Old saw?

中国日报网 2016-01-22 13:11



Old saw?

Reader question:

Please explain this sentence: “Practice what you preach is an old saw.” Old saw?

My comments:

Here the old “saw” is not an overused cutting tool with a thin blade.

Here, the “saw” refers to an old saying, or a wise statement or observation.

In other words, practice what you preach is a proverb, or a wise statement from some sage or other, a statement that’s been passed on from mouth to mouth, generation to generation.

It’s been quoted again and again for a long time. That’s why it is called an old saw.

If you look up the dictionary, or dictionaries, you’ll be able to find that “saw” in old English was not only akin to “say” and “saying” but shared the same roots with “saga” and “sage”. Saga as in “family saga” is a long narrative of an historic event. Sage, on the other hand, is a very wise man who is indeed known for saying wise things.

Practice what you preach is such a wise saying. It will stand you in good stead if you learn to abide by it.

I say you learn to abide by it because the wisdom in it is not always easily grasped, nor is the principle easy of application.

First of all, practice what you preach means simply that you should always do what you say. Now that’s easier said than done, isn’t it?

Anyone who’s involved with a group, a political party, a social club or any work unit knows to get ahead, sometimes the very opposite principle holds true. To get ahead, one does one thing and has to say the other or vice versa – say they will do this but instead go on to do that.

Anyone, yours truly included, understands this, of course. It’s the price we pay for having relationships and working with other people.

Still and all, we try whenever we can to practice what we preach.

In the long run, that’s what pays.

In China, the ultimate Taoist tenet shares this exact simple rule: Do what you say and say what you do.

Easy to say, of course, but anyone who has a thriving political or business career knows this is impossible to practice. Sometime, often, most of the time, they’ll say, one has to tell an untruth. If one tells the truth, all the truth and nothing but the truth, one won’t go far – at all.

Going far or near, it is my belief that it pays to practice what you preach. Otherwise, sooner or later they’ll find you out. And then, you’ll lose everything you have gained by saying one thing and doing another.

If you have gained anything of value at all, that is.

Anyways, it takes time for find things out. It takes time to find out if an old saw like “practice what you preach” is even true for you. That process, by the way, is called wising up.

With no further ado, let’s examine a few various media examples of “old saw” as something sentient and observant:

1. History may not repeat itself, as the old saw goes, but it does rhyme. Which historical times best “rhymes” with our current economic predicament? And what can we take away from such an analogy?

Parallels to the Great Depression of the 1930s and to Japan’s recent lost decade are frequently made. Perhaps the best analogy of our current predicament, one gaining ground in recent blog entries and journals, is the Long Depression that began in the United States with the Panic of 1873 and saw an alternation between recovery and collapse that lasted to the threshold of the 20th century.

Much of the economic history of that time sounds as if it could have been taken straight from today's cable financial news shows. Yet the underlying realities of the Long Depression reveal a silver-lining parallel for our future.

In the 1870s, as today, loose lending standards led to a credit, housing, and construction bubble—only this one was in Europe. When cheap American goods began to flood European markets, Europeans began to feel their overextension. The result was that their bubble burst. As with U.S. banks today, the world’s leading banks in London locked up, which in turn collapsed the arcane financial arrangements of U.S. railroads, which forced financier Jay Cooke to suspend the building of the Northern Pacific Railroad, which led to a U.S. stock market collapse, followed by widespread bank failure and a depression that lasted almost five years in the United States.

A period of boom and bust followed, with the consolidation of vast business empires by tycoons, along with a Bernie Madoff-like scandal in which a character named Ferdinand Ward exploited his friendships with prominent people (including former President Ulysses S. Grant) to fleece the trusting.

- Today’s Economy Echoes An 1800’s Depression—And That’s Good, USNews.com, May 7, 2009.

2. AN OLD saw has it that half of all advertising budgets are wasted—the trouble is, no one knows which half. In the internet age, at least in theory, this fraction can be much reduced. By watching what people search for, click on and say online, companies can aim “behavioural” ads at those most likely to buy.

In the past couple of weeks three deals and a quarrel have illustrated the value to advertisers (and their suppliers of software) of such fine-grained information. The first deal came on May 23rd, when Oracle said it was buying Vitrue, which helps firms run their marketing on social media, for a reported $300m. On June 5th it added Collective Intellect, which analyses what people say about companies on Facebook, Twitter and so forth, for an undisclosed sum. A day earlier Salesforce.com, a cloud-computing company mustard-keen on social media, had said it would pay $689m for Buddy Media, a competitor of Vitrue’s. Buddy should fit in with Radian 6, which, like Collective Intellect, monitors social media—and for which Salesforce paid $326m last year.

The quarrel is the latest round in a long-running argument. Should advertisers assume that people are happy to be tracked and sent behavioural ads? Or should they have explicit permission? Many people give scarcely a thought to being electronically snooped on as they browse, but some object furiously.

- Change of Track, The Economist, June 9 2012.

3. Perhaps everything’s bigger in America, as the old saw goes, but when it comes to mobile phone calls and data usage, US consumers are certainly paying big, sometimes nearly as 20 times as much as Europeans.

If you live in France, you can pay as little as €20 (RM94) per month for a monthly package featuring 50GB of data, unlimited domestic and international calls to over 100 countries and unlimited text messages.

In the United States, that much data could cost you US$390 (RM1,709) per month from one national operator.

While the above comparison may be the extreme, it dovetails with an International Telecommunications Union report last year which found US data to be up to 19.5 times more expensive than in Europe when corrected for purchasing power of consumers.

The result is that while US companies may be the pioneers with online video streaming services like Netflix and Hulu, Americans have been asked to pay much more for what it takes to use them on a smartphone, which is rapidly becoming a popular platform for catching the latest episode of your TV show.

That may be changing though, as another US operator recently dropped its unlimited calls and data package from US$180 (RM789) to US$80 (RM350) per month.

- Mobile information superhighway super expensive in US compared to Europe, TheStar.com, November 17, 2015.


About the author:

Zhang Xin is Trainer at chinadaily.com.cn. He has been with China Daily since 1988, when he graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University. Write him at: zhangxin@chinadaily.com.cn, or raise a question for potential use in a future column.

(作者:张欣 编辑:丹妮)



















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