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Aphorisms and Thesauri

What’s the difference between an aphorism and a proverb?

When I used what I assumed was an aphorism in the last post, I wasn’t sure, so I investigated.


Definition of aphorism 

1: a concise statement of a principle
2: terse formulation of a truth or sentiment ADAGEthe high-minded aphorism, “Let us value the quality of life, not the quantity”

Merriam Webster

Okay so far. Definition #3 gets technical:


3: an ingeniously terse style of expression aphoristic language. “These are dazzling chapters, packed with perfectly chosen anecdotes and pithy with aphorism.”

Merriam Webster

I wish some reviewer would review my books with that description, but I can’t honestly claim that style of writing.

Are two words synonyms? A simple old-fashioned way to check is with a thesaurus. I use Roget’s “New Edition” of 1873, which I inherited from Cousin Mabel, whose parents must have purchased the book because she was born in 1873 . It threatens to fall apart, the headings are obtuse, and I can’t read the index without a magnifying glass, but it’s a familiar friend.

You don’t have to inherit a copy of Roget–numerous editions have been published in this century, plus electronic editions.

Synonyms for “aphorism,” per Roget of 1873, are: “maxim, apothogm, dictum, saying, adage, saw, proverb, sentence, precept, rule, formula, code, motto, word, byword, moral, sentiment, phylactery, conclusion, reflection, thought, golden rule, protasis, axiom, theorem, scholium, truism. ” If you don’t know how to use some of those in a sentence, ignore them, because your readers won’t recognize them–neither do I.

Note that a synonym is not the the same as a substitute. There are nuances of meaning. Thesauruses (thesauri is also a correct plural–I had to check that out) are not always as exhaustive–or maybe exhausting–as my antique one, but I find the long, micro-print list fun.

Explore the 21-st century editions and variations of thesaurus on Amazon:

No reviews from me for those; explore them (and more) on line or in a bookstore.

One more description–I can’t call it a definition–of aphorism, if you can wrap your mind around it.

Mary’s First Christmas

If Mary told five-year-old Jesus the story of his birth, it might have been like this:

“It’s a true story…It’s the story of how you were born…And the reason why I want to tell it to you is love…

As Mary cleanses a wound on her child’s forehead, from rocks some older boys had thrown, she begins by recounting the visit of the angel who foretold her pregnancy, and her visit to her cousin Elizabeth . The author’s translation of Mary’s song, the Magnificat, is well suited for reading, or chanting, to children:

I sing the greatness of my God

Who chose to raise his lowly maid

While putting down the rich and proud:

Oh, holy is his name!

The Lord remembers Israel;

His mercy and his love remain;

As with our fathers it was well,

With us be it the same.

As the book ends, “Joseph, the carpenter, strong and true” is teaching his son to use hammer and nails.

Mary watches…but Mary isn’t the only one.

The angels are watching.

And God the Father in heaven is leaning low to see.

And all the world is waiting; the shepherds and you and me.

Mary’s First Christmas

My Christmas book wish list includes this author and illustrator, and some others. (Are my children following me?) How I’d love to share these books with all of our grandchildren, one by one!

Dr. Ida–for the Women of India

The Christian Medical College in Vellore, India, started as a single-bed clinic, by Dr. Ida Sophia Scudder who served as a missionary for 50 years. Today, it is one of the top-ranked educational, healthcare and research institutes in the country.

The first class of 14 women—taught by Dr. Ida and a few of her associates, with only one microscope, one skeleton, and few textbooks—faced regional end-of-first-year examinations along with men from established government-run medical schools.  Dr. Ida tried to encourage the girls:

     “All anybody can expect of you is to do your best.”
     The girls were not deceived.  “Best” to Dr. Ida meant nothing short of 90 percent.  They huddled on the long, hard seats staring at each other in terrified silence…Examinations according to the British system were matters of educational life or death.
     Ida, herself one of the examiners, met Colonel Bryson in the hall…
     “Ah, Dr. Scudder! So you’ve brought up your first class for examination?”

