My summer-reading highlight for 2014 was Surfaces and Essences, by Douglas Hofstadter and Emmanuel Sander. The book is primarily concerned with the relationship between analogies and human thought, but it also offers some fun and interesting insights about language along the way. My favorite such insight had to do with “mutually contradictory proverbs,” i.e., pairs of sayings/idioms that reflect starkly conflicting pieces of advice. Hofstadter and Sander have collected several of these competing pearls of wisdom, including, for example:
- Strike while the iron’s hot . . . but then again, Look before you leap.
- Two’s company, three’s a crowd . . . but then again, The more, the merrier.
- Opposites attract . . . but then again, Birds of a feather flock together.
- The pen is mightier than the sword . . . but then again, Actions speak louder than words.
And if I may add just a few more of my own (I’ve been alertly on the lookout all summer):
- Be yourself! . . . but then again, When in Rome, do as the Romans do.
- You never get a second chance to make a first impression . . . but then again, Today is the first day of the rest of your life.
- #YOLO . . . but then again, #YOLO.