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Endings Justify the Meanings

If at first you don’t succeed, “forget it and throw it away.” Don’t cry over “three minutes long.” And whatever you do, don’t put all your eggs “in the microwave.”

To the children in my son’s second-grade class at Mariners Elementary School in Newport Beach, life is decidedly not a cliche. Their teacher, Vicki Wheeler, recently asked them to write endings for the many tired phrases that linger complacently in our language. These fresh minds came up with a lot of new twists on our old sayings.

And if their shrewd aphorisms are any indication, there are more future lawyers and bankers than artists and adventurers in this group. From the more pragmatic thinkers:

- “Don’t count your chickens . . . just get the eggs.”

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- “The best way to a man’s heart is . . . to do surgery.”

- “Too many cooks . . . cook too much food.”

- “Make hay while . . . you’re good at it.”

- “The early bird . . . makes too much noise.”

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- “Half a loaf is . . . not as good as a whole loaf.”

- “A man’s home is . . . a condominium.”

And the financial wizards:

- “A penny saved . . . can buy a gum ball.”

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- “Money is the root of . . . toys.”

- “All work and no play . . . if you want your allowance.”

- “A fool and his money . . . are one of a kind.”

- “A friend in need . . . needs money.”

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You won’t find many risk-takers among these young sages. As they say:

- “Slow and steady . . . is the best way to go.”

- “Better safe than . . . dead.”

- “Don’t cross your bridges . . . before you look both ways.”

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- “A watched pot . . . is a safe pot.”

- “Birds of a feather . . . might have a disease.”

- “There’s nothing to fear, but . . . be careful anyway.”

Kids are like magnets when it comes to picking up adult neuroses, as evidenced by these fractured cliches reflecting our society’s preoccupation with appearances and obsession with thinness. For example:

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- “Beauty is only . . . when you put on makeup.”

- “An apple a day . . . is on your diet.”

- “Shape up or . . . you’ll get fat.”

There are signs of budding delinquency (“Out of sight . . . and the police won’t get you” and “Don’t fire until you . . . load your gun”) and discomfort with aging (“The older you are . . . the sooner you die”). But there also are some encouraging reflections of healthy self-esteem (“A miss is as good as . . . a mister” and “What’s good for the goose is . . . good for me”) as well as humanity (“Walk softly and . . . share the pavement”).

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And, in spite of the sad social comment in “Children should be seen and . . . identified,” there are glimmers of childhood innocence and imagination:

- “Love makes the world . . . glow.”

- “Let a smile be . . . a new beginning.”

- “Behind every cloud is . . . a giant’s castle.”

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And if you have any doubts that such wisdom could come from such young minds, “the proof is in the . . . diary.”


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