Our Toothless Old Saws

SCOTT CORBETT is a natire Missourian now living in East Dennis art Cope Cod. Readers of these pages will recall his fishing story, “ The Perfect Bait” (August Atlantic)


OUR old saws are fast disappearing under the impact of modern engineering magic. A lot of them don’t, cut much ice any more.

I am speaking of old saws such as “People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.” Nobody would think of going around repeating an adage like that today. Modern structural glass has made it obsolete. People who live in glass houses now may throw all the stones they want to, safe in the knowledge that their dwelling units’ building materials are 20.4 times tougher than ordinary oldfashioned materials. The Glass Housing institute of America, a nonprofit research organization supported by the Glass Manufacturers of America, has proved that people in glass houses can throw up to 45 per cent more stones than people in frame houses, with perfect impunity.

Another old saw which is definitely out of key with our present period of gracious living is the one which refers to “the pot calling the kettle black.” Black pots and kettles are a thing of the past. Anyone who has seen five minutes of TV knows that. Just a touch with any of a dozen miracle scouring pads assisted by one of the countless miracle cleaning powders carried by your friendly neighborhood grocer and all that unpleasant blackness is whisked away down the drain. Today’s housewife would not put up with a black pot long enough for it to call anybody anything.

Take, too, the assertion once uttered so confidently, that “you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.” Laughable today. Modern engineering magic would merely reduce the sow’s ear to its chemical components, and out of them would come Sowcron, a new miracle fabric for purses which would be even finer than ordinary silk and give up to nine times as much wear.

Prominent among those products of modern engineering magic that have taken the edge off so many old saws are radio and TV. To mention but one, they have disproved conclusively the ancient misconception w’hich holds that “silence is golden.” Nobody is making any money out of silence these days.

To TV alone, however, must go the credit for sending into the discard our final example: “Seeing is believing.”