“Yes.”  Ida smiled at him brightly.
            His face clouded with sympathetic concern.  “My dear doctor, please don’t be discouraged if none of your students makes the grade this first time.”
            “None of them?” echoed Ida bleakly.
            “”It wouldn’t be surprising…only a small percentage of men pass it.  Naturally we couldn’t expect too much of such a young project, especially all women.  But they can always try again.  Promise me you won’t give up, whatever happens.”
            “I promise,” said Ida.  She went on, head held high but heart sinking to the region of her shoes.
            The grim days passed. Huddled in a tight, silent group in the mission bungalow in Madras where they were housed, the girls waited to hear the results.  Lists from various men’s college were posted and read with dismay.  Only about 20 percent—one in five—was passing!
            “And we’re only women!” wailed one of the fourteen in anguish.
            In a note from the considerate Colonel Bryson, Ida learned the results before they were posted. The distance from college to mission bungalow seemed interminable.  She wished it were a tennis court or a racetrack so she could run at top speed and still be considered proper.  But she reached it finally, stood in the doorway of the room where they were waiting. They read the answer in her radiant face.
            “Lambs!”  She held out her arms to them.  “You did it!  Passed. Every single one of you.  And four of you in the first class.  And—can you believe it?  This places our school at the head of all the medical schools in the presidency!” …
            The next time she met Colonel Bryson, he shook his head.  “I’m afraid, Doctor,” he said sheepishly, “that your girls are setting too high a standard for our men to live up to.”
            Ida only smiled.

From  Dr. Ida, The inspiring story of Dr. Ida Scudder, fifty years a medical missionary in India bu Dorothy Clarke Wilson.

I’ve read a couple of Wilson’s other books–I’d like to own every one of them.

Three Answers

The answers to “What do Winnie the Pooh and John the Baptist have in common?”

  1. They both ate honey.
  2. They both wore fur coats.
  3. They have the same middle name.

That’s from my notes from an adult camp meeting quite a few years ago, included in a letter to family which turned up in a box of papers a few days ago.

I found my very old copy of Winnie the Pooh. When I was little, I enjoyed the stories–How do Christopher Robin and his friends resolve this dilemma?  Now I appreciate the humor.  Once again, it’s good bedtime reading.

 

 

Winnie the Pooh and John the Baptist

What Three Things do Winnie the Pooh and John the Baptist have in common?

If you can’t guess, maybe these quotations will help:

Winnie The Pooh

Once upon a time, a very long time ago now, about last Friday, Winnie-the-Pooh lived in a forest all by himself under the name of Sanders.

(IWhat does “under the name” mean?” asked Christopher Robin.
“It means he had the name over the door in gold letters and he lived under it.”
Winnie-the-Pooh wasn’t quite sure,” said Christopher Robin.
“Now I am,” said a growly voice.
“Then I will go on,” said I.)

One day when he was out walking, he came to an open place in the middle of the forest, and in the middle of this place was a large oak-tree, and from the top of the tree there came a loud buzzing noise.

Winnie-the-Pooh sat down at the foot of the tree, put his head between his paws, and began to think.

First of all, he said to himself: “That buzzing noise means something.  You don’t get a buzzing noise like that, just buzzing and buzzing, without its meaning something.  If there’s a buzzing noise, somebody’s making a buzzing noise, and the only reason for making a buzzing noise that I know of is because you’re a bee…And the only reason for being a bee that I know of is making honey.”

John the Baptist  Matthew 3, Modern English Version

In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah, saying:

“The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord;
make His paths straight.’ ”

This same John had clothing made of camel’s hair, a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey.  Then Jerusalem, and all Judea, and all the region around the Jordan went out to him and were baptized by him in the Jordan, confessing their sins.

But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said to them, “O generation of vipers, who has warned you to escape from the wrath to come? Therefore, bear fruit worthy of repentance, and do not think to say within yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I say to you that God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. Even now the ax is put to the tree roots. Therefore, every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”

Answers to be posted tomorrow.

In case you’re wondering: One answer was obvious to me, I should have guessed the second, and the third—I had no idea!