Saturday, August 27, 2005

So They Say 

There are a number of pithy little phrases we all use so often and so blithely. I suspect most of us have never stopped and taken the time to think through what they really mean.

Which came first, the chicken or the egg?

This is not really the paradox most people assume it is, but rather, a cleverly coded litmus test of one's view of the current creation story dustup.

Evolution's advocates will clearly believe the egg came first. How could they not? After all, in the simplest sense, dinosaur eggs preceded chickens by gazillions of years. And even if we're getting technical, and comparing chickens with chicken eggs, evolutionists clearly understand that each creature -- other than that first primordial amoeba, and later mammals -- must have come from an egg which preceded it. One day, a proto-chicken evolved and laid a chicken egg which only later hatched into our famous chicken.

Creationists and Intelligent Designers, on the other hand, will generally be forced to admit that the chicken clearly came first. The Bible doesn't say that on the 5th afternoon God made eggs; He made chickens.

So I fully expect this to be the first question asked of John Roberts in his upcoming confirmation hearings. Mark it down. You read it here first.

Have your cake and eat it too.

Well this one is just silly. Somehow a simple spelling error crept into the common usage, and now no one even remembers the original phrase and its purpose. The phrase seems to describe a common impossible dream: to want to possess something even after consuming it. In reality, it's a simple instruction to help couples avoid arguments when sharing dessert: Halve your cake, and eat it, two.

Is the glass half-empty or half-full?

This is one that people use all the time to unfairly dismiss as pessimistic and whiny the views of those for whom the glass is half-empty. But really, nothing could be further from the truth. Someone who sees his glass as half-empty is affirming that it is meant for drinking, and although he has already enjoyed half, there's still more! On the other hand the one whose glass is half full is like a waiter whose job it is to fill the glass which, despite all the pouring, is still only half full, and there's no telling when he'll get to put that heavy water pitcher down.

Please note at this point that this article is now half-finished, not half-started.

Thirty days hath December, April, May and remember...

No, wait... uh...

Thirteen days hath October, April, June and...

Oh whatever, you know what I mean. As mnemonics go, I find this to be pretty useless. It's like helping someone remember a spelling rule by saying "'i' before 'e' except in the words 'receive', 'deceive', 'height', 'fein', 'deign', ..." I prefer the knuckle method. All I have to remember is that I have two hands.

Do unto others as you would have done unto you.

Well this sounds really nice, as long as you ignore all the fine print. If you read the tiny italics, it also says:

Note: this rule does not apply to masochists and the suicidal. Nor does it obviate the need for the "other's" consent, that is, it should not be taken as advice for the lovelorn to score with hot chicks who wouldn't otherwise give them the time of day.

This rule has a golden heart, but in these cynical times, maybe it should be updated a little by a team of lawyers to limit any potential liability. I might suggest as an alternative, "Do unto others as they would have you do unto them." But I'd still like the lawyers to look it over.

Six of one, half a dozen of the other.

Come on, who do people think they're fooling with this one? As if we're supposed to believe this proves the two are equivalent and there's nothing to choose between them. As if. The two sides are only equal if each one is just like all the others. What an oppressive call to conformity.

And which would you rather have, the six of one, or the half dozen of the other? It's another litmus test of course. ACLU'ers will obviously prefer the other, while Libertarians will take the one every time. I hope John Roberts is studying up here, because this will be on the test.

Important update: check out the wisely named blog Point Five. None of this half-empty, half-full nonsense for them.

If you really, really liked this -- or even really, really hated it -- there's lots more: