Friday, February 26, 2010

Lively Lessons

I want to go where the wild goose goes.

Terry Gilkyson,
Geese are strange bests. I don't know what the wild geese are like in your area, but hear, in my town, every year, they fly back and forth in formation like jet fighter pilots and honk at each other like New York cab drivers, but they don't go anywhere. After all the fuss they end up on the island in the middle of the river, their winter quarters.

Now I'm not a goose (Stop that! I am not.) but it seems to me that if they are going to put on such a big show with all of their honking and flapping of wings they ought to go somewhere. It's too much of a buildup for just going half a mile. It seems like a wild goose chase to me. Which brings me to Shakespeare (naturally).

I have heard people say they don't like Shakespeare because he uses so many cliches. But the fact is Shakespeare invented those cliches. He didn't borrow old sayings from anyone. He came up with his own. Shakespeare's legacy, beside great poetry and great plays, is a vast catalogue of pithy remarks that can say things better than we can. Thus our modern vocabulary is filled with them. We may laugh when we hear in Hamlet someone say "There is something rotten in the state of Denmark" or when Macduff says "One fell swoop." But the first time those words were heard was opening night in Shakespeare's theatre.

Here are some other "old sayings" brought to us originally by good old Will. Some of them have been slightly changed over the years, but they're still solid.
A foregone conclusion
A sorry sight
All that (glisters) is not gold
As dead as a doornail
Brevity is the soul of wit
Discretion is the better part of valor
Eaten out of house and home
Fancy free
Fight fire with fire
Good men and true
Good riddance
High time
It was all Greek to me
Let slip the dogs of war
Make your hair stand on end
Mum's the word
Night owl
Primrose path
Send him packing
Set your teeth on edge
Short shrift
Too much of a good thing
Truth will out
Vanish into thin air, and yes
Wild goose chase.

It first appeared in Romeo and Juliet and still has the same meaning it did back then: a pointless endeavor, like forming into a flock just to fly across the river.

How many of those "grand old sayings" do you use often, without giving the old boy credit because you didn't know? Thanks to him we have a vast library of lively lessons to understand and use. But let's be original. If I'm going to take off, flap my wings and honk, I'll make it worthwhile. I'll pick a worthy destination. Gather my own wisdom. And, even though I'm not as prolific as Shakespeare, seek out and speak the words that only I can find. That's where the real wild goose goes.

DB - The Vagabond
I had to delete the new blog I was hoping to start because I couldn't move it from the top of the list to the bottom. Evidently there is no way of reordering the titles on a main profile page. It was not a journal I wanted anyone who was visiting my profile to come to as the first one. So that's that.


Woolysheep said...

Since you bring up cliches and sayings, I have often wondered when the saying 'like trying to herd cats' or a more recent take on it 'like trying to herd ferrets on crack' came into use. I have heard and used them for years but have no idea from where they came.

Big Mark 243 said...

To me, I take something that I have heard and transform it until it fits my purpose. I think that is how 'imitation becomes the sincerest form of flattery'. This makes me think of your recent post on actors who imitate the great actors before, and how I responded what your wrote. Here would be an example of being able 'imitate and make something your own' at the same time.

Often I twist words and phrases to get a different mean, much like the 'Fractured Fairytales' from the Rocky and Bulwinkle show.

Another interesting and thought provoking post!

Bucko (a.k.a., Ken) said...

I love using old sayings, thanks for providing the source for some of them :o)