May 19, 2012

“Familiarity breeds contempt” – and acceptability, indifference, misery and “queer pastures”...


“Familiarity breeds contempt.”
       Aesop (c. 620-564 B.C.)
       The moral of
“The Fox and the Lion” story in Aesop’s Fables
       In traditional English translations of Aesop’s Fables, there’s a phrase at the end of each brief tale that summarizes “the moral of the story.” The origin of the proverbial saying “Familiarity breeds contempt” is widely credited to the traditional translation of Aesop’s fable “The Fox and the Lion,” which reads:
When first the Fox saw the Lion he was terribly frightened, and ran away and hid himself in the wood. Next time however he came near the King of Beasts he stopped at a safe distance and watched him pass by. The third time they came near one another the Fox went straight up to the Lion and passed the time of day with him, asking him how his family were, and when he should have the pleasure of seeing him again; then turning his tail, he parted from the Lion without much ceremony.
       “Familiarity Breeds Contempt”


“Familiarity may breed contempt in some areas of human behavior, but in the field of social ideas it is the touchstone of acceptability.”
John Kenneth Galbraith (1908-2006)
       American economist
In Chapter 2 of his pioneering book about social economics, The Affluent Society (1958)


“Familiarity breeds indifference. We have seen too much pure, bright color at Woolworth’s to find it intrinsically transporting. And here we may note that, by its amazing capacity to give us too much of the best things, modern technology has tended to devaluate the traditional vision-inducing materials.”
Aldous Huxley (1894-1963)
       British author and social critic
       In his book length essay Heaven and Hell (1956), often published together with his earlier essays extolling the benefits of hallucinogenic drugs, The Doors of Perception (1954)


Melissa Hastings (actress Torrey DeVitto): “I was hoping you'd be happy for me.”
Spencer Hastings (Troian Bellisario):
“Well, you know what they say about hope: it breeds eternal misery.”
       Some repartee from
the pilot episode of the TV show Pretty Little Liars (2010)


“The undue familiarity usually existing between husband and wife is a feeder of psycho-sexual aberrations. Once the halo of sex mystery is dispelled, romance often fails completely... Familiarity breeds satiety. Satiety is the parent of sexual discontent. The satiated, discontented man often browses in queer pastures in search of new thrills for his exhausted psycho-sexual centers.”
George Frank Lydston (1858–1923)
       An American urologist who had some unusual theories (and issues)
       The quote above is from Lydston’s book
Impotence and Sterility: with Aberrations of the Sexual Function and Sex-Gland Implantation (1917). In addition to coming up with the odd theory that men who became too “familiar” with their wives would turn gay, Lydston experimented with the transplantation of testicular tissue from animals into humans, as a form of “androgen therapy” for older men. The donors included dogs, goats, monkeys and even guinea pigs. (Really. I’m not making this stuff up.)

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Related and recommended reading…

May 8, 2012

“Inside every fat man there is a thin man trying to get out.”


“Imprisoned in every fat man a thin one is wildly signalling to be let out.”
       Cyril Connolly (1903-1974)
       English writer, editor and critic 
       An oft-cited line from Connolly’s book The Unquiet Grave, pt. 2 (first published in 1944) 
       Cyril Connolly
is frequently credited as the originator of the modern proverbial saying “Inside every fat man there is a thin man trying to get out,” also heard with the ending “…struggling to get out.” Some sources trace it to an earlier quote by English author George Orwell. In fact, neither of the commonly-used versions of the quip are what Connolly or Orwell actually wrote.  
       Connolly’s line in his book of essays The Unquiet Grave is: “Imprisoned in every fat man a thin one is wildly signalling to be let out.”
       Orwell’s earlier quote mentions the idea of a thin man inside a fat one, but says nothing about the thin man signaling (to use the modern American spelling) or
struggling to get out. In his 1939 novel Coming Up For Air the central character, George Bowling, says: “I’m fat, but I’m thin inside. Has it ever struck you that there’s a thin man inside every fat man, just as they say there’s a statue inside every block of stone?”


“Outside every fat man there was an even fatter man trying to close in.” 
       Kingsley Amis (1922-1995)
       English novelist, critic and poet
       In his novel One Fat Englishman (1963)


“The old saying is wrong: It’s not that ‘Inside every fat woman there's a thin woman screaming to get out.’ The reality is that inside EVERY woman, there's a FAT woman trying to get out and breathe, relax her belly center, undo her pants, let her thighs roar with thunder, and her breasts feel the breeze!”
       Bell Pine Art Farm
       From the company’s description of its “Belly Wisdom” statuette


“Inside every gay man, there is a big, soulful, divalicious black woman vying to get out.”
       From a post on The Way I See It Theatre Blog (Aug. 26, 2011)


“Inside every old person is a young person wondering what the hell happened.”
       Modern proverbial saying and t-shirt slogan, sometimes attributed to American gospel singer Cora Harvey Armstrong and sometimes to the British fantasy and science fiction novelist Terry Pratchett.

