The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition. 2002.
|The leopard cannot change its spots|
|We cannot change our basic nature. This saying is adapted from|
words in the biblical Book of Jeremiah: “Can the Ethiopian
change his skin, or the leopard his spots?”
The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition. Edited by E.D. Hirsch, Jr.,
Joseph F. Kett, and James Trefil. Copyright © 2002 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
I've always been fascinated by sayings, proverbs, and colloquialisms. No idea why, but where they came from, and what led to their becoming a time tested saying is interesting.
For the most part, these generic sayings can mean most anything the user wants at the time, but there is some specific truths in each of them. The saying I've posted above is one of them. It is in the family of not being able to teach an old dog new tricks, but I've found that one to be untrue. Old dogs are just wiser, and don't really let on that they've mastered some new trick like opening the cupboard where the Milkbones are kept. Why spoil a good thing? Wisdom is something that comes to old dogs.
So, if one reads into the saying about a leopard not being able to change its spots, what exactly does it mean? Are we all destined to be whatever we are now with no chance of ever changing, or are we basically just a person that chooses which way to be at any particular time? That would be better. If one chooses how they perform, or behave, they do have the power to change their spots.
I'm trying to be idealistic here, with some realism thrown in for good measure.
So, this leopard thing got me to thinking, what if I was to witness a "leopard" actually changing his spots?
Whoa. That would be so cool, but then I remember that animals in the wild will adapt their appearance to their environment. The chameleon is a great example. Birds change their coloring from summer to winter in order to blend in with the leafless surroundings. The Yellow Finch is an example of this as they change from brilliant yellow to a light brown in the fall. Most animals change their "spots" for survival, to blend in with the environment in order not to be someones next meal. Other animals change their appearance for the opposite reason, they are looking for that next meal, and need to blend in in order to get it.
It's a conundrum.
This whole "leopard" thing had me thinking about politicians. Seems that President Obama is taking some heat for being the "Change King of Washington", but the new spending bill he pushed through the Congress is laden with "pork". Strange. He said there wouldn't be any earmarks. Then I figured he signed it because the greater good the bill would do far outweighed the lesser good those earmarks would do, so in order to get what he needed, he compromised.
Same ol', same ol'. I was disappointed, but heck, this is a crisis.
Another saying that is can be closely linked to the leopard one is the one about a "wolf in sheeps clothing". Well, sheep don't where clothes, at least not here in Massachusetts, we're far too liberal for that, but what the saying is actually referring to is one that purposely, and temporarily disguises themselves in order to obtain a certain objective in a particular population.
In other words, hide who they really are, blend in, and snatch one of those fooled for a meal. This is a temporary change. A change of convenience. A purposeful deceit.
So, here I am on a Friday morning, the weeks coming to an end, and I wake up with this philosophical puzzlement. Great way to finish out the week. I'd rather be thinking about which color socks to wear.
It is something to think about though, changing ones spots, or blending in for the moment.
We may find out sooner than we know. In the meantime, I have to get some socks on.