Proverbs

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A stitch in time saves nine

Statistically the gears in mechanical clocks are at their most stressed when the hour hand is pointing at the '9' numeral, as the hour hand is exactly half the way through being lifted towards the 12 o'clock position, where the weight and position of the hour hand requires the maximum turning moment. When clocks failed they tended to be stuck at 9 O'clock. To combat this, clocks at railway stations had a loop (stitch) of stretchy cat-gut tied between the regulator bar and the main (time) cog. This 'stitch in time' reduced the number of failures, effectively 'saving [the] nine [-O'clock position]'.

Too many cocks spoil the brothel

Idiomatic translation: "Don't introduce a surfeit of male chickens into the collective premises of sex-workers, as poultry can be unsanitary, and the clucking may be off-putting to clients".

The cracked pitcher goes longest to the well

The origin of this proverb is American. The cracked pitcher refers to New York Met's baseball pitcher Doug Mozynski who tripped up while slam-dunking a touchdown during the first Baseball PGA tour in 1931. The fall caused severe brain damage to the extent that Mozynski was so 'cracked' he believed he was 'Little Johnny Flynn' from the nursery rhyme 'Ding Dong Bell', and spent the rest of his life throwing any cat he could find into nearby wells. After his mental state deteriorated drastically in his 70's, Mozynski was persuaded to stand for Governor of Florida in 1945, going on to serve two full terms.

All roads lead to Rome

Idiomatic translation: "Even though not every road leads to Rome, in a way, they kind of do".

An army marches on its stomach

In Game of Thrones times, it was believed that an army marched most effectively by crawling along the ground, presenting the smallest possible target to spears and arrows. This advice became obsolete after the invention of the shield in 1066 when Oliver Cromwell went into battle wielding a privy door that had accidentally become riveted to the arm-part of his suit of armour.

As you make your bed, so you must lie on it

Idiomatic translation: "When you make something, always write a user manual because some idiot will find a way to use it incorrectly"

Absence makes the heart grow fonder

A popular corruption of "Absinthe makes the hearth glow fondant', a reference to the psychotropic synesthesia effect where colours and tastes become linked, caused by wormwood; a common ingredient in absinthe.

A friend in need is a friend indeed

Idiomatic translation: "Needy friends make the best friends. You should dump all of your friends immediately, and surround yourself only with nail-biters, drug addicts, and the emotionally scarred"

All that glisters is not gold

Idiomatic translation: "Lots of things are shiny, not just gold, so collect everything shiny you can find and take it to the bank, just in case"

An apple a day keeps the doctor away

Doctors in olden times were particularly stupid (E.g. Dr Foster the serial puddle-faller-inner, Dr Martin who tried to cure everything by prescribing big boots) and many were afraid that gravity would cause apples to spontaneously accelerate towards their head, as happened to Dr Serizac Newton. To deter these bumbling idiots, villagers used to place a fresh apple on the high-street water-trough every day.

The best things come in small packages

Idiomatic translation: "Use Amazon for all your purchases"

The best things in life are free

Idiomatic translation: "Order stuff from Argos, use it, and return it for a full refund"

Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves

Idiomatic translation: "If you run a Fancy Dress business, don't falsely treat all your revenue as profit; remember to allow for costs. Also don't implement too liberal a returns policy. If someone doesn't like the sheep costume they ordered, and wants to exchange it for a wolf one; charge them for an additional rental"

A watched pot never boils

Refers to the Observer effect In physics. The term observer effect refers to changes that the act of observation will make on a phenomenon being observed. This is often the result of instruments (the eyes) that, by necessity, alter the state of what they measure in some manner. This is caused by the watched object (in this case a pan of water) getting all self-conscious and being 'put off'. Note this effect cannot be observed in France, as the background level of egotism negates any amount of embarrassment.

A problem shared is a problem halved

Idiomatic translation: "You can always rely on a miracle, just when you need it". 'Problem' is a corruption of 'Pro-Bloomer' a large catering-size 'bloomer' loaf, the type used by Jesus of Nazareth to feed the five thousand. Famously, no matter how many people a single Pro-Bloomer was shared with, each miraculously got a half a loaf.

Red sky at night, Shepherds delight. Red sky in the morning, sailor's warning

Idiomatic translation: "Don't neglect your education". Shepherds were typically uneducated thickos who were highly amused at intrinsically banal things like red skies at night, and Mrs Browns Boys. Sailors were likewise poorly educated, and believed a red sky in the morning was a portent that they were to be given a surprise test on the names of ships ropes by the Captain. They would retire to their bunks claiming to have a sore tummy in an attempt to get out of the test.

Actions speak louder than words

This is only true for actions such as kicking a dustbin down concrete stairs, dropping scaffolding poles down a lift-shaft, and rattling an iron bar between two shipping containers.