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May 2, 2012

“Speak softly and carry a big stick” – from Teddy Roosevelt to Joe Biden to Jack Nicholson…


“Speak softly and carry a big stick.”
       Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt (1858-1919)
       American politician who served as the 26th President of the United States 
       One of Roosevelt’s favorite sayings, which he popularized but didn’t coin
       According to many sources, Roosevelt’s first documented use of the saying was in a letter he wrote on January 26, 1900 when he was the Governor of New York. In the letter (to New York legislator Henry L. Sprague), Roosevelt used it in reference to his recent victory in a political scuffle over who he appointed as the state’s Insurance Commissioner. Powerful leaders in the State Assembly wanted him to reappoint their corrupt crony, Louis Payn. Roosevelt refused and threatened to take the fight public, forcing them to back down. Roosevelt wrote in the letter: “I have always been fond of the West African proverb: ‘Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far.’ If I had not carried the big stick, the organization [i.e., the legislature] would not have gotten behind me.”
       Roosevelt’s first famous public use of “Speak softly and carry a big stick” was in a speech at the Minnesota State Fair on September 2, 1901, when he was serving as Vice President of the United States under President William McKinley. He linked it in that address to the Monroe Doctrine, the longstanding U.S. policy against interference of European countries in the affairs of countries in the Western Hemisphere. Roosevelt said: “There is a homely adage which runs ‘Speak softly and carry a big stick – you will go far.’ If the American nation will speak softly, and yet keep at a pitch of the highest training a thoroughly efficient navy, the Monroe Doctrine will go far.’” He used the same lines in another oft-cited speech in Chicago on April 2, 1903, after he had been catapulted into the presidency by the assassination of McKinley — and probably in other stump speeches he gave that year during a widely-covered tour of the country.
       Since Roosevelt’s presidency, the term “big stick policy” has been employed as a common political term, especially in reference to U.S. foreign policy. It is generally used to refer to policy positions that will be backed up with military force if necessary.
       “Speak softly and carry a big stick” has also become a more general saying suggesting that a person should not make blustery threats, but should be ready to use force or leverage to get their way.
       There doesn’t seem to be any proof that the saying started out as a West African proverb, as Roosevelt claimed (perhaps jokingly) in his letter to Henry L. Sprague. His later description of it as an adage that existed before he used it is probably true. But Teddy certainly deserves credit for making it a familiar saying and it will be forever be cited as one of his most famous quotations.


“President Obama has said, and I quote, now is the time to let our increased pressure sink in, and to sustain the broad international coalition we have built. Now is the time to heed the timeless advice from Teddy Roosevelt: ‘speak softly and carry a big stick.’ I promise you, the President has a big stick. I promise you.”
       Joe Biden
       Democratic politician and Vice President of the United States
       In a widely-reported speech at New York University on April 26, 2012
       Biden’s apparent double entendre about the size of President Obama’s, er, stick sparked laughter from his audience and many jokes on talk shows. It’s hard to know whether it was another Biden gaffe or a deliberate attempt at lame humor. In context, Biden’s big stick comments were part of an attack on Obama’s Republican Presidential challenger, Mitt Romney, who had suggested he would declare war on Iran if that country seemed to be continuing an effort to develop nuclear weapons. Biden warned: “This kind of Romney-talk is just not smart.” He then accurately quoted something Pres. Obama had said in a speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee on March 4, 2012. Then he went a metaphor too far.


“I want to carry the big stick. I hope I don’t have to use it, but I want to make sure we have it so that people understand we are a nation of strength.”
       Mitt Romney
       Republican politician and presidential candidate
       In a speech in Dubuque, Iowa on June 16, 2007, during his previous failed attempt to win the Republican nomination for President


“Speak softly, but carry a big can of paint.”
       UK-based artist and social activist best known for his outdoor graffiti art 
       A quote widely attributed to the edgy artist (who keeps his real name secret)


“Walk softly and carry an armored tank division, I always say.” 
       Jack Nicholson as Col. Nathan R. Jessup in the movie A Few Good Men (1992)
      (See this post for some funny variations on Nicholson’s most famous line from the film.)

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