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Hurricane of Aphorisms

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"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!"

Sometimes 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.


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  • Kodama from Hand Shakers often quotes from historical figures. It turns out to be a gimmick that was thought up by her manager in order to make her more appealing as an idol.

    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.
  • 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...

    Comic Strips 
  • 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...

    Fan Works 

    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.
  • In Stranded with a Billionaire by Jessica Clare, the heroine Bronte really loves quoting aphorisms by ancient philosophers (Plato, Aristotle, etc.); the hero Logan finds this very attractive.
  • 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.
  • Louise aka Low Down from Silver Lining by Maggie Osborne is really fond of proverbs.
  • Nelide from Maurizio de Giovanni's Commissario Ricciardi always speaks and even thinks in proverbs.
  • The eccentric old lady Lily Telfair-Gordon from Red Curtains by Leanna Sain has a penchant for speaking in cryptic proverbs.
  • In Wolf Sea by Robert Low, the wise monk Brother John is really fond of quoting Latin aphorisms.
  • In Wildflowers by Debbie Howells, the protagonist Frankie Valentine has a penchant for quoting Latin proverbs.
  • In Sister Mary Helen series, the nun Sister Eileen has a habit of quoting old Irish sayings (however, Mary suspects that she just makes them up on the spot).
  • The Wheel of Time: House Trakand's Old Retainer Lini, a no-nonsense lady who's served at least three generations of nobility, has a saying for every occasion. Lampshaded when Morgase asks if she's making them up as she goes.
    Lini: At my age, if I make it up, it is still an old saying.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 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.
    • The final scene of the series ends with the team reciting several aphorisms before departing through the stargate.
  • 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 its 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.
  • 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").
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power: The characters will more than often use pretentious metaphors and anecdotes in an attempt to mimic Tolkien's poetic use of words.
    Finrod: Do you know why a ship floats and a stone cannot? Because the stone sees only downward. The darkness of the water is vast and irresistible. The ship feels the darkness as well, striving moment by moment to master her and pull her under. But the ship has a secret. For unlike the stone, her gaze is not downward but up. Fixed upon the light that guides her, whispering of grander things than darkness ever knew.
  • Gil-galad: Hope is never mere, even when it is meager. When all other senses sleep, the eye of hope is first to awaken, last to shut.
  • Galadriel: Every war is fought both without and within. Of that, every soldier must be mindful.
  • 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
  • There are at least two episodes of Bewitched where Endora, disgusted by the prevalence of hackneyed clichés in ad-man Darrin's line of work, turns his life literally into this trope by making him speak in nothing but clichés and then making them all come true.

  • "All Star" by Smash Mouth is one long hurricane of aphorisms. For example: "all that glitters is gold / only shooting stars break the mold" and "the ice we skate is getting pretty thin / the water's getting warm so you might as well swim"
  • "Down Here," from the Turnpike Troubadours' self-titled album, plays with the wording of many common sayings and phrases in order to get the song's flow and rhyme structure to work.
    Well your intentions good and well
    Paved a little on the road to hell
    Flew a little high and fell
    You were smiling all the while
    But you tried so bad just to be good
    To hold your cards and to knock on wood
    A little harder than anyone should
    But hey, that's just your style

    Video Games 
  • 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. Some western ones occasionally too, who would've thought the teenage Gadgeteer Genius was such a font of wisdom?
  • 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. 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, the most famous of these being the "brevity is the soul of wit" (for Polonius, a dramatically ironic line).
  • 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!

  • Twisted Tropes: Luke tries to rescue his X-Wing from the swam by hand while Yoda plays with cards and throws fake wise words at him to avoid helping.

    Western Animation 
  • 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 Eighty 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.