Quiz: Can you define these well-known proverbs?

Some sayings have outlived the context that gave them their original meanings. Can you work backwards to discover the derivation of these old phrases?

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Proverbs: They’re phrases and sayings we’ve heard for most of our lives.

They use analogy to express a long-held truth or to give advice based on common sense or shared experience. Yet, sometimes, if you try to define the proverb in your own words, you can’t quite figure it out. The analogy may be too obscure or the comparisons may be too abstract.

According to psychology and marketing professor Dr. Art Markman—author of the book Smart Thinking and co-host of the NPR show Two Guys on Your Head—thinking about the meanings of proverbs and redefining them is a great way to practice problem-solving. It can help you find ways to reframe a problem you may be trying to solve, which can lead to new ideas and novel solutions.

Practice with the proverbs below. Match the definition to each proverb and check your answers at the end.


1. It is a silly fish that is caught twice with the same bait.

2. Choose neither bed linens or a wife by candlelight.

3. People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.

4. Sweep the snow off your own porch before you brush the frost from mine.

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