If you have not already done so, you may wish to read the
Introduction to Gnomica.
Thursday 9 August 2012
Read gnomica 1-50 here!
“You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.”
Mae West (17 Aug 1893 – 22 Nov 1980)
Here’s one that’s pleasantly upbeat, and this torquing of an old cliché is phat.
Yes, yes, I know that term is dated and so forth – so eighties, really! And I don’t use it here in any kind of dismissive or pejorative sense, just appropriately, I believe, of a once lustrous but now faded icon most people born in those eighties and later probably have never even heard of. But of course once she was the ‘it’ girl of her era, and memorable sayings of hers whether really hers or simply imputed to her are still pretty bitchin’ (so there!).
This baby included!
I don’t argue with the rough outlines of the statement’s denotation, but I think it could use some sanding to smooth out the edges and hone the surface. That is, what is the actual sense here attributed to the two equivocal predicates – ‘right’ and ‘enough’?
The last shall be first.
‘Enough’ sometimes suggests sufficiency, as in “They got enough gas to last the whole trip.” And sometimes it means excess, as in “They got enough of you to last a lifetime.”
‘Right’ here surely is mean to convey something like ‘correctly, suitably, well’.
Can there be any ambiguity about how Mae meant them here?
Surely the idea is that the one life we have is all that – or just what – we need, and not that, lived in a manner we consider right, it is too much for us. I suppose, however, that it could very well depend on your general take on life, your attitudes, your outlooks. Could too much of a sufficiency cloy? Possible, but not likely.
Well, there are times when even I want to tell me just to shut up and go with what any reasonable person would go with. Just can’t help myself … I like to pettifog about language.
In the end, to be sure, Mae’s comment is just a clever way of saying that above all it’s the qualitative aspect of your life that should count. Since you only get one shot, make sure you hit the bull’s-eye, so to speak.
Can one argue against that?