Popular Saying But

This is what happens when someone takes a well known phrase or saying, and then decides that it doesn't convey quite as much information as it needs to. So the speaker adds a little bit on the end, usually with the modifier "But", usually either missing the point or totally reversing the original meaning of the phrase.

Related to the Ice-Cream Koan, but differs in that while the first part of the phrase is valid, the second part is clearly tacked on by the speaker. Often said by a Seemingly Profound Fool in some of his more fauxlisophical moments. You Can't Make an Omelette... and When Life Gives You Lemons... are common victims of this trope.


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     Comic Books  

  • Spider-Man: When life gives you lemons... squirt them in somebody's face and run like hell.
  • In the very first issue of Paperinik New Adventures, when the titular hero is having a hard time defending a woman from the coolflames: "Don't worry! When the game gets tough... I wish I was somewhere else."


  • Ron White: When life gives you lemons, make lemonade, then find someone whose life has given him vodka and have a party.
  • Anonymous joke: Before judging a person, walk a mile in their shoes. That way, you'll be a mile away when you judge them, and you'll have their shoes.

     Fan Works 
  • Paul in The Keys Stand Alone: The Soft World: “With great power comes a lot of people pestering you to use it on their behalf.”

  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990): Wise man say: Forgiveness is divine, but never pay full price for late pizza.
  • Hobo with a Shotgun: When life gives you razor blades, you make a baseball bat. Covered in razor-blades.
  • The Mummy (1999): Rick is fighting off Imhotep while Evy searches the Book of the Dead for the spell that will send him back to the underworld. Rick tries to get her to move a little faster.
    Evy: Patience is a virtue.
    Rick: Not right now, it isn't!
  • Toward the end of Happy Gilmore, Happy's former boss is wearing a shirt which reads "Guns don't kill people, I kill people!"

  • Soon I Will Be Invincible:
    Doctor Impossible: When life gives you lemons you squeeze them, hard. Make invisible ink. Make an acid poison. Fling it in their eyes.
  • Tom Holt has used many variants on the omelette saying, most notably Only Human's "It might be possible to make omelettes without shredding chickens, but it doesn't make for nearly as good television."
  • In Discworld, "Set a thief to catch a thief" is actually the updated, due to Thieves' Guild advocacy, of an older proverb that actually advocated a long and complicated trap to catch a thief.
    • There's also "Build a man a fire and he's warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he's warm for the rest of his life."
    • William De Worde expands greatly on the "glass half full/half empty" dichotomy, noting that there are also people whose glasses have been knocked over, or people who can't get the bartender's attention, or how the people who run things tend to look at a half-empty glass and say "This isn't my glass! My glass was full! Who's been pinching my beer?"

     Live Action TV  
  • NewsRadio: When life gives you lemons, make lemonade, and then throw it in the face of the person who gave you the lemons until they give you the oranges you originally asked for.
  • The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air: Sticks and stones may break my bones, but a fifty foot fall will kill y'all!
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:
    • The Ferengi Rules of Acquisition contain an interesting subversion in rule 75: Home is where the heart is, but the stars are made of latinum." In that case, the subversion of the original popular saying has itself become a popular saying.
    • Later played straight with rule 229:
      Rom: Latinum lasts longer than lust.
      O'Brien: Maybe, but lust can be a lot more fun!
  • The Red Dwarf episode "Stasis Leak" has:
    Holly: What I'm saying, Dave, is that it's better to have loved and to have lost... than to listen to an album by Olivia Newton-John.
    Cat: Why's that?
    Holly: Anything's better than listening to an album by Olivia Newton-John.
  • In Caméra Café, Paolo always repeats twice the first part of the proverb he's about to say. For example: "An apple a day... an apple a day".
  • 3rd Rock from the Sun: When life gives you lemons...just shut up and eat the damn lemons.
  • Mystery Science Theater 3000: "When God gives you lemons, you find a new god."
  • Modern Family: "When life gives you lemonade, make lemons. Life will be all like 'whaaat?'"


  • The Babyshambles song "Sticks and stones" has the following chorus: Sticks and stones may break my bones/Oh but your words, they really hurt.
  • About 90% of They Might Be Giants lyrics.
    • From the song "Rhythm Section Want Ad": "Speak softly and drive a Sherman tank / Laugh hard, it's a long way to the bank"
  • Tracy Lawrence also had a song called "Sticks and Stones," with the operative line being, "These sticks and stones may break me, but the words you said just tore my heart in two."
  • "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but chains and whips excite me." Na-na-na-na, come on.

     Memetic Mutation  

     Video Games  

  • Katamari Damacy: Love makes the world go round... But Manners keep you from getting motion sickness.
  • Cave Johnson, founder of Aperture Science and presentl dying from moon dust induced cancer, rails against life late on in Portal 2:
    "When life gives you lemons, don't make lemonade. Make life take the lemons back! Get mad! I don't want your damn lemons! What am I supposed to do with these?! Demand to see life's manager! Make life rue the day it thought it could give CAVE JOHNSON LEMONS! DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM?! I'm the man who's GONNA BURN YOUR HOUSE DOWN! WITH THE LEMONS! I'm gonna get my engineers to invent a combustible lemon that BURNS YOUR HOUSE DOWN!"

     Web Comics  

  • Achewood: Eating an apple a day keeps the doctor away... but throwing it at him works better!
  • The Order of the Stick:
    • Here: "You can't make an omelet without permanently deafening someone."
    • And later on: "You can't make an omelette without ruthlessly crushing dozens of eggs beneath your steel boot and then publicly disembowling the chickens that laid them as a warning to others."
  • xkcd offers two takes on a classic, one in this comic and one in its Alt Text.
    Father: Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words—
    Child: —can make someone else feel happy or sad, which is literally the only thing that matters in this stupid world?
    Alt Text: Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can make me think I deserved it.

     Web Original  

  • Wanton Cruelty to the Common Comma: CAPS LOCK IS CRUISE CONTROL FOR COOL, but don't forget to steer!
  • From Starship:
    Junior: We have a saying where I come from too; God save the Queen.
    Bug: Oh, good.
    Junior: Lucky for me, God Is Dead.
  • The Guild gives us this gem:
    Vork: Women. Can't live with them... they will not go out with me.
  • "Today's proverb", the Credits Gag at the end of each episode of Welcome to Night Vale are usually like this:
    What has four legs in the morning, two legs at noon, and three legs in the evening?note  I don't know, but I trapped it in my bedroom. Send help.

    If you love someone, set them free. Set them free now. This is the police, and we have you surrounded.
    • Also, a twist on a National Rifle Association motto: "Guns don't kill people,note  it's impossible to be killed by a gun, we are all invincible to bullets and it's a miracle".
    • A staple for the Night Vale twitter feed. For example, "Home is where the heart is. You'll never guess where we hid it, though."

     Western Animation  

  • Rocket Power: Blood is thicker than water... But not nearly as refreshing.
  • Clone High: When life gives you lemons, you CLONE those lemons and make SUPER LEMONS!
  • Phineas and Ferb: Blood is thicker than water. But mango chutney is thicker than blood.
  • Kim Possible:
    Ron: When life gives you lemons...
    Drakken: I complain about the lemons!
  • Fairly OddParents: "Sticks and stones may break your bones, but words leave emotional scars that never heal!"
  • Ed, Edd n Eddy:
    Ed: An elephant never forgets, but I forget what the elephant remembered.
  • Batman: Assault on Arkham: When Harley Quinn spots the Joker's cell and tries to shoot him:
    Joker: Women! Am I right, officer? Can't live with 'em... can't kick 'em out of a moving car.