April 2, 2018

Can a leopard change his spots?

Jeremiah the Biblical Prophet


“Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots?”
Jeremiah, 13:23
       This question is posed by the gloomy
prophet Jeremiah in the book of the Bible named for and allegedly written by him. It comes from one of his many long rants (which gave rise to the term jeremiad). In this particular rant, he was warning the people of Judah (Jerusalem) that God was going to destroy them for becoming idolaters and sinners and “scatter them as the stubble that passeth away by the wind of the wilderness.”               
       Jeremiah’s question seems rhetorical on the surface. It’s the source of the proverbial sayings used to imply that people, animals or things cannot change or overcome their basic character or characteristics. One common idiomatic formula is a query based on, but shorter than, Jeremiah’s: “Can a leopard change his spots?” The other popular formulation is an affirmative statement, like “A leopard can’t change its spots.”   
       Jeremiah included an ambiguous twist to his famous question. The full quotation from Chapter 13, Verse 23 is: “Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil.”               
       Some Christian commentators have interpreted this verse to mean that hard-core sinners cannot become good people and will not be saved by God; they are doomed to be punished. But others have suggested that, while it may be difficult for a long-standing sinner to change and be saved, Jeremiah was saying it’s not impossible; those who strive hard to embrace the teachings of the Bible and become good can be saved by the grace of God.
       Of course, Jeremiah’s famous quote was recorded in a Biblical text written around 700 B.C. Modern events and science have provided some new information. For example,
Michael Jackson proved that with the help of certain chemical treatments a black man can indeed change his skin color. And, as noted in the book Does a Bear Sh*t in the Woods?: Answers to Rhetorical Questions (2011), scientists who study evolution have determined that, in fact, the patterns of spots on some subspecies of leopards have changed over time. 

James C. Hunter-8x6


“I find many people have deep-seated beliefs that people really cannot change all that much, if at all. Our culture even has clichés to support this lie like ‘A leopard can't change its spots’...If you do not believe that people can really change, I suggest you go to your local library and check out a few of the thousands of books you will find there about how people have changed their lives for good and become something quite different from what they once were.”
       James C. Hunter

       American author and inspirational speaker
From Chapter 7 of his book The World's Most Powerful Leadership Principle (2004)

Al Gore angry


“A zebra does not change its spots.”
       Attributed to Al Gore
       American politician and environmental activist
       This purported “quote” by Gore shows up in thousands of posts on the internet and various books, such as the popular book The Stupidest Things Ever Said by Politicians (1999), edited by Ross and Kathryn Petras (who provide no source). In many posts it is claimed to be something Gore said while attacking George W. Bush's environmental record in 1992. In a discussion thread on Snopes.com, one person claims it was in the Congressional Record and another cites a 1995 column by Jerry Gladman in the Toronto Sun. I searched various newspaper archives and the Congressional Record and could not find it, except as a quote that is simply attributed to Gore. I've concluded that he probably didn't actually say it. After someone claimed he did and it was included in the popular Stupidest Things book, it took on a life of its own, as faux quotes often do. Gore may have said some stupid things, but I’m skeptical that the zebra “quote” is one of them.

Ben Carson talking


“For someone to wake up and think that they belong to a different sex because they feel different that day is the same as if you woke up and said, ‘I’m Afghani today’...Can a leopard change its spots? No.”  
       Ben Carson  
       American neurosurgeon-turned-Republican politician    
       From comments he made to reporters in July 2016, explaining why he thinks being transgender doesn’t make sense and apparently doesn’t accept the reality of modern transgender surgery. Some observers think Carson’s notoriously harsh views on transgender and homosexual people and his comment about the leopard are stupid. And, Ben knows about being stupid. As he explained in 2015, “people are not as stupid as [the media] think they are. Many of them are stupid, OK. But I'm talking about overall.” On that much, most of us might agree with him, though opinions vary on about which people are among the “many.” 



“You may change the leopard’s spots, but you will never change the different qualities of races which God has created…The Indian of one hundred and twenty-five years ago is the Indian of to-day—ameliorated, to a certain extent civilized, and yet the wisdom of our forefathers, when, in the Constitution, they set them apart as one people, separate and distinct from the great dominant race which had come to take this land and inhabit it, is indicated in what we are still doing and must forever do with them so long as they maintain their tribal relations and so long as they are Indians.”  
John Daniel (1842-1910) 
       Virginia lawyer, author and politician  
       In a February 1899 address to Congress while serving as U.S. Senator for Virginia. Quoted in the book
Shadowing the White Man's Burden: U.S. Imperialism and the Problem of the Color Line (2010) by Gretchen Murphy.

William Shakespeare-8x6[1]


King Richard: “Rage must be withstood...lions make leopards tame.”
Thomas Mowbray: “Yea, but not change his spots.”
William Shakespeare (1564-1616)
       English playwright and poet 
from Act 1, Scene 1 of his play Richard II

        LMFAO - Party Rock Anthem-8x6


“1-2-3 to the 4
I’m dancin’ with as many super freaks as possible
You can’t change the spots on a leopard
In the club, the homies call me redfoo hefner.” 
       American electropop music duo  
       Lyrics from the song
“What Happens At The Party,” on their Party Rock album (2009) 
       Sorry, folks. I only have a dim understanding of WTF these LMFAO lyrics mean. You’ll have to figure them out for yourself.

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