Nothing venture, nothing winSometimes characters tend to indulge in long strings of proverbs, sayings, and aphorisms. This is very typical for mentors, sages, and enlightened ones (especially in Eastern culture) - often parodied when the character simply pretends to be wise and speaks in Ice Cream Koans. At other times, two or more characters may engage in exchanges or even "duels" of aphorisms. May lead to someone Waxing Lyrical.
Blood is thick, but water's thin
In for a penny, in for a pound
It's Love that makes the world go round!
Blood is thick, but water's thin
In for a penny, in for a pound
It's Love that makes the world go round!
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- 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.
- De Kiekeboes: Often characters appear who confuse two or more proverbs and sayings with each other and mix them up in one hilarious mess.
- One storyline of Batman: No Man's Land had Penguin trying to blackmail a priest into letting him put a weapons stash into the basement of his church. They get into an argument of aphorisms with each other, until Penguin gets bored and tells him outright if he doesn't agree, he's going to shoot him and put the guns in the church anyway.
- In one issue of X-Men, two of Magneto's Acolytes, Frenzy and Amelia Voight, argue over whether they should listen to a depowered Magneto, eventually turning in a battle of aphorisms and simile. Frenzy eventually gets fed up, and tells Voight if she keeps going she'll hurt her.
- In Groo the Wanderer, the Sage is a perfect example: every single sentence he says in the entire run of the comic is immediately followed by a saying of some kind, most of them made up. Many are truly wise, while some are worthy of Groo himself...
- In Calvin and Hobbes, Calvin's dad rattles through five clichés in one panel in a pontification about the virtue of a good work ethic.
Dad: Yes, life is tough and suffering builds character. Nothing worth having ever comes easy. Virtue is its own reward, and when I was your age...
Films — Live-Action
- 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 this trope turned into half an hour of musical numbers. Much of the dialogue fits, too.
- 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."
- In Murder by Death, Sidney Wang, a ludicrous Charlie Chan expy, regularly launches into daft aphorisms whenever possible. Just don't interrupt him when he starts.
Wang: Conversation like television on Honeymoon; highly unnecessary.
- There's a good exchange in The 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.
- In the Czech humorist book Saturnin, Aunt Kateřina's main characteristic is this. Saturnin also employs this way of speaking - when he wants to alert the narrator to Aunt Kateřina's presence.
- Charlie Chan always speaks like this.
- 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.
- Stargate SG-1:
- Oma Desala's distinctive trait is her penchant for speaking in koans. The Kheb Monk also speaks this way.
- An episode has 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 "Never... run with scissors?"
- O'Neill meets his match in the Season 7 opener:
Shamda: No-one can be a friend if you know not whether to trust them.
O'Neill: Don't judge a book by its cover.
Shamda: Enemies' promises were made to be broken.
O'Neill: And yet honesty is the best policy.
Shamda: He that has too many friends has none.
O'Neill: Ah, but... birds of a feather.
- 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.
- El Chapulín 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
- Ace Attorney:
- 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?
- In Metal Gear Solid, Mei Ling likes to quote Chinese proverbs.
- Played with in The Witcher 2, a merchant talks to Geralt, and other villagers as well, all in proverbs because of a bet the merchant had with another.
- The Ur-Example here is probably Polonius in Hamlet. The vast heap of generally good advice (most of which Polonius himself clearly does not follow) is given in the form of proverbs and aphorisms, and most of the ones that were not in common use in Shakespeare's time (at least, not in his specific phrasing) became permanently fixed in that form due to the play's popularity.
- Shakespeare has the Constable of France and the Duke of Orleans engage in one of these in Henry V. As in the Hamlet example above, the effect is to make the characters look glib and superficial.
ORLEANS: Ill will never said well.
CONSTABLE: I will cap that proverb with "There is flattery in friendship."
ORLEANS: And I will take up that with "Give the devil his due."
CONSTABLE: Well placed; there stands your friend for the devil. Have at the very eye of that proverb with "A pox of the devil."
ORLEANS You are the better at proverbs, by how much 'A fool's bolt is soon shot.'
- "Things are seldom what they seem" from H.M.S. Pinafore.
- "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.
- In The Bible: The Complete Word of God (abridged), Proverbs is done more or less this way, though this leads to such "proverbs" as "Nike. Just do it."
- In Albert Herring, Lady Billows concludes a turgid speech on the wages of sin by dropping her notes and spouting an applause-baiting series of patriotic slogans:
"King and Country...!
Cleanliness is next to...!
God for England and Saint...!
Keep your powder dry and leave the rest to Nature...!
Britons! Rule the deep!
- Avatar: The Last Airbender: Iroh tends to overdo it sometimes. (Although at least once the aphorisms made up a sign/countersign for the Order of the White Lotus.)
- Jackie Chan Adventures: the old monk from the "Lotus Temple" episode always speaks in riddles and proverbs ("Ancient wisdom").
- Around the World in 80 Days: Phileas Fogg spouts one of these to Passepartout at the beginning of every episode, the events of which go on to demonstrate the wisdom of said aphorism.
- In one Beetlejuice episode, BJ is depressed after being shown up by his goody two-shoes brother Donnie Juice and ends up going on a "mope-about" in the Down-and-Outback. There, among the creatures Beetlejuice meets is a Duck-Billed Platitude-pus who spouts vaguely-inspirational aphorisms nearly every time he talks.