John F. Kennedy did a lot of terrible things in his short presidency. Marilyn Monroe being one of them, sending the country on a futile, multi-billion dollar goose chase to outer space being another. Yet of all the things I am pissed at him for, one stands perfectly-proportioned head and shoulders above the rest. It is his utterance of the oft repeated ditty, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask only what you can do for your country (in bed, HAHAHA!).”
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m just as patriotic as the next intoxicated monster truck driver, but I also have a deep and abiding hatred of cliches, and Mr. Kennedy created a species of cliche that has since grown popular enough to strangle a whole truckload of bay pigs. I’m talking about the form of truism that says: x followed by y equals a commonly accepted truth, but y followed by x yields a deeper truth made more profound by its juxtaposition with x followed by y.
People say things like “No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care” and everyone is supposed to furrow their brows and nod their heads furiously as if this were the deepest, most interesting thing they’ve ever heard. “It’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to me nice.” OMG! You’re so right! Here this whole time I’ve been thinking it’s kind of enjoyable being thought of as important, but YOU’RE SO RIGHT! I need to focus more on treating others with kindness and compassion and less on others perceiving me as superior!
That’s what I hate most about these couplets, they provide the illusion of depth. They make everyone think the speaker has thought long and hard about what he is saying, when he likely has no idea that he has even been talking. It is a bit of rhetorical trickery; all sound and fury, signifying nothing. To shed further light on the pithy banality of these proverbs, I thought we might create some of our own. You can use this form to say just about anything, while somehow managing to say nothing at all. Observe.
- It isn’t easy getting old, but it sure gets old being easy.
- It’s good to go out in public but to be publicly outed is no good at all.
- Jerry Seinfeld’s Bee Movie was pretty funny. I bet it’s even funnier to be Jerry Seinfeld.
- Sarah Palin is pretty hot, but Pallin’ around with Sarah would be even hotter.
- It’s nice to have a cup of tea, but it ain’t always a cup of tea to be nice.
- You can tell the lady at the DMV to go to hell, but maybe she’d rather go to hell than the DMV.
- It’s good to put things behind you. I wouldn’t recommend putting things in your behind.
Now it’s your turn. Feel free to add your own pseudo-intellectual, largely non-sensical cliches to the list. Who knows, maybe it’ll catch on and a decade from now some presidential candidate will be shouting it to a crowd of thousands.