Yogi Berra, the Hall-of-Fame Yankees catcher, was also known by his teammates and his fans as something of a cockeyed philosopher. Some of his famous observations on life were paradoxes, contradicting themselves, while others just didn’t seem to add up, either mathematically or logically. Yet Yogiisms, as they are commonly known, generally bring a smile to the faces of those who hear them.
Some of his folk wisdom has stuck and become a part of our modern lexicon. Which sports fan, watching a team fall behind, hasn’t quoted Yogi, saying, “It ain’t over ’til it’s over?” It’s a statement that seems obvious, until you think about the meaning: Don’t give up on the team until the last play, because miracles happen. And who could disagree with Yogi’s sentiment that “Love is the most important thing in the world, but baseball is pretty good, too?”
The thoughtful Yogi, however, is often forgotten in favour of the confusing Yogi, with amusing or paradoxical statements such as:
- “Baseball is 90 per cent mental — the other half is physical.”
- “Nobody goes there anymore; it’s too crowded.”
- “In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is.”
- “You can observe a lot by just watching.”
- “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”
As wise as a Hindu yogi? You decide.
My father, a high school teacher, was a master of the proverb – those short, pithy sayings that express a traditionally held belief, such as “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” In fact, his lectures were so liberally sprinkled with these phrases that a few of his students made a list over the course of a year. The variety was endless, with the total climbing into the hundreds. Although my Dad passed away eight years ago, every time I hear myself spouting one of these time-tested phrases, it brings him to mind.
After being passed down from generation to generation, proverbs become a familiar part of the general phraseology of a culture, and they reflect that society’s values. For example, the proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child,” originated in Africa, where a strong sense of community is still a common cultural characteristic and people in addition to a child’s parents take responsibility for developing his or her moral character. In North America, we use the proverb, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way,” because we believe in a strong work ethic.
Here are a few more of my favourites; feel free to share some of yours with me!
- Many a true word is spoken in jest.
- Every cloud has a silver lining. (We North Americans are optimistic.)
- Nothing ventured, nothing gained. (A
proverb from the U.S., a culture of risk-takers)
- Brevity is the soul of wit.
I’ll end now so that you’ll find me witty!