Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Chicken And Egg (MY Eng #24)

This is part of a running series about English idioms - less about language, more about life itself. Previously, we covered 'missing the woods for the trees', 'the elephant in the room', 'practising what you preach', blowing hot and cold', 'no smoke without fire', 'one swallow does not make a summer', 'apples and oranges', 'cut to the chase', 'leave no stone unturned', 'that's the way the cookie crumbles', 'can't have your cake and eat it too', 'old is gold', 'putting the cart before the horse', 'mountain out of a molehill', 'pot calling the kettle black', 'bite the bullet', 'go the extra mile', 'silence is golden', 'the devil is in the details', 'sink or swim', 'once bitten twice shy', 'don't count your chickens before they hatch' and 'don't put all your eggs into one basket'.

Okay, last one about flightless birds that go 'cluck, cluck', I promise!

How did we get here? Counting chickens before they hatch, not putting all eggs into one basket, and now this. Both largely touched on the same theme - risk-management. Not jumping for joy too soon, not being overly optimistic on slim odds. There are probably more avian expressions to draw from (eg walking on egg-shells). But best to draw the line before chicken-lovers start accusing me of discriminating against the poor defenceless birds, and going against my own advice about not putting all eggs into...

You get the idea. Best not not to keep repeating myself like a broken record (another idiom!). Let's not beat around the bush, and get all ducks into a row (see, I'm picking on other animals and plants too)...

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When a situation goes wrong, we often wonder where and how did it start going wrong. Getting to the root of a problem is the first step to solving it, after all. But most problems are complicated. We have trouble even pinpointing the exact starting point. Did X cause Y to happen, or Y caused X? When things get really messy, we call it a 'chicken-and-egg' situation.

Which came first - the chicken, or the egg? That's a tough pickle for even scientists to figure out. The astrophysics equivalent is the 'Big Bang Theory' - did our universe really start off with a giant explosion? There are no easy answers. It's a paradox, see? Nature tells us that all chickens hatch out of eggs. But eggs are pop out of the buttocks of hens. So where did the first egg or hen come from (whichever side you're leaning towards)?

This ain't a language class, much less a fortori a science class (I've always wanted to use that Latin word in a proper sentence, pardon if I'm getting it wrong). The point is here is that most our of everyday problems are akin to the chicken-and-egg conundrum. We just don't even know where to start. There's a limit to how far back we can rewind, and where we can go. Some things are just lost in the mist of time, or hidden behind 'no trespassing' signs.

Sometimes, we have to accept that there are things that are simply unknowable (or difficult to unravel without time and energy that we cannot afford to expend). It's fine if we can't conduct a full-fledged investigation. Move on. Pick up the pieces. No point beating our heads against the wall and going in circles (double idiom!).

* * *

Is it important to figure out the root cause to our life problems? Definitely. That's a given, the default position.

Still, the quest for the truth shouldn't detract us from thinking of practical solutions. Often times, blaming a problem as a 'chicken-and-egg' situation is just a convenient excuse to avoid or delay action.

In short, don't chicken out from your job. Whether the chicken or egg came first, life still needs to go on.

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