Say it ain’t so


People say things. All the time, often for no better reason than to banish silence, people say things.

One of the things people really like to say is sayings. Old words of wisdom that few ever question, allegedly wise saws, even (and these are my favourites) sayings that have become so mangled over time they no longer mean what they were supposed to.

I’m engaged in an entirely one-sided conversation with many of these sayings – let’s agree to lump them all into the category of sayings – with the hope that if I roll them around long enough, they’ll answer.

[Note to reader: it’s not necessarily that I don’t know the origin or historic setting of the saying, it’s that their use as conversation fillers distresses me. It’s very personal. I won’t pretend otherwise.]

[Note to my editor: please don’t remove my note to the reader, it’s all I’ve got to justify the small rant that is this week’s column.]

Here’s what I have issues with.

“It’s a piece of cake” to refer to something easily done.

I write about cake a lot. Probably more than you’d expect from a column that is interested in mental health and the way we think as individuals and a society. This is because I think cake is wonderful.

The saying is deeply, deeply offensive to me because, generally, when someone says it, they are not in any manner giving me any cake of any kind. I think it cruel to pretend or even refer to cake if none is coming.

For the love of all that’s holy, just say the thing is easy. Stop your cake lies.

Also, some things are not easy.

“Time longer than twine.” Yes, yes, I believe we will find this to be true. If we had all the time in the world – a concept vaguely known as infinity – and we had all the twine in the world, I believe time would win.

This saying, besieging me to be more patient, has the opposite effect.

Why? Because I don’t think twine and time are measured in the same way. My hostility to this saying knows no bounds. Is there a scientific process by which we can measure the length of time and twine using the same or comparable units?

Also, sometimes it’s hard to be patient.

“There are other fish in the sea.”

Well, I just bet there are! But you know what, the reason we’re having this discussion in the first place is because that is the particular fish in which I was interested.

What good befalls me if there be others? More. Bigger. Nicer. Fishier. No good, I say. If I wanted other fish, I would have used a net or some other large thing with which to catch an array of fish. And further, the way things are going these days – pollution, over-fishing et al – how can I be sure there are others?

I understand I’m meant to not dwell on missed opportunities but really, dragging innocent fish into this is too much. I feel for the fish. They don’t want to be caught at all, whether they are the right fish or the other fish.

Also, be it thing, chance or person, if you really wanted something, it can take a while to see beyond your desire.

“You can’t push a rope.”

I beg to differ. I can too push a rope. Why, every time someone asks me to bring them some rope, do I pick up a great big scratchy bundle in my arms? No indeed. I just shove it along the ground with my foot. Or with the help of a nice stick.

I don’t know anyone who keeps their rope lying around in a straight line. Rope gets coiled up. Making it easy prey for them as would push it.

Why would I want to push a rope? If you have got to the point where you find yourself thinking that there’s a rope out there just waiting for you to try to push it, you have bigger problems than this idiom.

A thankless task? A pointless task? Lots of talk about ropes being for pulling, not pushing, and then parlaying that into a whole lot of leadership talk? I can’t with these ropes.

Also, sometimes even when a thing looks wrong-way-round to others, maybe you see something they don’t.

In closing, after one time is two time. Which is a great relief to all of us who can’t count much higher than that.

Remember to talk to your doctor or therapist if you want to know more about what you read here. In many cases, there’s no single solution or diagnosis to a mental health concern. Many people suffer from more than one condition.


"Say it ain’t so"

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