What are some proverbs, riddles, and adages and what do they mean?

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favoritethings eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Proverbs/adages: The words proverb and adage are essentially interchangeable, but one gets the sense, sometimes, that a proverb is a little more homey and an adage is a little more fancy.  Both offer advice and/or express a general truth.

"An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."  This means that it's easier, and better, to prevent something than to try to fix it later.  Or, put differently, it is better not to make a mistake than to have to fix the mistake after it's been made.

"Don't put all your eggs in one basket."  This means that it's not a good idea to commit everything at once.  If you only love one thing, and you lose it, you will be devastated.  If you only invest in one company, and that company goes under, you will become bankrupt.  If you only have one goal, and you don't reach it, you will feel like a failure.  Better to spread everything out and safeguard one's feelings, money, and self-worth.

Riddles: "What has four legs in the morning, two legs in the afternoon, and three legs at night?"  Answer: a human being.  We crawl on all fours in our infancy; then we walk upright on two legs in our adulthood; then we walk upright but with a cane in our old age.  The riddle depends on understanding that the span of a day, sunrise to sunset, is symbolic of human life.

"What is so fragile that if you say its name, you have to break it?"  Answer: silence.  This riddle depends on the English idiom, "to break the silence"; when people hear "fragile," they think "break" must refer to actually smashing something, and it takes a clever one to read "fragile" and "break" as more figurative.

cybil eNotes educator| Certified Educator

 Proverbs: Experience is not always the kindest of teachers, but it is surely the best. (Even if an experience is painful, it is the best way to learn.) Don't count your chickens before they're hatched. (Don't assume that you have something until you actually do; for example, an investment may not increase in value.)

Riddles: What can go up and down without moving? (temperature) What do you take in when you don't need it and throw out when you do? (an anchor)

Adages: The apple doesn't fall far from the tree. (A child is often like his or her parents.) Haste makes waste. (If we do something too quickly, we may lose something in the process.

Adages and proverbs are traditional wise sayings; the terms are often considered synonymous.

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