Have you ever found yourself having a great conversation with someone and then suddenly, without warning, they drop some sort of random wisdom or common phrase that leaves you scratching your head?
These sayings can have many names depending on the context; idioms, proverbs, or aphorisms to name a few. They aren’t all the same, but when used they can all have a similar confusing effect. At some point in the past, many of these may have had some meaning. However, some of them didn’t age well at all while others just sound plain silly after giving them a moment or two of thought. I admit, I too have been guilty of using such devices in regular speech and it never really clicked with me until the day I told a trusted coworker who had made a minor mistake “not to lose sleep over it.” Most people would understand the meaning, but that isn’t always the case when you’re dealing with someone who’s primary language isn’t English. She stared at me blankly, forcing me to awkwardly explain myself. This really got me thinking…
What do any of these sayings really mean? Did they ever really have any meaning to begin with? Do they really sound that stupid? I felt the need to understand. So, with that in mind, let’s take a look at a few common sayings, their meaning, and the sheer level of idiocy involved in their use.
“Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss you’ll land among the stars.”
Wow. That is powerful stuff. Inspirational! It really leaves you with a feeling of courage, vision and simply trying your absolute best. Even if you fail, you can still learn something and achieve a level of greatness you wouldn’t have otherwise. I really do love the spirit behind this quote. But…
If we look at this quote as written, there are a few minor hurdles to overcome. The moon is approximately 384,000km away from the planet Earth. That is far! Not impossible though; we’ve done it before! At least most of us know it’s possible unless you believe the whole moon landing being faked theory. So let’s say you miss the moon…well…the nearest star to our own is known as Proxima Centauri. This low-mass star is located a mere 42,208,000,000,000km away, meaning you have a long, long, long way to go before landing among those stars. Modern science hasn’t even traveled that distance yet. The length of time it will take for you to get there means you will be dead. Dead, dead, dead! The context isn’t so bright now, is it?
“It’s not rocket science.”
This one serves to indicate that whatever you are working on or doing isn’t or shouldn’t be complicated. Baking a cake? It’s not rocket science! Filling out your tax forms? It’s not rocket science!! Successfully performing a complex form of brain surgery? It’s not rocket science!!! … oops.
The majority of people are not working on rocket science and have never claimed to do so. Pretty much anything they’re doing at this moment is, quite literally, not rocket science. Unless they are a scientist…who deals with rockets. Please stop using this.
“It takes more muscles to frown than to smile.”
Another saying meant to inspire the masses. This fun little quote suggests that frowning is harder to do and takes more energy and effort. So, rather than frowning, you should smile. Smile…..SMILE??? DON’T TELL ME TO SMILE!
While somewhat inconclusive, there have been studies conducted which focused on the muscles needed to use either facial expression. It really does depend on individual muscle strength, development, and regular use. However, these studies have shown that it takes 12 muscles to smile and 11 to frown (or 10 for a small smile and 6 for a small frown). While the effort may vary based on the person, the actual muscles being used contradict this timeless quote. Now you can frown away with ease and peace of mind!
“Action is the real measure of intelligence.”
I can’t even…
This would leave the world without a thought. Apparently, the people that are doers, not thinkers, are the intelligent ones. If that’s the case, then the famed charge of the light brigade was conducted by bloody geniuses and Napoleon’s move against Russia was equivalent to Einstein’s theory of relativity. While actions are a beneficial component of intelligence, the ability to calculate, analyze, imagine, evaluate, and rationalize shouldn’t be overlooked. Think before you act or it may lead to your unfortunate demise.
“The final nail in the coffin.”
Finality. The last move before the end. There is no going back. An act that results in total or abrupt failure. That’s the basic idea here. I have so many questions…
How many nails are there in a standard coffin? If someone is stuck in said coffin, does it require all of them to ensure the lid stays closed? What would we do without this final nail? What if we ran out of nails? Do these nails protect against zombies? What if the nails rust and we need to repair the coffin? How do you know that it is indeed the final nail? Aren’t screws more effective? While this idiom is a bit easier to understand than most, it’s incredibly morbid and a bit of a cliche. Following that, most modern-day coffins aren’t nailed shut at all; they are cranked shut with a sealing mechanism, a gasket, and a casket key. Maybe it’s time to put this one to rest.
There you have it! I hope you’ve all learned something from the examples I’ve offered in this brief list and that it helps you think twice about what you’re about to say before you say it. I know that I, for one, will be adjusting my daily routine to use less ambiguous terminology going forward so that I don’t sound like a complete fool. Thank you for reading and I sincerely hope you join us next time for another list of common sayings that are stupid.
But for now, that, as they say, is a wrap.