D is a 57 year old man. He is a practicing cardiologist at a hospital in the northern suburbs of Illinois. He identifies as American as he grew up in Boston, but he strongly associates with his Scottish heritage as well. D completed his undergraduate studies at Dartmouth University and he attended Cornell University for his degree in medicine. During his studies, both undergraduate and med school, D studied abroad in France two times. While in medical school, D studied at the Faculté de Médecine et de Maïeutique de Lille in Lille, France. English is his primary language, yet he is also fluent in French.
D: Funny thing, it’s hard to remember proverbs out of the blue. They’re so associated with experiences that I usually only think of them in context. On the other hand, I use them all the time to explain things to patients because they get complex ideas across in a familiar and easy way.
Me: What proverbs do you use often?
D: Well, I just used “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” today when talking with a colleague of mine about treating his wife’s normal blood pressure. She gets distressed in some doctor’s offices & her blood pressure rises. In the end we both agreed that “things are normal & should not be messed with.”
Me: Any other proverbs you use?
D: Another classic I use all the time with patients is “if you don’t use it, you lose it” as a universally-recognized motivation to “get off your butt.” I’ve tried it with my dad too, but with no success. My mom and I even mapped out their condo on a piece of paper with distances marked and put it on the fridge in hopes of encouraging him to get out and walk.
D: There’s also: “the larger the island of knowledge, the longer the shoreline of wonder.” This is a recent one which is a favorite of mine, by a pastor in New York named Ralph Sockman, who preached in the 1930s-1960s. My corollary has been “the more the islands of knowledge, the greater the archipelago of understanding.”
Me: What do you mean by that?
D: What I am trying to say is the more stuff you know, the more stuff you understand. I say this to my son a lot. It’s using the things you learn in life like putting the pieces of a puzzle together in order to understand other stuff.
D, while having a bit of trouble at the beginning trying to remember a proverb, ended up talking about three proverbs that he really likes and uses a lot. He uses proverbs in his everyday life, especially with his patients at work, to get across a point that might otherwise be confusing, or maybe even boring. By using proverbs and saying things in a different way, it is more likely to reach someone than by saying the same thing over and over again and hoping for a different reaction every time. So while proverbs didn’t seem to be a prominent part of D’s everyday speech, they are something he uses very frequently.