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John Russell

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[A proverb is] one man's wit, and all men's wisdom.
Variant: [A proverb is] the wisdom of many and the wit of one.
Remark to James Mackintosh on October 6, 1830, reported in his posthumous memoir, Memoirs of the Life of the Right Honourable Sir James Mackintosh, Vol. 2 (1836), p. 472

John Russell

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Modern derivatives:
The proverb's meaning is changed in many English versions from the 20th and 21st centuries that start with the proverb's first half (through "they") and then end with a phrase that replaces "first make mad" or "make mad." Such versions can be found at Internet search engines by using either of the two keyword phrases that are on Page 2 and Page 4 of the webpage "Pick any Wrong Card." The rest of that webpage is frameworks that induce a reader to compose new variations on this proverb.


Nothing ever becomes real till it is experienced — Even a proverb is no proverb to you till your Life has illustrated it.

John Keats

The first step toward greatness is to be honest, says the proverb; but the proverb fails to state the case strong enough. Honesty is not only "the first step toward greatness," — it is greatness itself.

Christian Nestell Bovee

“A person needs only a little in order to live and needs that little only a little while”-this is a high minded proverb that is worthy of being received and understood as it wants to be understood; it is too earnest to want to be admired as a beautiful expression or an elegant locution. As such it is thoughtlessly used at times: one calls it out to the needy person, perhaps in order to console him in passing, perhaps also just to have something to say; one says it to oneself, even on a lucky day, since the human heart is very deceitful, is all too eager to take high-mindedness in vain and is proud of needing only a little-while using much. One says it to oneself on a day of need, and hurries ahead to welcome oneself admiringly at the goal-when one has accomplished something glorious-but one is as little served thereby as the proverb is.

Soren Aabye Kierkegaard

For man seeketh in society comfort, use, and protection: and they be three wisdoms of divers natures, which do often sever: wisdom of the behaviour, wisdom of business, and wisdom of state.

Francis Bacon
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