Recently, after I had pummeled her painstakingly coiffed head with a particular admonition—for the millionth time I wouldn’t be surprised to discover—a young female acquaintance responded in a tone I imagined was the remixed voice of youth and desperation. Or an expression of exasperation, as some might prefer to believe who know me too well.
“You really should come up with something to replace that line,” she said, as sweetly as only specially endowed females can be. “You’ve repeated it to me so many times!”
“It’s a truism,” I fired back. “By now we should no longer be arguing about matters so self-evident.”
Hours later, as is a habit of mine, I revisited the recalled short exchange and wondered about the possible effects of time on truisms. As too well we know, time affects most things, often not in the most delightful way, to misquote Maurice Chevalier. What I had suggested to the young woman was that she should resist the urge to teach her grandmother to suck eggs!
Yes, an old line—although I’ve been unable to establish precisely how ancient. In any event does that mean time had robbed it of its potency? I decided to engage in a little research. According to one authority: “This idiom is used as a warning not to presume that you know more than your elders and may be connected with the old practice of henhouse thieves poking holes in an eggshell and sucking out the yolk. One variant of this expression is: Don’t teach your grandmother to milk ducks.”
According to another source: “To teach your grandmother to suck eggs is the equivalent of advising someone on how to do something when they already know how to do it—and have been doing it for a very long time!”
Then I arrived at what came this close to spoiling my day, for the way it reeked of arrogance: “Don’t give advice to someone wiser and more experienced than yourself!” (How do you determine that?)
So there you have it. By all I gleaned from my various sources, the young should automatically respect whatever their elders say, simply because they’re older and more experienced. Does that really make sense? Doesn’t the area of experience matter? Your grandmother has in her own fashion been sucking eggs for eons, so does that automatically mean there is no chance you may have discovered a new and more enjoyable way to suck?
As for this business of grannies knowing how to milk ducks, well, the best I can add to that is: there are the admittedly rare occasions when what’s before you is quacking like a duck, walking like a duck, even looks like a duck when in fact it’s a politician on the campaign trail!
But then again, this was the DBS Question of the Day on Wednesday evening, put to vulnerable street people by the singular peripatetic Mr Bousquet: “What do you think of obeah? Is it a good or bad thing?” Lord, who knew there were in Saint Lucia so many experts on the subject? Should the young be taught to respect their demonstrably deadly and demonic views about obeah without question—simply because they are old and claim to have had certain spirit-world experiences?
Meanwhile, I wish only to remind readers that the “war of thirty moons” between Lilliput and Blefuscu was over which end of a boiled egg should be broken. I suggest we forget about eggs, boiled or what the French refer to as oeuf à la coque and instead focus our attention on another particularly popular local pastime commonly known as sucking up!
Trust me, it’s a whole different matter from whatever you might possibly be thinking. And no, it has nothing to do with recent revelations by a certain famed Hollywood thespian!