Phrase Examination II: “A penny saved is a penny earned”

July 14, 2010 - Humour

See the previous post in this series: Phrase Examination I: “happy as a clam”

In today’s episode of phrase examination, I examine the phrase “A Penny saved is a penny earned”.

This saying is usually used when somebody either finds a small amount of money or has made arrangements in which they save a small amount of money.

However, the concept is flawed! you see, saving a penny indicates placing it somewhere for safety and for the express purpose that it be spent or used later. Following this, it doesn’t matter how that money is acquired originally- stolen money can be saved just as easily as earned money.

Therefore, while on the surface the phrase is harmless, what it’s really doing is encouraging criminals the phrase essentially says that if you steal money, you’ve properly earned it simply by saving it. What utter nonsense that is, I say! The real meaning should be more like “A Penny Earned should be a penny saved”, since not only does it make assertions that are logical fallacies such as saying that all pennies that are saved were all earned. Since earn, by definition, means “acquire or deserve by one’s efforts or actions” they are saying indirectly (but quite clearly) that if you save money, no matter wether you stole it or acquired it by selling drugs or other illegal means, you still earned it legitimately. I take issue with this.

While assertions such as direct comparision saying “X is Y” when it is clear that not all of X can possibly be Y are rather common when it comes to phrases, this is one of the few that actually encourages criminal behaviour. Do we really want our children to learn these sayings? When a young child finds a penny on the street, do their parents say “a penny saved is a penny earned”? because a day might come where it is revealed that that child has saved up millions of dollars that they had stolen through embezzlement and theft, should we hold the parents responsible for telling their children that this is right? Should we allow these vagrant assertions to rule our daily lives, and fray the very fabric of morality in all of us for the purpose of a single cute saying?

I for one say no, I say no to these asserted logical fallacies and the results that they bring, and I encourage everybody to curtail their use of such ridiculous phrases!

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