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Irish Bulls, Instant Cliches & New Wives’ Tales Plus Lines To Live Forever
© Jerry Buchmeyer, 1980

New fundamental truths were presented in this column last month — just in the niche of time(1) — with a tantalizing preview of coming attractions Irish Bulls, Instant Cliches and New Wives’ Tales. Yet, since then, not a single person has asked “What the heck (sic) are those things?” Despite this aggressive apathy, we shall proceed.(2)

Irish Bulls
An Irish Bull is a little known and thinly used, but absolutely beautiful, figure of speech. Its essence is not just contradiction—but incongruous congruity (or perhaps congruous incongruity). The true definition: a plausible, even weighty statement which, on closer examiation, turns out to be absurd.(3)

Although many statements strive for Irish Bullness, few qualify.(4) The following are, of course, Classic Examples of those which do:

No one goes to that restaurant anymore; it’s too crowded ... Don’t pay any attention to him ... don’t even ignore him ... An oral contract isn’t worth the paper it’s written on ... It’s only natural for some People to be artificial ... Time ages all but the very young ... Don’t blame God; He’s only human ... Nostalgia ain’t what it used to be.

He is politely insulting ... brilliantly dull ... modestly arrogant ... sadly amused ... clearly con-fused ... routinely bizarre ... My hometown (Overton) was a hotbed of tranquility ... During a depression everybody is unemployed because all the jobs are al-ready taken ... Calvin Klein fashions are “proletarian Chic" ... Enough is never enough ... Things are nore like they are now than they have ever been before Remember you are absolutely unique, just like everyone else ... All things being equal, all things are never equal.

Instant Cliches
Those who have been paying attention will realize that the term “Instant Cliche” is, of course, an Irish Bull. By my definition (I know of no other), an Instant Cliche is a newborn statement that is so trite and so hackneyed(5) that—just as soon as it is uttered, and without the repetitions normally required for banality—it acquires immediate clicheness. As the following examples show — and as Justice Potter Stewart said — ”I know one when I see it."

You can observe a lot just by watching ... The golden rule for success is “Never fail’... Give a man enough rope and he’ll hang you ... People who live in glass houses should not get stoned ... Last guys don’t finish nice ... Lust makes the world go round ... Virtue is the failure to achieve vice.

Little things come in small packages ... Mistakes are the stepping stones to failure ... The best offense is a good offense ... Where you stand depends on where you sit ... Some of it, plus the rest of it, is all of it ... Time is nature’s way of keeping everything ftom happening at once ... You always find something in the last place you look ... Avoid cliches like the plague.

New Wives’ Tales
Old wives’ tales have — just like our old fundamental truths — become outdated, meaningless and irrelevant... Civilization (as we know it) is in need of some New Wives’ Tales,(6) such as these:

Everything in a plain brown wrapper is dirty ... Beauty is only skin deep, but ugly goes all the way to the bone ... No good deed goes unpunished ... Never assume anything (except a 6 3/4 percent mortgage) ... The race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, but that’s the way to bet (D. Runyon’s s Axiom) ... Put all your eggs in one basket, and WATCH THAT BASKET!

Eat a live toad the first thing in the morning, and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day ... Before you meet the handsome prince, you have to kiss a lot of toads (The Beautiful Princess Law) ... If two wrongs don’t make a right, try three ... Anything worth doing is worth doing in excess ... The amount of sleep needed by the average person’s is 30 minutes more ... If God had meant for us to eat peanut butter, He would have lined our mouths with teflon.

If you cast your bread upon the water, it will return soggy ... One seventh of our lives is spent on Mondays ... You’re never as sick as just before you stop breathing ... You can’t tell a book by its lover ... The early bird catches the worm as a rule, but the guy who comes along later may be having lobster newburg and crepes suzette ... Ask not for whom the bell tolls and you will pay only station-to-station rates ... The less you bet, the more you lose when you win’s.

Lines to Live Forever
Floyd Smith, NHL Toronto Maple Leaf coach, after his team lost: “1 have nothing to say, and I’m only going to say it once” ... General Mark Clark, on the prisoner uprising in Korea: “This is definitely a violation of regulations” ... Tom Dunn, a WCBS-TV newscaster, after Dartmouth students had rocked the car containing ex-Governor George Wallace: “Wallace was visibly shaken’s” ... a lumberyard clerk, when I complained about the cost of a few boards: “You think this stuff grows on trees?” ... Jack Herbein, a memorable vice-president, on the breakdown of the nuclear plant on Three Mile Island: “It was a normal aberration” ... President Lyndon B. Johnson, on the riots occurring in’s Watts: “Killing, rioting and looting are contrary to the best traditions of this country” ... and John Ciardi (again), on’s people who can’t take “yes” for an answer: ‘“On balance, I think it is safe to say that I couldn’t possibly disagree with you less.”

And Irish Bulls to you, too.(7)

 


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