Wackorism of the Week

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Wackorism for 6/6/2013

Wackorism:  Ask not what you can do for your country, but how much of a bailout it can give you!

Aphorism:  Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.

Origin:  This quote is the best known line from John F. Kennedy’s inaugural speech, given on January 20, 1961 after he took office as President of the United States.  Although author Thurston Clarke, among many others, called this “the speech that changed America,” others claim that Kennedy stole the line from one of his college professors.

Meaning:  It is intended to inspire patriotism and a sense of brotherhood.


Wackorism for 5/30/2013

Wackorism:  Good fences make … dogs unhappy!

Dog and Fence

Aphorism:  Good fences make … good neighbors.

Origin:  This homely saying has a longer history than we expected.  The earliest use we could find was the medieval Latin phrase, “Bonum est erigere dumos cum vicinis (“It is good to erect hedges with the neighbors.”).  It has variations in several languages, and the earliest English publication of it that we could find was in George Herbert’s “Outlandish Proverbs” published in 1640.  We believe that one of the best known versions of the saying appeared in Robert Frost’s poem “Mending Wall” (1914).

Meaning:  While you may usually get along great with those around you, it is often a good idea to have boundaries clearly defined.

For more information, see the link below.


Wackorism for 5/23/2013

Wackorism:  He who laughs last … didn’t get the joke!

Aphorism:  He who laughs last … laughs best.

Origin:  We discovered that there is some debate about whether the phrase is “… laughs best” or “… laughs longest.”  There are roughly equal references online to each of them, so we are using “best,” as we believe this one expresses the intended lesson.  We found two possible origins for this phrase.  The first is a play called “The Christmas Prince,” which was written and performed around 1608 in Tudor England.  The play is believed to have been written by the founder of Oxford University, Sir Thomas White.  The actual lines are:  “Laugh on, laugh on my friend / Hee laugheth best that laugheth to the end.”  The second possibility is a saying by the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzche (1844-1900): “Wer zuletzt lacht, lacht am besten,” which translates literally to “He who laughs best today, will also laugh last.”  Take your pick!

Meaning:  In an ongoing contest of wills or wits, whoever is the ultimate winner laughs last, and therefore, best.

Wackorism for 5/16/2013

Wackorism:  It is better to have loved and lost … only if you were able to score!


Aphorism:  ‘Tis better to have loved and lost … than never to have loved at all.

Origin:  These two lines are from Alfred Lord Tennyson’s lengthy poem “In Memorium A.H.H.,” which was published in 1850 (Verse 27).  “In Memorium” is actually a compilation of 131 small poems, written over a period of 17 years, with a prologue and an epilogue added at the beginning and end.  It was inspired by the untimely death of  Arthur Henry Hallam, Tennyson’s best friend, and his grief is a lens through which he explores the themes of life, death, nature, love, religion and the hereafter.

Meaning:  Because love raises us above life’s difficulties and transcends all worldly concerns, we are changed for the better for having shared love, even if we eventually lose the object of our love.

Wackorism for 5/9/2013

Wackorism:  Give him an inch and he’ll take … 1.60934 kilometers.

Aphorism:  Give him an inch and he’ll take … a mile.

Origin:  This saying first appeared in English in John Heywood’s collection of proverbs, published in 1546.  Mr. Heywood (1497-1580) was a musician and composer who was known for his poems and plays, though none have survived.

Meaning:  Some people will take advantage of the slightest opportunity and go overboard in their endeavor, often to the detriment of others.

Thanks to Bruce Posner, who inspired this week’s Wackorism!

Wackorism for 5/2/2013

Wackorism: She sells seashells … on sea-bay!


Aphorism: She sells seashells … on the seashore.

Origin: This alliterative rhyme was written in 1908 by Terry Sullivan, and the complete verse is as follows:

She sells seashells on the seashore

The shells she sells are seashells, I’m sure

So if she sells seashells on the seashore

Then I’m sure she sells seashore seashells

Meaning: This simple tongue-twister has a surprising history! It refers to a woman named Mary Anning, who discovered fossilized remains near her home in Lyme Regis, England when she was 12 years old. She went on to become the first woman paleontologist, but was barely recognized as such in her lifetime (1799-1847). Her family was poor, so she sold fossils (“seashells”) in order to live.

Learn more about Mary Anning at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Anning

Wackorism for 4/25/2013

Wackorism: A house divided against itself…declines in property value!

Aphorism: A house divided against itself…cannot stand.
Origin: Although made famous by a speech by Abraham Lincoln in 1858, the saying is based on a verse in Matthew 12:25.
Meaning: An organization or household whose members do not get along is going to be weak.