Awkward! Famous Phrases We’ve All Been Using Wrong

Sayings Cut Too Short

Wise old sayings steer us through life. But what if we told you some sayings are missing crucial pieces? Like the Telephone game, as adages pass down from generation to generation, sometimes parts get left out. In this case, the missing pieces lead in a different direction than you’d expect.

You only know partial meanings for these 6 sayings. If we didn’t give you the rest here, you could be in danger of believing in half-truths. Over time, the sayings changed, and so did the direction! Have you been misled?

"Curiosity killed the cat...

Being too inquisitive or nosy can lead to a person's downfall. This is quite literally the case for the character Bran, in Game of Thrones, whose curiosity leads to his forcible fall from the tower after peeking in on incestuous lovemaking. So, is being curious a bad thing? "Curiosity killed the cat" is only a piece of the adage.

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...but satisfaction brought it back"

Back to our question: is curiosity bad? Nope! It's great. Why? Because through curiosity, the cat learns what's going on! Ultimately, the satisfaction of knowing something, or acquiring new knowledge, requires a curious mind. So stay curious!

 

"Great minds think alike...

Well, great minds can think alike. But what about Einstein and Picasso? Two great minds, but different areas of study. Anyway, people generally use this saying as a humorous way to point out that they share the same good idea, or that they both agree on something. To that point, however, thinking alike may be a symptom of something completely different.

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...and fools seldom differ"

Another variation of this is "Great minds think alike, small minds rarely differ." So really, this saying cautions that it isn't necessarily a great thing if two people think alike. Small-minded people close the doors on opinions that differ from theirs. By only listening to people who think like them, they join a dim-witted echo chamber of fools. Great minds venture beyond the echo chamber and become even greater by learning other perspectives.

"Blood is thicker than water"

Unlike the first couple sayings, this one is incomplete not because it's missing a second half, but because words throughout the saying are missing. You'll see what we mean in a minute. "Blood is thicker than water" is a saying that holds flesh-and-blood ties above all else. Far be it from us to disagree with this powerful testament to family. And while it's wonderful that such a phrase has come to ennoble family relationships, this is a misadaptation of a biblical verse that never had family ties in mind.

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"The blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb"

It's not hard to see why this saying was shortened to its current form. The Average Joe and Jane don't talk about "covenants" and "water of the womb" is medically inaccurate.

Jokes aside, the full form of this saying isn't about family. In fact, instead of elevating "family" as the highest ordeal, the quote diminishes its importance. The covenant is the promise exchanged between God and his followers. So the blood of that promise of faith is more important than even family. Faith above all.

"Money is the root of all evil"

When billionaire CEOs lie about the chemicals their factories pump into the air, it absolutely feels like money corrupts. "Money is the root of all evil" is another slightly misinterpreted quote from the Bible. The partial form here leads one to believe that the very existence of "money," and all that the noun entails, is evil. If we're talking money earned by poisonous-chemical-spewing billionaires, maybe. But is it always true?

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"The love of money is a root of all sorts of evil"

Ah, so it's the love of money that's the pernicious root of evil. Once anything becomes an obsession, it's bad news bears. This fuller version of the saying makes much more sense. Given that money is what enables people to put food on the table, clothing on their backs, kids in schools, etc., it can't all be bad.

"Jack of all trades, master of none...

Here's another saying that lost its other half. In its partial form, this adage implies that being generally good at a bunch of different things is, in the end, less useful than knowing one thing really well. So that person who's really good at punching holes is a master, but the three-job-juggler-and-mother-of-four is just a loser at life?? No way.

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...but oftentimes better than master of one"

Much better! This saying was never meant to bring people down for not being "masters of the universe" at hole-punching, writing, making dinner, cartwheeling, or whatever else you harp on not being able to do. The quest for perfection is fruitless! You already know that in the end, curiosity doesn't actually kill the cat, so harness that inquisitiveness and learn to imperfectly accomplish a bunch of really cool things.

"My country, right or wrong...

As is, this incomplete quote makes it seem like all citizens have to support their nation, whether or not they agree with its policies or politics. The phrase hints at blind love and loyalty to one's country, even if the nation's run by a power-grubbing ego-maniacal despot! But this isn't what the original utterer, Carl Schurz, said in 1872.

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...if right, to be kept right; and if wrong to be set right"

Carl Schurz was a Union general in the Civil War. He became the first German American elected as a US Senator in 1869. His full quote reveals that patriotism isn't about uncritical acceptance of the status quo; quite the opposite. If there are policies or practices citizens disagree with, it's in the country's best interest for those citizens to voice their opinions and work together to set things right.