Interpretation quiz for famous sayings

Scott Gardner

Test your understanding of these proverbs and sayings from around the world by choosing the most appropriate “interpretation” for it. (Correct answers will not be provided in the next issue of TLT.)

Look before you leap.

  • a) Inspect all received packages for a “Caution: Live Spitting Cobra” label before opening them.
  • b) While it’s true that Japanese wood floors are cold in the wintertime, you’d best assess your doorway clearance before jumping straight from the tatami to the kotatsu blanket in the next room.
  • c) Make sure you remember the punch line to a joke before you start telling it.

Trees are trees, mountains are mountains.

Trees are not trees, mountains are not mountains.

Trees are trees, mountains are mountains. (Zen saying)

  • a) Your cab fare is going to be huge.
  • b) After a short interregnum, the Religious Right have seized political power again.
  • c) You fell asleep for several hours on the “It’s a Small World” ride at Disneyland.

A stitch in time saves nine.

  • a) That old cigarette burn in the car seat is now large enough to swallow your pet Doberman.
  • b) “Speed quilting” sounds harmless enough, but you should still wear a helmet to be on the safe side.
  • c) Those holes in your bowling gloves are supposed to be for your fingers. Sewing them up could adversely affect your skittles game.

A strawberry blossom will not moisten dry bread. (Uganda)

  • a) You’re cooking with the wrong ingredients, perhaps because the wind turned a few pages of your exotic recipe book while you were separating the egg whites.
  • b) Your bread may not be moist, but the ducks you’ve been feeding in the park don’t really seem to care.
  • c) Try strawberry marmalade instead.

What is a friend? A single soul in two bodies. (Aristotle)

  • a) A true friend shares your clothing size.
  • b) On the other hand, a friend with two souls in one body could be trouble.
  • c) What is a scissors? A single thing that looks and sounds like two things.

They must often change, who would be constant in happiness or wisdom. (Confucius)

  • a) Sooner or later you’re going to get sick of eating all those Oreos.
  • b) Happiness is having the TV remote in one hand, while wisdom is having the monthly cable guide in the other.
  • c) If you really want to be happy, you should keep two or three extra pairs of underwear handy at all times.

A watched pot never boils.

  • a) But an unwatched pot will be forgotten until the smoke alarm goes off 45 minutes later.
  • b) Watched grass never grows.
  • c) Don’t bake with pot or grow grass; someone might be watching.

When there are no cows in the field, it is a sign of bad weather.

  • a) Either that or Festus the farmhand left the gate open again.
  • b) When there are no readers of the column, it is a sign of bad writing. (Editor’s note: TLTdoes not condone making analogies between farm animals and readers of Old Grammarians. Complaints should be referred directly to this column’s bad writer.)
  • c) When there is no field, it is a sign of very bad weather.

You can’t see the whole sky through a bamboo tube. (Japan)

  • a) You can’t very well drink a highball through one, either.
  • b) If you found a tube on eBay that claims to show you the whole sky, you’re being bamboozled, my friend.
  • c) You can’t understand the whole of life and the world through one clever little proverb.