” Hoping for the best, prepared for the worst and unsurprised by anything in between ” Maya Angelou “I know why the caged bird sings” Autobiography. This is an example of a proverb, written in poetic language, offering advice. The Old Testament has a whole Book of Proverbs, giving instruction on how life should be lived.
An adage is a treasured observation, passed down in time and accepted as being true. It might, for example be handed down from a Buddhist text, or come from Adagia, a collection of Greek and Latin adages and proverbs. The observation that ” many hands make light work” is taken from Adagia.
An Aphorism is a direct definition of proper conduct. The word was first used by Hippocrates, the Father of Medicine, when writing his “Aphorisms of Hippocrates.”His first Aphorism states that ” Life is short and Art is long, the crisis fleeting, experience perilous and decision difficult. The physician must not only be prepared to do what is right himself, but also to make the patient, the attendants and the externals cooperate “. These words hold true in medical practice today.
Other examples of aphorisms are ” He who hesitates is lost”, ” “Actions speak louder than words”, ” Tis better to have loved and lost, than never loved at all” This last aphorism by Lord Tennyson, has become something of a “cliche”, which is an over used phrase that has lost its impact.
Further examples of adages are “Eat to live, not live to eat” ” “Birds of a feather flock together” and “Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise ” There again it is possible to lapse into cliche, a danger with phrases in common use.