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One good proverb deserves another

So last week I was debating with myself about whether I should take a certain action.

I frequently debate myself, and usually lose, but that’s not the point. As I was having the discussion with myself, I decided to take immediate action, remembering that he who hesitates is lost. As I started taking the action, however, I remembered another proverb: Look before you leap.

That got me thinking (which is never a good thing) about other sets of proverbs which seem to give contradictory advice or observations. For instance, does absence makes the heart grow fonder, or is a case of out of sight, out of mind?

Along the same lines as my first dilemma, is it better to be safe than sorry, or should you decide, nothing ventured, nothing gained?

As a former newspaper reporter, I frequently reminded myself that the pen is mightier than the sword. At least, I reminded myself of that until the day someone pointed out that actions speak louder than words.

That pair, however, I realized after some further thought, might not be strictly contradictory. The pen is mightier than the sword could be seen as more of a long-range comment, while actions speak louder than words is comment on a more immediate course of action.

Similarly, I have heard people, after hearing someone say “Many hands make light work” remind them that “Too many cooks spoil the broth.”

Again, when I think about the two proverbs, the one about the number of cooks seems to me to be commenting on getting too many people involved in the planning of something, while the other one is involved with the actual performance of the action.

Getting back to pairs of proverbs which do seem to be contradictory, which is correct: Clothes make the man, or Don’t judge a book by its cover?

In my current capacity as a radio talk-show host, I definitely disagree with the belief that silence is golden (silence on the air will actually get you a nasty comment from the station manager), but I have not been able to verify that the squeaky wheel gets the grease.

And finally, looking at this list of contradictory proverbs, I can’t quite decide whether I’ve learned anything new. After all, you’re never too old to learn, but you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.