The Drawing Board: Phrases

We’ve all grown sick and tired of the dime-a-dozen axioms, idioms, and platitudes that pepper our language. It’s high time someone took them back to the drawing board. (It’s me—I’m going to take them back to the drawing board.)

An apple a day keeps the doctor away. This one doesn’t even make any sense. Away from what? Also, is this even empirically testable? I tried it once and got sick of it on the first day. Apples blow.

Jake’s suggestion: If you’re hurt real bad, and you need a doctor, for God’s sake put down the apple  because what if it’s true?

A bird in a hand is worth two in a bush. Try telling that to the head bird keeper of Scripps Aviary at the San Diego Zoo. I went down there last weekend, figured I’d make a few extra bucks. Brought in a one-eyed pigeon I’d plucked from a sewer and tried to trade it in for a couple of rare gold-breasted starlings they had. No dice. Turns out, she tells me, that saying only applies when they’re the same type of bird. Well, I went back the next day with a blue-naped mousebird, but she wouldn’t give me a two-for-one. That right there explains a lot about that aviary.

Jake’s suggestion: A bird in a hand is likely to transmit one of many communicable diseases.

There’s more than one way to skin a cat. Okay, this one is just downright creepy. And who the hell figured that out?

-Dammit Dale, I been sittin’ here in the hot sun all day skinnin’ this cat.

-Well, shoot, I ain’t surprised, the way you’re doin’ it.

-You mean there’s another way?? You gotta get the word out, Dale!

Jake’s suggestion: Don’t ever skin a fucking cat, seriously.

Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise. Well I’m sure the feminists have already torn this one to shreds: “Oh sure, you men think you’re better than women because of your money and your know-it-all attitude…I’m not sure how the bedtime thing fits in, but you’re still a bunch of pigs!”

Jake’s suggestion: Early to bed and early to rise, reduces the chance that a woman will be the victim of rape or violent crime.

Don’t count your chickens before they hatch. Now I’ve spent very little of my life farming, in fact none of it, but it seems to me that most farmers would, at least as a preliminary estimate, count the chickens before they hatch. You’re telling me that when the poultry suppliers ask the farmers how much meat to expect, the farmers just get all petulant and say “Look, I don’t know—I don’t count them until they hatch, okay?” Clearly there’s some counting before hatching. And it’s got to be easier to count them before they hatch, since they can’t move around. You ever trying counting a bunch of chickens moving around? You ever try counting eggs in a carton at the grocery store? I know one of those numbers is always 12, and that’s the way I like it.

Jake’s suggestion: If you’re counting your chickens before they hatch, and one of them starts hatching, don’t lose focus—that tiny little chicken won’t be running off anytime soon.

Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer. Right idea, wrong execution. The common interpretation of this is that if you keep your enemies even closer to you, eventually they will become your friends and expose the people you thought were your friends as your true enemies. Problem is, you take the new enemies and keep them closer than ever before, turns out they were your friends all along!

Jake’ suggestion: Keep a knife handy, and don’t be afraid to stab your friends in the back.

Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth. Man, I can tell you from personal experience that this one is definitely not true. Sometimes when a guy gives you a horse, he’s real proud of it, you know, and he’ll say something like “So you like it, huh? How’s that mouth look?” And boy does it get awkward if you try to answer when you obviously haven’t even looked. I used to get a Christmas horse from that guy every year, now I’m lucky if I get a card with a picture of a horse on it.

Jake’s suggestion: You’re better off buying your own horses, and certainly don’t mention that you like horses around your birthday, because you never know how many you could end up getting, and returning a horse is a real hassle.

Hey, you! Submit your questions to or this column is going to get even worse! And make it a good question, my editor wants 700 words for this thing.


2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Musasleerma on June 17, 2011 at 2:06 PM



  2. Posted by nikki on June 5, 2012 at 11:13 AM

    you are such a tool


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