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An adage (pronounced /ˈædɨdʒ/), or adagium (Latin), is a short but memorable saying that holds some important fact of experience that is considered true by many people, or that has gained some credibility through its long use. It often involves a planning failure such as "don't count your chickens before they hatch" or "don't burn bridges behind you." Adages may be interesting observations, practical or ethical guidelines, or skeptical comments on life.

Some adages are products of folk wisdom that attempt to summarize some basic truth; these are generally known as proverbs or bywords. An adage that describes a general rule of conduct is a "Maxim". A pithy expression that has not necessarily gained credit through long use, but is distinguished by particular depth or good style is an aphorism, while one distinguished by wit or irony is an epigram. Through overuse, an adage may become a cliché or truism, or be described as an "old saw." Adages coined in modernity are often given proper names and called "laws" in imitation of physical laws, or "principles". Some adages, such as Murphy's Law, are first formulated informally and given proper names later, while others, such as the Peter Principle, have proper names in their initial formulation; it might be argued that the latter sort does not represent "true" adages, but the two types are often difficult to distinguish.

Adages formulated in popular works of fiction often find their way into popular culture, especially when there exists a subculture devoted to the work or its genre, as is the case with science fiction novels. Many professions and subcultures create their own adages, which may be seen as a sort of jargon; such adages may find their way into popular usage, sometimes becoming altered in the process. Online communities, such as those that develop in internet forums or Usenet newsgroups, are known for generating their own adages.[1]

Example adages

  • Laws of infernal dynamics:
    • An object in motion will be moving in the wrong direction.
    • An object at rest will be in the wrong place.
    • The energy required to move an object in the correct direction, or put it in the right place, will be more than you wish to expend but not so much as to make the task impossible.
  • Murphy's Law: Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.
  • John Buckle: You can lead a fish to water but you can't cure its fin rot.
  • TANSTAAFL: There ain't no such thing as a free lunch.
  • If you want a job done well, then do it yourself.

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