What is an Adage?
An adage is derived from ‘adagium’, Latin word, that means ‘I say’ or ’saying’. An adage is a catchy, appealing, and condensed statement or expression that reflects wisdom and general truth. Usually, it’s a type of metaphor. It’s an indirect tool that targets directly layered words. “Those of us who enjoy living in synonymy know that an adage is not quite as graven in collective wisdom as a Proverb or a Maxim; it is not as legalistic as a dictum or as scientific as an axiom or as sentimental as a Homily or as corny as a saw, nor as formalized as a motto, but it is more rooted in tradition than an observation.” – by William Safire.
In literature, the adage is used to convey some special or note-worthy message to readers. It’s easy to memorize adages, as they are precise and filled with thoughts. It helps the writer to foray into the reader’s thoughts more successfully. Adages are the cultural indicators that express societal values. Adages reflect different aspects of life in a meaningful way. It is the result of some common experience or observation that is accepted as a truth traditionally. It tends to be known for centuries and decades. It’s a piece of advice that is a general truth and may be based on some facts or comes out from certain situations. Adages are similar to proverbs but shorter in word count. Their symbolic value works as encouragement or warning to remind people to live life better and helps humans to uplift themselves morally.
The Adage in Pop Culture and films
Nowadays, pop culture plays a vital role in moral building. Pop culture, movies, music, books, and songs help in motivation and encouragement. These are a form of the adage that plays an important role in the written word. Here are some examples,
I have the power – He-Man
The slogan is raised by the He-Man whenever he transforms. After transformation, he fights battles with the evildoers.
First learn stand then learn fly – The Karate Kid
The teacher Mr. Miyagi taught Daniel that before flying, one has to learn to walk. Gradually and with patience, one can achieve a skill or target.
Have fun storming the castle – The Princess Bride
Although this quote is funny yet is no less meaningful. It’s an encouraging quote, which means that motivation and energy are needed to get the target or defeat an enemy.
Be excellent to each other! – Bill and Ted’s excellent adventure
Bill and Ted here are giving a bit of advice on how the world can be saved through kindness.
We don’t need roads – Back to the future
Doc Brown is here saying that life is full of adventure, don’t plan a road map, just take a plunge and face it.
Forget it, Jake. Its China Town – China Town
It means don’t waste your precious time and energy on things. Just try and let them go.
Examples of Historical Adages
Turn a Blind Eye – Horatio Nelson
In the battle of Copenhagen (1801), the British naval hero used his blind eye and scored a deciding victory. The adage “turn a blind eye” persists to this very day.
Stay your ground and die hard – Napoleonic war
This adage refers to the person who has a strong dedication to his beliefs. The British officer William Inglis ordered his unit to move forward and said these words. Later the casualties were nicknamed ‘the die-hards’.
Paint the town red – Marquis of Waterford
This adage was actually put forward through the mob. The people painted doors and wall red to give an expression of merry-making at night free from all bounds. Some say that this phrase originated from the brothels of the American west.
Examples of Adage from Shakespearean Dramas
All the world is a stage – As You Like It
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages.
This famous adage refers to the life of a person in the world going through the seven stages from its childhood to old age.
All the glisters is not gold – The Merchant of Venice
means that all sparkling things are not gold in reality. People deceive by their faces and nature. God has planned better for man.
Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown – Henry IV
It means even the king, who is the head of the country, does not lead a relaxed life. Great responsibilities bring a heavy burden.
Example from Literature
Erasmus by Adagia
There’s many a slip ‘twixt the cup and the lip.
One swallow doesn’t make a summer.
Necessity is the mother of invention.
We find some adages in Erasmus’s text. The first adage means that things can go wrong even when the result looks certain. The second adage means that a single occurrence cant make a wide difference. The last means its need that causes the urge to invent something.
Poor Richard’s Almanack by Benjamin Franklin
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
“Eat to live, and not live to eat.”
“Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.”
“Fish and visitors stink after three days.”
Things are not always what they seem.”
Bee-Keeper and the Bees”
“Appearances often are deceiving.” – “The Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing”
“Familiarity breeds contempt.” – “The Fox and the Lion”
“Slow and steady wins the race.” – “The Tortoise and the Hare”
“One person’s meat is another’s poison.” – “The Ass and the Grasshopper”
In Memoriam – Alfred lord Tennyson
“Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.”
The poet says that love is the most important thing, whether lost or won. The man is the luckiest in this world who has love.
To The Fool – G H Goodland
Kick a dead horse?
There’s a pony in the stable.
If the present example means it though it is painful, it is better to be optimistic for tomorrow.
Examples of Adages in Advertisement:
Some examples of deep adages that are beautifully presented through advertisements by below companies.
- Fly the friendly skies of United – United States Airlines
- Think small – Volkswagen
- All think alike about the pause that refreshes – Coca Cola
- Sometimes you feel like a nut. Sometimes you don’t – The Hershey Company
Examples of Adages in Culture
- A half-truth is a whole truth – Jewish saying:
- Listen to the wind it talks, listen to the silence it speaks… – Native American
- Keep a green tree in your heart and perhaps a singing bird will come – Chinese saying:
- For the beauty of the rose, water the thorns – African saying
- Chicken can’t go back into eggs. – Darkovan saying
- Better the grave than be a slave. – Korean saying
- Still water runs deep. – Latin saying
Examples of Biblical Adages
- A leopard cannot change his spots. – Jeremiah 13:23
- This is nothing more than a drop in the bucket. – Isaiah 40:15
- Many are called, but few are chosen. – Matthew 22:14
- You will be more blessed to give than to receive. – Acts 20:35
- There is no peace for the wicked. – Isaiah 48:22, Isaiah 57:21
- Pride goes before a fall. – Proverbs 16:19
In conclusion, an adage is a wise expression that is figurative, usually in a phrase and sometimes in a sentence. Adage gain credits through frequent use and manifests some important facts of life. It’s a precise piece of ancient wisdom that often suggest contradiction or paradox.