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September 9, 2012

Can a leopard change his spots? The answer depends on who you ask...


THE FAMOUS RHETORICAL QUESTION FROM THE BIBLE:

“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.”
       The answer to Jeremiah’s question seems obvious. Indeed, it’s the source of the proverbial sayings used to imply that people, animals or things cannot overcome their true nature. 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 provided a somewhat ambiguous addition 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 to mean that hard-core sinners cannot become good and will not be saved by God; they are doomed to be punished. Others have suggested that, while it’s very difficult for a long-standing sinner to change and be saved, 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 by the book Does a Bear Sh*t in the Woods?: Answers to Rhetorical Questions (2011), scientists who study evolution have determined that the patterns of spots on some subspecies of leopards have changed over time. 


THE ‘YOU COULD LOOK IT UP’ COUNTERQUOTE:

“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 consultant 
      
From Chapter 7 of his book The World's Most Powerful Leadership Principle (2004)


THE ‘GOD BLESS AMERICA’S BIGOTED INDIAN POLICY’ QUOTE:

“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.” 
      
U.S. Senator John Daniel (1842-1910) 
       Virginia lawyer, author and politician 
       In a February 1899 address to Congress quoted in the book
Shadowing the White Man's Burden: U.S. Imperialism and the Problem of the Color Line (2010) by Gretchen Murphy


THE SHAKESPEAREAN REPARTEE QUOTE:

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 
       Lines
from Act 1, Scene 1 of his play Richard II


THE LMFAO PAR-TEE! LYRICS:

“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.” 
       LMFAO 
       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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