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WikEd fancyquotes.pngQuotesBug-silk.pngHeadscratchersIcons-mini-icon extension.gifPlaying WithUseful NotesMagnifier.pngAnalysisPhoto link.pngImage LinksHaiku-wide-icon.pngHaikuLaconic

Nothing venture, nothing win

Blood is thick, but water's thin

In for a penny, in for a pound

It's Love that makes the world go round!

When characters have to make themselves look thoughtful and wise, rattling off a long string of trite old proverbs often helps them.

May lead to someone Waxing Lyrical.


Comic Books

  • This was the shtick of Green Lantern villain Black Hand prior to Blackest Night; he acted purely based on cliches and old sayings. And had an energy gun.


  • National Lampoon's Loaded Weapon 1 has a conversation between two villains turn into an aphorism duel.

 Gen. Morters: Where's the microfilm, Mike?

Mike McCracken: I don't know, I gave it to York. I thought she was one of your men.

Gen. Morters: Act in haste, repent in leisure.

Mike McCracken: But he who hesitates is lost.

Gen. Morters: Never judge a book by its cover.

Mike McCracken: What you see is what you get.

Gen. Morters: Loose lips sink ships...

Mike McCracken: Life is very short, and there's no time for fussing or fighting, my friend.

[Gen. Morters, cornered, looks to Mr. Jigsaw. Jigsaw consults Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, shakes his head.]

Gen. Morters: Sorry Mike, no good.

  • In Hitch, Hitch and the newspaper salesmen converse exclusively in aphorisms.
  • Arguably, the medley of love songs in Moulin Rouge is a very artful version of this trope.
  • In A Few Good Men, Tom Cruise's character exchanges sayings with an old guy at a newsstand (this appears to be the entire basis of their relationship). Inevitably, it ends with, "It ain't over till the fat lady sings." "You can say that again." "It ain't over till the fat lady sings."


  • Heralds of Valdemar: In Mercedes Lackey's series, the Shin'a'in have a billion proverbs, and they quote them at the drop of a hat. One character encounters a spirit Shin'a'in who quotes them for a solid minute, before he finally breaks in with another proverb: "Who is wisest says least."
  • Sancho Panza from Don Quixote does this, usually so poorly that it just makes him look stupider.
  • There's a good exchange in Lord of the Rings:

 '[...] For you do not yet know the strength of your hearts, and you cannot foresee what each may meet upon the road.'

'Faithless is he that says farewell when the road darkens,' said Gimli.

'Maybe,' said Elrond, 'but let him not vow to walk in the dark, who has not seen the nightfall.'

'Yet sworn word may strengthen quaking heart,' said Gimli.

'Or break it,' said Elrond. 'Look not too far ahead!

  • In one Retief story the titular character engaged in a duel of alien aphorisms with an invader. Retief won when the invader started shouting at him to just cooperate.
  • Anansi Boys: Fat Charlie's Pointy-Haired Boss speaks almost entirely in cliches, and it's contagious. This becomes particularly hilarious when his boss meets his brother.

Live Action TV

  • There was an episode of Sliders where the British monarchy still ruled America. It involved Quinn becoming the leader of a group of rebels and giving this inspirational speech:

 Quinn: Power doesn't come from the barrel of a gun, you've got to win over the hearts and minds of the people. A chicken in every pot, y'know what I'm saying? (going for it) Rob from the rich and give to the poor! Give a man a fish, he'll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, he'll eat for the rest of his life!

Raider #1: He's right!

Raider #2: What's he talking about?

Quinn: Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country. What's it profit a man to gain the world and lose his soul? (fist in the air) Power to the people! (cheers) What's that spell?

All the raiders: Power to the people!

Quinn: All right!

  • Spaced: In the final episode of Season 1, Tim and Daisy get into a proverb-off over whether it's a good idea for him to get back together with his old girlfriend:

 Daisy: What do you mean you have a funny feeling?

Tim: I can read her like a book

Daisy: Never judge a book by it's cover

Tim: He who dares wins

Daisy: Look before you leap

Tim: Do YOU believe in life after love?

Daisy: That's a song.

Tim: Shit.

  • Stargate SG-1 ends with this. Cue link to Cliché Storm. An earlier episode had the team reacting to an apparently idylic planet with various aphorisms which paraphrase to "appearances can be deceptive", until it's O'Neill's turn and all he can come up with is " with scissors?"
  • El Chapulin Colorado: The title character constantly attempts this and messes it up, with hilarious results. For example, the two Spanish proverbs Cría fama y echate a dormir ("Cultivate a good reputation, and go to sleep") and Al que cría cuervos le sacarán los ojos ("Raise crows and they shall pluck your eyes out"), get mixed up into Cría fama y te sacarán los ojos ("Cultivate a good reputation, and they shall pluck out your eyes") and Cría cuervos y echate a dormir ("Raise crows and go to sleep").
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer : At one point, Buffy sang a hurricane of aphorisms, but she was being sarcastic:

 Where there's life there's hope

Every day's a gift

Wishes can come true

Whistle while you work



  • The Ur Example here is probably Polonius in Hamlet.
  • Gilbert and Sullivan did this with "Things are seldom what they seem" from H.M.S. Pinafore and "If you go in" from Iolanthe.
  • In Anyone Can Whistle, Hapgood asks each person he interrogates to give a "watchcry," a saying by which they have used to govern their life. This soon leads to many people all singing their "watchcries" simultaneously.

Video Games

  • In Ace Attorney: Investigations, Shi-Long Lang often quotes wolf-related aphorisms by Lang Zi that stop making sense after a while.
    • In Trials & Tribulations, Godot constantly rattles off coffee themed proverbs that nobody but him seems to understand.

 Phoenix: Um, the rest of the court doesn't speak Coffeenese. Can you elaborate a bit more?


Western Animation