Chinese Proverbs
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English Proverbs and Proverb Humor
(revised 6 June 2003)


A stumble may prevent a fall
All good things come to those who wait
Everyone must row with the oars he has
Every path has its puddle
God tempers the wind to the shorn lamb
One of these days is none of these days
Revenge is a dish best served cold
Worry often gives a small thing a big shadow

See also Weather Proverbs (external)

Beauty without grace is like a hook without bait.
Contributed by Charon Muck, 26 Jan 2000

Caught between a rock and a hard place
Caught between the devil and the deep blue sea
(to be stuck with two choices that are both undesirable)

Out of the frying pan and into the fire
(to go from a bad to a worse situation)

Might as well be hanged for a sheep as a lamb
(if you're going to get into the same amount of trouble, you might as well commit the greater offense)

Six of one, half a dozen of the other
(each choice is really the same thing)

Two sides of the same coin
(two aspects of a situation that are connected by necessity)

In for a penny, in for a pound
(if you're going to make a minor committment you might as well make the entire committment)

Don't count your chickens before they're hatched
(don't start making plans for something until it is a reality, rather than a pleasant speculation)

Don't cross your bridges before you get to them

(don't worry about future problems before you need to)

A stitch in time saves nine
(if you take care of a problem while it's small you won't have a bigger problem to deal with later)
(or, as Dr. Who likes to say: A stitch in time takes up space)

Time and tide wait for no man
(act in a timely fashion because you can't get back lost chances)
(or, once again as Dr. Who likes to say: Time and tide melts the snowman.)

Contributed by Rebecca Loos, Spokane, Washington, 5 June 2000

To listen is to learn, and to understand is to inspire.

Contributed by Hannah Martinez, 5 February 2002

A lie well stuck to is as good as the truth.


Contrary Proverbs

A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush BUT A man's reach should exceed his grasp
A miss is as good as a mile BUT Half a loaf is better than none
All good things come to those who wait BUT Time and tide wait for no man
Birds of a feather flock together BUT Opposites attract
Clothes make the man BUT Never judge a book by its cover
Don't cross your bridges before you come to them BUT Forewarned is forearmed
Doubt is the beginning of wisdom BUT Faith will move mountains
Good things come in small packages BUT The bigger the better
Great starts make great finishes BUT It ain't over 'till it's over
He who hesitates is lost BUT Fools rush in where angels fear to tread
BUT Look before you leap
Practice makes perfect BUT All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy
Silence is golden BUT The squeaky wheel gets the grease
The pen is mightier than the sword BUT Actions speak louder than words
You're never too old to learn BUT You can't teach an old dog new tricks

What's good for the goose is good for the gander

BUT One man's meat is another man's poison.
Wise men think alike BUT Fools seldom differ

Cf. Brian S. Kendig's "Proverbs to Live By" (external).


Proverb Humor

A penny saved makes Jack a dull boy A penny saved is a penny earned, and 
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy
Absence makes the heart go wander  Absence makes the heart grow fonder

Abstinence makes the heart go wander
Chaste makes waste Haste makes waste
If practice makes perfect and nobody's perfect then why practice? Practice makes perfect and Nobody's perfect
The early bird catches the worm, but it is the early worm that gets caught The early bird catches the worm
The early bird may get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese
Time wounds all heels Time heals all wounds
Where there's a will, there's a relative Where there's a will, there's a way

Circumlocutory Proverbs

A disposition towards inquiry deprived the feline of its vital state Curiosity killed the cat
Elementary sartorial techniques initially applied obviate the need for repetitive similar actions to the square of three A stitch in time saves nine
Exigency is the matriarch of ingenious contrivance Necessity is the mother of invention
The stylus is more potent than the claymore The pen is mightier than the sword
There is illumination at the termination of the subterranean excavation There's a light at the end of the tunnel
(Barry Klein, Melbourne, Australia)

Contributed by Somakala Somakala, 3 September 2001

Stunted Proverbs

Familiarity breeds contempt BUT Familiarity breeds!
People living in glass houses should not pelt stones BUT People living in glass houses should not!

