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Words and Sayings

Too Many Cooks: Proverbs at Odds?
Dr. Orville Boyd Jenkins

If many hands make light work, Why do too many cooks spoil the broth. Aren't these two proverbs at odds with each other?

Isn't there a great difference between the rough work of a construction site or clearing a field, on the one hand, and the delicate art of cuisine on the other? One applies to one kind of situation and one to the other.

That said, in reality, proverbs -- bits of "folk wisdom" -- are often contradictory. That is actually one characteristic of folk wisdom. Each proverb capsulizes a bit of insight from one limited situation.

Proverbs are not from any one source, but come out of a limited context of specific experience, thus they are not rationally compared, analyzed and modified to fit some broad rational system.

Someone just quotes an applicable one that agrees with his/her particular opinion in a particular situation, often out of total context to the oiginal context and meaning of the proverb.

The two you quote here are actually quite broadly applicable, as long as you realize the type of work situation each applies to. When is it best to have help in a great task and when is it best to leave a specialist to perform his art?

Written 16 November 2000 on WHQuestion
Posted 2 June 2001

Orville Boyd Jenkins, Ed.D., Ph.D.

Copyright © Orville Boyd Jenkins 2001
Permission granted for free download and transmission for personal or educational use. Other rights reserved.
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