Proverb Parody – Brooklyn New York

Original Proverb:

“If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all”

Proverb Parody:

“If you don’t have anything nice to say, come sit by me”

Betsy learned this proverb parody from her father when she was young living in Brooklyn, New York.  Since then she has always used the phrase with her children who she hopes continue to pass it on.  “I feel that on the surface this proverb parody appears to promote “bad-mouthing” others, but I the true meaning is that one should not bottle up their emotions; instead, they need to let it all out.  I always felt a sentimental vibe to this proverb parody because when I was younger, if I had problems with friends I would go and complain or “bad-mouth” to my father.  Usually these talks with my father would end up productive and help me figure out and settle problems with friends.”  By telling her children this proverb parody, she is reaffirming to her children that she is always there to talk to, even if you don’t have anything nice to say about someone else.

I feel that this proverb parody is extremely relevant in the modern world where we are all emphasized to express our opinions.  In the past, the original proverb served to prevent altercations and any problems, but this parody emphasizes expressing your feelings to one another.  While the original parody attempts to protect friendships by telling one to hold back from “mean” remarks, I believe that there is also a motif of friendship in this parody because it is proclaiming that the people who you are close to are the one’s you can say anything to, and they will listen.  That is a theme of friendship and this proverb parody reaffirms that.

This proverb parody shows up in the film Steel Magnolias, which was created in 1989.  What I find interesting is that Betsy learned this proverb parody growing up in the 1960s, yet the proverb parody survived to the late 80’s and on.  And while Betsy was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, the creator of Steel Magnolias was born and raised in Alabama.  Therefore, historic geographic can’t exactly pin point where the parody originated from.


Steel Magnolias. dir. Herbert Ross. Rastar Films, 1989.