Language changes over time. As languages evolve, the meanings of words and phrases are often changed and mutilated to become famous saying we use all the time.
But what do they REALLY mean?
Common sayings are often missing parts which drastically change the meaning.
Two of my favorite examples of butchered, bastardized sayings are “Curiosity killed the cat” and “blood is thicker than water.”
Neither of these sayings means what you think they do from those few words.
The actual sayings are:
“Curiosity killed the cat but satisfaction brought it back,” saying curiosity is NOT a bad thing — and we definitely shouldn’t be warning people against learning and being curious. And “the blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb,” meaning that the bonds between friends are stronger than simple genetics. After all, being related to someone by blood doesn’t mean you should give up your life and happiness for them — even though some people try to weaponize that phrase to mean exactly that.
The exact opposite of what the shorter versions of the sayings mean.
7 popular idioms which are often misquoted and misused are:
- “Great minds think alike” actually goes “Great minds think alike, though fools seldom differ.” Yes. Not exactly as you thought.
- “Jack of all trades, master of none” is often used as some sort of insult, but the full statement is “Jack of all trades, master of none, though oftentimes better than master of one.” Showing that being mostly good at many things is better than being great at one thing and terrible at everything else.
- “Money is the root of all evil” actually began its life as “For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil,” meaning it’s the wanting of money, the greed, which is the root of the evil.
- “An eye for an eye,” we say to mean revenge or retribution is justified. Gandhi actually said, “An eye for an eye only makes the whole world blind,” meaning we should not seek revenge as it only harms us all.
- “The proof is in the pudding” is actually “The proof of the pudding is in the eating,” meaning you should try out new foods to see if they are good. Experiencing things yourself instead of relying on other people’s opinions.
- “Carpe diem” is the Latin phrase meaning to seize the day — and many have taken this to mean that hey, you only live once, do what you want. However, the real phrase is actually “carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero,” which means “seize the day, trusting as little as possible in the future.” This longer phrase actually was intended as advice to use today to work hard to make a better future for yourself, not just hope something good will happen.
- “The devil is in the details” is used now to warn of mistakes in the small details of things. However, the original phrase was “God is in the details,” meaning that when you pay attention to small things it will often bring rewards.
What popular sayings or idioms do you hear people use wrong?