Proverbs and sayings are absolutely everywhere. We all use them on occasion, even when we try to avoid doing so as it suggests unoriginality. They even make it into advertising when a brand decides an old proverb sums up everything about its product.
Proverbs that stick around do so for a reason. Their meanings are timeless, their messages are profound. This even extends to the Internet and the digital age in which we all now live. The proverbs have stayed the same, but their meanings are presented in a whole new context.
A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.
Old Meaning: People who know a little something about a subject fool themselves into thinking they’re experts on that subject.
New Context: People who read one biased article online about a subject then pass this biased viewpoint onto others as if it’s the truth. Usually on social networks.
A picture is worth a thousand words.
Old Meaning: One compelling image can tell a story better than pages of text.
New Context: Slideshows of funny-looking cats will gain more eyeballs than a long, well-written, piece of investigative journalism.
An apple a day keeps the doctor away.
More proof that the iWatch will come in multiple sizes. pic.twitter.com/wxGKZFrylo
— Dave Pell (@davepell) June 20, 2014
Old Meaning: Eating an apple, or indeed any piece of fruit, will keep you healthy.
New Context: Reading at least one rumor about their favorite company every day will stop Apple fanboys from losing their minds.
Bad news travels fast.
Old Meaning: Information about bad things that have happened will spread a lot quicker and further than information about good things that have happened.
New Context: People will share bad news online a lot more readily than they will share good news. Even if the bad news isn’t actually true.
Beauty is only skin deep.
Old Meaning: Physical attractiveness is only superficial. The person possessing it may not be so beautiful inside.
New Context: Thanks to Photoshop, beauty can be artificially created. Meaning it isn’t even necessarily skin deep any more.
Brevity is the soul of wit.
Old Meaning: Humor is best delivered in concise sentences.
New Context: With its 140-character limit, Twitter is the best joke book in the world.
Children should be seen and not heard.
Old Meaning: Children should know when to be quiet and well-behaved.
New Context: Children playing video games online have the biggest potty mouths you will ever hear. A problem easily fixed with the Mute button.
Dog is man’s best friend.
Old Meaning: Dogs are loyal companions who once hunted alongside our ancestors.
New Context: Cats easily beat dogs in the online popularity stakes. Therefore, cat is man’s new best friend.
Don’t let the bastards grind you down.
Do trolls even live under bridges anymore? Or have they all relocated to the Internet?
— Leslie Chow (@ImLeslieChow) June 18, 2014
Old Meaning: Whatever punishments your enemy dishes out, carry on smiling.
New Context: Internet trolls cannot be avoided, but they can be ignored.
Give credit where credit is due.
Old Meaning: If someone deserves praise then let them receive it.
New Context: Stop stealing videos from other YouTube users, and only use copyrighted images when you have permission to do so.
History repeats itself.
Old Meaning: Historical events will often happen again.
New Context: Your Internet history suggests you visit the same websites over and over again. You dirty boy.
If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys.
Old Meaning: If you want to attract the best workforce then offer suitable compensation. Low wages equals incompetent employees.
New Context: The difference between the quality of writing on websites that pay well versus the the quality of writing on websites who prefer unpaid volunteers.
Laughter is the best medicine.
Old Meaning: Staying happy and upbeat can be good for your health and wellbeing.
New Context: The best websites are often those infused with a healthy dose of humor.
Moderation in all things.
Old Meaning: Too much or too little of something can be harmful. So have a little of everything in moderation.
New Context: Internet forums and comments sections are much better when governed by a sensible moderator.
Never judge a book by its cover.
My entire life all I’ve ever wanted was to be a catfish. Curse you good looks, curse you!
— shael (@5hael) June 20, 2014
Old Meaning: Don’t prejudge someone or something purely on outward appearances.
New Context: Don’t believe everyone online is who they say they are. It’s far too easy to maintain a bogus persona on the Internet.
Never speak ill of the dead.
Old Meaning: Avoid saying anything bad about someone who has passed away. Doing so risks offending those near and dear to them.
New Context: Whenever a famous person dies there will always be people on Facebook and Twitter saying something bad about them.
The best things in life are free.
Old Meaning: The things you should value most in life are those which are given for free, such as love, friendship, and good health.
New Context: Free apps are better than paid apps. Websites paid for by advertising are better than those residing behind paywalls. Free alternatives are better than expensive commercial software.
There’s no such thing as bad publicity.
Old Meaning: All publicity, good or bad, helps you build fame and fortune in some way.
New Context: People embarrassed by their bad behavior online often turn the public shaming to their advantage. Conversely, there’s the Streisand Effect.
Ending With The Proverbial
Many of these proverbs are centuries old, and yet they still make perfect sense when a new context brings them kicking and screaming into the digital age. Which acts as a strong reminder of how insightful they were to begin with. And continue to be to this day.
Are there any more old proverbs, English or otherwise, you feel successfully sum up a notion familiar to the Internet generation? Please let us know in the comments section below, along with any feedback on my attempt to bring these old English proverbs up to date.