“Mom, what’s a ‘pig in a poke’?” Tess asked at the dinner table.
“Where did you hear that?”
“Grandma Adams said something was like buying a pig in a poke.”
Mrs. Williams enjoyed these conversations as a chance to teach and to learn. “A poke is an old term for a bag. The saying meant that you should inspect something before you buy it. You should look it over carefully. It’s like ‘buyer beware.’”
“Or ‘all that glitters is not gold,” said Mr. Williams, getting into the spirit of the conversation. “Then, too, there’s ‘look before you leap,’ with much the same message.”
Not to be outdone, Rick contributed, “Our wood shop teacher used to say, ‘Measure twice, cut once,” meaning make sure you are right before cutting.”
“I wish my hair stylist had done something like that last time I went in. She clipped it sorter than I wanted, and I had to wait for it to grow back.”
“You still looked great,” her husband gallantly stated.
“My teacher says, ‘Better safe than sorry.’”
“That’s right, Tim, we have that as a slogan at the firehouse.”
“In science class we are taught not to jump to conclusions, which is using another kind of caution.”
“Right, Rick. My mother also used to say, ‘The proof of the pudding is in the eating.’ It did not matter how good it looked, you only knew for sure after you tasted it. I’ve told my classes that several times.”
“I’ve heard ‘once bit, twice shy,’ but I’m not sure what it means,” said Tess.
Her father explained, “If a dog bit you when you tried to pet it, you’d be careful not to try that again. If a situation causes you problems, you’d shy away from it the next time.”
Rick saw some problems with this approach. “Sometimes you have to go ahead, even if you know you might get hurt. Sometimes you have to stop studying something and ‘just do it.’ There’s the saying, ‘he who hesitates is lost,’ which goes against some of these others.”
“Yes, and ‘faint heart never wins fair lady,’ meaning you have to pursue your love bravely.” His dad continued, “These old sayings seem good, but sometimes they contradict one another.”
The telephone rang and Mr. Williams answered it. “Yes…. Yes…. Okay…. Put me down for twenty-five dollars…. Bye.”
“What was that, Dear?”
“They were selling raffle tickets for a charity.”
“What are they raffling off? How many tickets are they selling?” Mrs. Williams had her doubts about such phone calls.
“A new car of some sort. I didn’t ask what our chances of winning were. Perhaps I should have. Seemed like a good cause.”
“I think you just bought a pig in a poke.”
Mr. Williams had the last word, another old saying, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.”
One of 50 instructive short stories by Cooper and Maher.