he might respect the work of Cracked.com.

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"I liked you guys better when you did less lists."

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Because oh shit this sure hasn't happened yet, has it? The meek, as a rule, don't get much of anything these days, and they never have. They certainly don't get the Earth, which goes mainly to lords, I think. Worse, this advice could kind of encourage people to be meek, instead of pushing themselves or striving for more. A lot of really important, world-changing things have been done by people striving for more. Wars, yes, but also things that have made life better. Things like powered flight and medicine and oral sex, to name a few.

Admittedly, this might be a translation issue; this might be better written as "The gentle shall inherit the Earth." And, yeah, I can see why God might want to encourage us to be gentle to each other. But that still doesn't change the fact that, to date, the gentle haven't exactly gotten the Earth. I could see the gentle inheriting a nice spot in Heaven, after the Rapture; that makes sense. But the Earth? Isn't that left to the assholes? Assholes and/or lords, right?

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I guess, bottom line, be gentle but not meek, a lord but not an asshole, invent medicine if you can, and if you can't, just try to stay out of the way of those who can.

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"Basically. But that's kind of wordy."

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Chris Bucholz is a Cracked columnist and tries to invent medicine every day. His first novel, Severance, is incredible and available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Apex Books. Join him on Facebook or Twitter.

For more nonsensical sayings check out 4 Old Sayings About Family That Are (Sometimes) B.S. and learn some brand new sayings that we could use in 4 Wise Proverbs That Need to Be Revised for the Modern World .

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