Problematics: How to spoil a good proverb

Can you unearth 10 simple proverbs from sentences that don't seem to make sense?

Written by Kabir Firaque | Updated: May 6, 2015 12:51 pm
Problematics blackboard. A lesson in rewriting from simple to bad English. (Source: Illustration by Kabir Firaque)

If you hear a child chant “Scintillate, scintillate, asteroid microscopic”, try not to start a discussion on rocket science. She is only reciting a nursery rhyme. If you didn’t recognise it, it’s “Twinkle, twinkle, little star” in fancy language.

Ayanansha Acharya of Kolkata has sent me a collection of such gems. For example, when he writes, “Members of an avian species of identical plumage tend to congregate”, he only means “Birds of a feather flock together”. And where you or I would have said, “People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones”, Ayanansha prefers “Individuals who make their abodes in vitreous edifices would be advised to refrain from catapulting perilous projectiles”.

The 10 sentences below (five from Ayanansha, five my own) are familiar proverbs in disguise.

(i) Adult males past expiry cannot provide a narrative.

(ii) The person releasing the terminal cachinnation achieves the most audible cachinnation.

(iii) Let inspection precede your escalation.

(iv) It is futile to attempt inculcating in a senile canine the ability to perform modern gimmicks.

(v) Selective tactics are beyond the means of mendicants.

(vi) Success is prejudiced towards the intrepid.

(vii) The smallest prime number of inaccuracies does not construct an angle of 90 degrees.

(viii) A visual representation is equal in value to a kilo of etymological units.

(ix) Not a single masculine human is a landmass surrounded by a potable fluid.

(x) When progress acquires hardness, the hard achieve progress.

Puzzle#9A: Unmask as many of those as you can. Not in the comments section, please; send your answers by email.

What you wrote

The key to solving Puzzle#8A of last week was in the way you split the acreage. Let readers explain.

Kabir, when the middleman combines the compensation, he is using the ratio 2:3 for paddy and wheat acreage. Thus, out of a total 60 acres, he is arranging for compensation for 24 acres paddy and 36 acres paddy. Thus, 6 acres paddy got shifted to wheat in the calculation. For these 6 acres paddy they would have received 15 tokens as compensation, but actually got only 10 tokens as these were claimed as 6 acres wheat. Thus, the difference of 5 tokens.

Sanjay Gupta (New Delhi)

2 acres paddy + 3 acres wheat = 10 tokens, implies 20 acres paddy + 30 acres of wheat = 100 tokens. Middleman assumes every 5 acres (in 60 acres) contain 2 acres paddy and 3 acres wheat. The remaining 10 acres (paddy) he considers as (2 acres paddy + 3 acres wheat) + (2 acres paddy + 3 acres wheat) = 20 tokens. But actually, the last 10 acres is all paddy, or 25 tokens. Hence he gets an extra 5 tokens.

Bindia George (IT engineer, Kochi)

Price of 6 acres paddy – price of 6 acres wheat = 3×5 – 2×5= 5 tokens. This one was rather easy. Promise me the difficult one next time.

Tushar Gupta (DoMS, IIT Madras)

In Puzzle#8B, (a) remove W from CHAIRWOMAN and that gives you HARMONICA; (b) remove A from HARMONICA and that gives you HARMONIC; (c) remove H and M from HARMONICA and that gives you OCARINA.

Harsha T R (NIT Karnataka, batch of 2012) and M Natrajan (IIM Calcutta, batch of 2009)

Sanjay, Bindia, Harsha and Natrajan have solved both puzzles. So have Sampath Kumar V (IIM Kozhikode alumnus) and Shalesh Kumar.
Tushar misses the double solution narrowly, getting two words out of three in Puzzle#8B. Anil Kumar and Lakshmi Swathi Gandham (Hyderabad) haven’t tried #8A; in the other puzzle, Anil gets all three words while Swathi gets two.

Without counting

A lesson in rewriting from simple to bad English. Source: Illustration by Kabir Firaque A lesson in rewriting from simple to bad English. Source: Illustration by Kabir Firaque

In the standard form of Chinese checkers, every player has 10 pegs or counters which he or she can move from slot to slot according to certain rules. The game starts with the counters placed in a triangular arrangement (1 + 2 + 3 + 4) in each player’s exclusive zone. The open playing area, which belongs to no player, begins with the fifth row. And this row stretches in both directions to the exclusive zones of two other players.

Puzzle#9B: Without actually counting to the end, can you calculate the total number of slots (or holes) on a standard board? Yes, you can, if you break up the board into simpler geometric shapes and follow it up with some arithmetic. The fewer the shapes, the more convenient you will find it.

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