Waste Not Want Not Proverb Essay

Proverb Essay: Waste Not, Want Not

Yesterday I wrote about a proverb, "A rolling stone gathers no moss," whose meaning comes from metaphorical interpretations. There are also proverbs which are not metaphorical, but which instead derive their power from stylistic elegance, being something like a poem in miniature. As an example of one of these literal proverbs, consider the English saying: Waste not, want not. It has several stylistic features - even if it is just four words long! - which account for its effectiveness as a proverbial saying.

The first feature of note is the length itself: this saying is short, extremely short in fact. Although the verbal forms are technically imperatives, the expression is really more of a condensed hypothetical: If you do not waste anything, you will not want for anything (i.e. want in the sense of to lack, to be without).

In addition to the highly compressed form, the saying is also composed with an elegant parallel structure: X not, Y not. This type of repetition is a hallmark of poetic expression, something that marks it as being different from the less orderly forms of spontaneous everyday expression.

Finally, there is also the alliteration in the words: waste - want. For more about the importance of alliteration in poetry, there is an informative article at Wikipedia. If you want to use a fancy label, you could say that this is trochaic dimeter; a trochee consists of a stressed syllable followed by an unstressed syllable, of which we have two here, hence trochaic di-meter.

For even more alliteration, consider this similar English saying, "Wilful waste makes woeful want," which again features the alliteration "waste" and "want," but which adds "wilful" and "woeful" to compound the alliteration, along with the repetition of -ful to reinforce the parallelism. And if you like poetic labels, this one is catalectic trochaic tetrameter, which is to say that it consists of four trochees minus the final unstressed syllable, therefore catalectic.

For a poster to illustrate this saying, I used a recycling image which also has the very elegant effect of a world of nature reflected in the metal recycling container! Details here:



Meaning: The phrase, ‘waste not, want not’ means that “if you don’t waste money and other vital resources in your present moment, then you will never fall short of it in the future.”

In simple words, if you save money, valuable or other thing in your present time, then these things will remain there for your future use, and you will not feel the need to get it again.

Teachings: Not just money, one should not waste such thing as food, valuables, etc. One should also not waste his time, and energy in doing wasteful tasks.

Brief explanation: A person indulged in wasteful expenditure will not be able to save much for his future. On the other hand, a person who saves money every moment will have enough money to fulfill his wants in future.

People who spend money only on things that they need will never suffer from want. However, people who waste money on thing that they do not need may suffer from want of money. It is very difficult for such person to avoid the pinch of poverty.

One should spend money cautiously. It should never be spent in an un-economical manner. It is said, ‘money saved is money earned.’ Similarly, wasteful expenditure is equivalent to losing money.

A similar proverb says, “Willful waste makes woeful want”. It you willfully waste money, food, valuables, time, energy, etc. in the present moment, then you may get into a situation when there is shortage of supply of such things. Remember, “Time is money”. Time wasted on unproductive tasks is lost forever. One cannot stop the passage of time. Every ones energy and talents are valuable assets that should be put in right direction. Wastage of time, energy and aptitude is equally harmful for an individual.

Conclusion: The proverb warns us that we should not carelessly waste money and such other things that are vital to human life. One should never waste any such thing that is difficult to acquire. If we can avoid waste, we will surely experience happiness in our lives.

Category: Proverbs, Sayings, Idioms and Phrases

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