Contributed by N. Venkatakrishnan, Chennai, India, August 2000.

Silicon Proverbs

  1. Home is where you hang your @
  2. The e-mail of the species is more deadly than the mail
  3. A journey of a thousand sites begins with a single click
  4. You can't teach a new mouse old clicks
  5. Great groups from little icons grow
  6. Speak softly and carry a cellular phone
  7. C:\ is the root of all directories
  8. Don't put all your hypes in one home page
  9. Pentium wise; pen and paper foolish
  10. The modem is the message
  11. Too many clicks spoil the browse
  12. The geek shall inherit the earth
  13. A chat has nine lives.
  14. Don't byte off more than you can view.
  15. Fax is stranger than fiction
  16. What boots up must come down
  17. Windows will never cease
  18. In Gates we trust
  19. Virtual reality is its own reward
  20. Modulation in all things
  21. A user and his leisure time are soon parted
  22. There's no place like!
  23. Know what to expect before you connect
  24. Oh, what a tangled Web site we weave when first we practice
  25. Speed thrills
  26. Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach him to use the Net and he won't bother you for weeks

New Proverbs

  1. If you're too open-minded, your brains will fall out.
  2. Age is a very high price to pay for maturity.
  3. Before you criticize someone, walk a mile in his shoes. That way, if he gets angry, he'll be a mile way - and barefoot.
  4. Going to church doesn't make you a holy person any more than going to a garage makes you a mechanic.
  5. Artificial intelligence is no match for natural stupidity.
  6. A clear conscience is usually the sign of a bad memory.
  7. A closed mouth gathers no feet.
  8. If you must choose between two evils, pick the one you've never tried before.
  9. My idea of housework is to sweep the room with a glance.
  10. Not one shred of evidence supports the notion that life is serious.
  11. It is easier to get forgiveness than permission.
  12. I have found at my age going bra-less pulls all the wrinkles out of my face.
  13. For every action, there is an equal and opposite government program.
  14. If you look like your passport picture, you probably need the trip.
  15. Always yield to temptation, because it may not pass your way again.
  16. A conscience is what hurts when all your other parts feel so good.
  17. Eat well, stay fit, die anyway.
  18. No husband has ever been shot while doing the dishes.
  19. Men are from earth. Women are from earth. Deal with it.
  20. It's amazing what you won't find if you don't look for it, especially if it's not there. (Thanks to Mark O'Reilly, Dundee, Scotland.)

Proverb completion

A first grade teacher collected old, well known proverbs.  She gave each child in her class the first half of a proverb, and had them come up with the rest.

  1. As you shall make your bed, so shall you..........mess it up
  2. Better to be safe than....................punch a 5th grader
  3. Strike while the................................bug is close
  4. It's always darkest before.............daylight savings time
  5. You can lead a horse to water
  6. Don't bite the hand that.........................looks dirty
  7. A miss is as good as a...................................Mr.
  8. You can't teach an old dog new..........................math
  9. If you lie down with the dogs, you'll.....stink in the morning
  10. The pen is mightier than the............................pigs
  11. An idle mind is.........................the best way to relax
  12. Where there's smoke, there's.......................pollution
  13. Happy the bride who......................gets all the presents
  14. A penny saved is.....................................not much
  15. Two's company, three's..........................the musketeers
  16. Laugh and the whole world laughs with you, cry have to blow your nose
  17. Children should be seen and not..........spanked or grounded
  18. When the blind leadeth the blind..........get out of the way
  19. Better late than.....................................pregnant

Donna Austin writes from Australia (25 August 2004):
Hi my son Jackson is 11 and he completed this proverb like this:
Every dog has its ……………kennel
  1. A tree never hits an automobile except in self defense

Please contribute a proverb to this page, along with your name and location.
Chinese Proverbs
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