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Common English Sayings That Aren't Correct

Though most English sayings are fine, I've noticed that some commonly-used ones seem to just be wrong. Here are some I came up with.

chain link icon Opposites attract.

No they don't. People are attracted to โ€” and end up in relationships with โ€” people who are similar to them in terms of personality, interests, etc., at least according to relationship science. The same goes for friendships. As far as I can tell, this saying only exists as a result of confirmation bias: when you see two people who are in a relationship and who are very different, you think, "Wow, opposites really do attract!" But when a couple are two peas in a pod, or birds of a feather who have flocked together, you don't think, "I guess opposites don't attract after all," because these situations don't cause you to think about the phrase "opposites attract" at all.

chain link icon Familiarity breeds contempt.

People actually tend to prefer things they are familiar with. The mere-exposure effect, also known as the familiarity principle, says as much. This applies both to objects and to people. It makes sense; if something is familiar, then it hasn't killed you yet, so it's probably not terrible.

chain link icon You snooze, you lose.

This one depends what you mean by "lose". If by "lose", you mean "make less money, and therefore become infinitesimally less happy", then the saying could be correct in some circumstances. But I think you're losing if you're decreasing your happiness and increasing your risk for heart disease, mental illness, and obesity, all of which happen if you snooze less than the optimal amount. The optimal amount actually does vary from person to person, but basically, if you're tired, then you're not snoozing enough, and you're losing. Sleep is surprisingly impactful. Even sleeping the right amount at the wrong times can be devastating, as in the case of circadian rhythm disorders like delayed sleep phase syndrome, which has around a 50% comorbidity with Anecdote: a sleep specialist diagnosed me with delayed sleep phase syndrome. I visited him due to a referral from my psychiatrist, who diagnosed me with major depressive disorder. Both are under control now ๐Ÿ™‚. This is around the same chance of having depression as people with insomnia have, and about twice the chance that cancer patients have. Get enough sleep!

chain link icon A watched pot never boils.

Yes it does.

chain link icon You can't teach an old dog new tricks.

Sure you can. Old dogs are susceptible to operant conditioning just the same as anyone else. Dogs have active minds and like learning tricks. I'd imagine a dog, old or otherwise, would prefer learning tricks (and eating treats!) to sitting on the carpet, bored. Caveat: an old, arthritic dog may prefer not to learn how to do backflips, but will be more than happy to shake a paw. Again, this saying probably persists due to confirmation bias. An old dog that you fail to train proves that old dogs can't learn new tricks, but a young dog that you fail to train is just a stubborn doggy.

chain link icon Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

There are clearly individual and cultural elements to physical attractiveness, but for the most part, beauty is pretty universal. That is, people from different cultures will tend to agree who is beautiful, and who is not. Someone who has more symmetrical features and who is fairly average looking in terms of each of their traits will be more attractive than a lopsided weirdo.

chain link icon Lightning never strikes the same place twice.

Lightning often strikes a spot for a reason: maybe that spot is high up, or a good conductor. Anyway, lightning seems to prefer to strike the same place twice.

chain link icon A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.

Looking online, I can buy a live duck for about $7. Federal duck stamps cost about $28, and are required to hunt ducks in the United States. A duck stamp is valid for a year, in which time you can hunt a theoretically unlimited amount of ducks, but ducks.com indicates the average hunter bags somewhere between 5 and 12 ducks per year, giving each duck a cost of between $6 and $2. So a bird in the hand is worth roughly between 1 and 3 birds in the bush, which is... actually pretty much what the saying says. Nevermind. I think I've more than exhausted all of the invalid English sayings I can think of.