What do you do about alleged Chinese proverbs? Try to source them and discard them if they prove phoney?
“May you live in interesting times”, the supposed Chinese curse, is often asserted to be phoney, although according to this Wikipedia article the argument isn't all on one side. [But see note.] The fact is, that whether or not it’s ever been a Chinese curse, it’s certainly become an English saying, of which the first use known to the Wikipedia contributor was by Robert F. Kennedy in 1966. Actually the more I think about it, the less plausible it is that living in interesting times is an idiom that can be freely exchanged between Chinese and English.
Which brings us back to The first step to wisdom is getting things by their right names. Well, I like it. So let’s just say that the first step to wisdom, as E O Wilson says the Chinese say, is getting things by their right names, and leave it at that. Let's not concern ourselves with whether it really is ancient Chinese wisdom.
|E O Wilson in 2007, age 78|
I'm told by the way (see this review for example) that were I to read to the end of E O Wilson's book, I may not like it. Be that as it may, to find a pearl on page 2 isn't bad going.
Note added January 2017. The Wikipedia article has recently been amended, and if you follow the link you will find that actually the argument really is all on one side, that is to say, despite being known as "the Chinese curse", the saying is apocryphal, and no actual Chinese source has ever been produced. Moreover it appeared in English in 1936 not 1966.