Paired-up Sayings

This particular category of humor is what I call “intellectual humor”. You should tell these jokes to reasonably smart women who can appreciate language games.

People usually agree such paired-up sayings are “witty”, “smart”, or “wicked”. Paired-up sayings are frequently featured in “thought of the day” section of many websites.

There are many interesting examples of paired up phrases in life other than idioms and rhetoric speeches. For example, in the Cockney dialect of the east end of London there are plenty of paired-up sayings where substituted words even rhyme with each other. For example, “bed” is “Uncle Ted” and “beer” is “pig’s ear.”

We often hear sayings such as “when the going gets tough, the tough gets going”, “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail”, “some people eat to live, and some live to eat”. Those are all paired-up sayings.

Perhaps the most famous paired-up saying is John F. Kennedy’s “ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.”

Certain universal paired-up saying can come in handy. For example, “I’ve got what it takes to take what you’ve got” and “nobody cares how much you know till they know how much you care.”

The problem with paired-up sayings is that most of them have already become clichés. But don’t worry. This is a great opportunity to use your imagination and surprise her. For example, when you see her hesitating to do something, you may say, “Relax, you have nothing to fear except fear itself—and your dad, of course.” (Supposing that’s exactly her concern as you were told.)

A trick of exploring opportunities of paired-up saying is to develop a habit of switching word sequence in popular sayings. Just experiment with them for fun. You’d be surprised that there are countless sayings to play around with.

Another way to construct paired-up saying is to explore the close relationship between synonyms and antonyms. For example, “women sweat but ladies perspire”. Dave Barry had a famous saying, “you can’t be young forever, but you can be immature forever.” Los Angeles Times once wrote, “The only thing more disturbing than a neighbor with a noisy, old car is a neighbor with a quiet, new car.”

Make sure the woman you’re talking with really appreciates and enjoys such “word play”. If that isn’t her cup of tea, don’t give it to her. Give coffee instead.

If you are interested in this type of humor, here is an exercise for you: when you are bored (such as when you’re waiting in line), list down in your mind some words in pairs and start constructing sentences with them. Add in synonyms and antonyms to see what happens. It’ll sound crappy at first, but you’ll get better very quickly.