Maxim, proverb, gnome―all of these terms are the same thing in meaning: a short, but easily remembered attractive expression of a basic and simple principle, universal truth or about the rule of conduct. We can regard maxim as a glimpse of wisdom―or at least of visual wisdom. Maxims are universal and proof to the commonality of human existence.
At the time when we are writing or speaking about anything, maxims are an easy and intelligent way for adding some spice and color to what we really want to say. A maxim (MAKS-im) is a compact and intense expression of a well-known truth. Also known as a proverb, saying, adage, and precept.
Maxims, you see, are very tricky parts. As Benchley suggests, they generally can sound really convincing until a contrary or opposing maxim shows up.
In the English language many contrary proverbs can be found or, as we call them, dueling maxims. Some of them can be,
“The bigger the better” / “Good things come in small packages.”
“Birds of a feather flock together.”/ “Opposites attract.”
“Actions speak louder than words.” / “The pen is mightier than the sword.”
“You’re never too old to learn.” / “You can’t teach old dog new tricks.”
“All good things come to those who wait.” / “Time and tide wait for no man.”
“Absence makes the heart grow fonder.” / “Out of sight, out of mind.”
In many cases, the maxim is a very useful device, especially for people in many oral cultures–those that have faith on speech rather than writing to distribute their knowledge. Some of the common features of maxims, for which we can remember them easily, such as, alliteration, paradox, antithesis and many more. Now it is very unique that, how few maxims have any written document. Wisdom’s, practical advice seems to have being a big secret.
Talking about our own literature, there are few books of some practical maxims, and not a single one of any great merit. Sir Walter Raleigh’s Cabinet Council, Penn’s Maxims, and Chesterfield’s Letters almost covers the list, and many more contains much more than only maxims. Aphorisms are in plenty, especially in the writings of George Eliot.
The moralists are also not more instructive in this case. Bacon’s Essays leave with one the impression of practical wisdom. Yet, when we examined closely, there is very little residue of practical advice left in his sayings. Even the source of this type of writing, the Biblical book of Proverbs, can’t answer the particular kind of test I am at applying now.To conclude I can say that, there is no power unless it is being applied. If one really wants to apply them, he’ll be surprised at how many possibilities there are for their proper use.
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Mark K. Stafford is an American English writer. He was born in Los Angeles and earned a BA from the University of California. He is a passionate author who wrote on Essays, Poetry, and Journalism. Now he writes full-time books and articles for TheWordyBoy.