You Just Can't Get There From Here...
June 1, 2014 2:22 PM   Subscribe

I recall reading an anecdote where a guy said "I would give my left arm to be ambidextrous!" I am looking for other similarly broken in a you-just-can't-get-there-from-here way metaphors, anecdotes and mental models.

I recently talked about my previous plans to basically find the right Spartan Store* to BUY myself a more Spartan life and how it took me a long, long time to get it through my thick skull that I just needed to get rid of stuff and not buy more stuff. I discussed this with my sons today and some of the eye-roll worthy moments where my oldest son wanted to throw something out and my reply was "I can't afford to replace it" and he was all "Um, no, I just want to throw it out and that's the entire plan. No replacing it required." and I just couldn't quite wrap my brain around it.

I also once used the phrase on this site "It's like f***ing to preserve virginity." That's the kind of idea I am looking for -- something that just absolutely does not work.

Please give me your "oh, god, no that just does not" work phrases, mental models and stories.

* Spartan as in "not owning much" not Spartan as in the Greek city-state of Sparta.
posted by Michele in California to Grab Bag (42 answers total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
"If you fall out of that tree and break your legs, don't come running to me!"
posted by Linnee at 2:30 PM on June 1 [3 favorites]

Not so much a metaphor, but I'm immediately reminded of the way my ISP's customer service number always tells me that most questions can be answered online on their helpful website, when I'm only ever calling them because my internet is down.
posted by Sequence at 2:31 PM on June 1 [8 favorites]

From Outside Providence, "You wouldn't know a classy broad if she took a dump on your head."
posted by STFUDonnie at 2:37 PM on June 1 [2 favorites]

You might check some of Yogi Berra's quotes. For instance:
Nobody goes there anymore. It's too crowded.
posted by nightwood at 2:38 PM on June 1 [4 favorites]

There's an episode of The Simpsons that ends with some of the characters at the bottom of a really deep hole that they've dug:
Quimby: I guess we're not going to find anything.
Otto: Um, how are we going to get out of here?
Homer: We'll dig our way out!
Wiggum: No, no, dig UP, stupid.
And I love the metaphor used in Hyperbole and a Half's first entry on depression:
But trying to use willpower to overcome the apathetic sort of sadness that accompanies depression is like a person with no arms trying to punch themselves until their hands grow back. A fundamental component of the plan is missing and it isn't going to work.
posted by Metroid Baby at 2:38 PM on June 1 [6 favorites]

in the 1960s, the comedy ensemble which called itself "bert and i" did a sketch "which way to millinocket" in their usual thick downeast (maine) accents which involved a lot of directions, ultimately concluded by "you can't get there from here."
posted by bruce at 2:52 PM on June 1 [1 favorite]

Well, I got lost once and asked directions at a gas station and the guy asked "well, where were you coming FROM", and I told him and he said "you can't get HERE from THERE..."
posted by oneswellfoop at 3:00 PM on June 1

(To add to your own example), I've always heard the phrase in full as "Going to war for peace is like fucking for virginity"

There's also the trope in movies/books whatever, where a character says "If we die, I'm going to kill you"
posted by FirstMateKate at 3:13 PM on June 1

My nana always told me to "get on your knees and thank god you are on your feet."
posted by saucysault at 3:18 PM on June 1

Which Way to Millinocket by Bert & I. Pure old-time country corn.
posted by ardgedee at 3:25 PM on June 1 [1 favorite]

Well, it's supposed to be humorous, but the more you look at work the more you can find situations analagous to "the beatings will continue until morale improves." Lately we're supposed to provide more management coaching and extra oversight to make our technicians more empowered and self-sufficient. Yeah.

Or trying to get a more cohesive, "fun" team by making them go to mandatory after-work functions. (Which, double-ironically, actually sort-of works because it gives them a common gripe to bond over. Management.)
posted by ctmf at 3:27 PM on June 1

"Pulling yourself up by your bootstraps" makes zero sense unless your feet are not in your boots. (I remember a satirical superhero comic in my childhood with the main character literally pulling himself up by his bootstraps... he was floating upward, all bent over so he couldn't see where he was going...)
posted by oneswellfoop at 3:29 PM on June 1

These are also known as Irish bulls. You can find a bunch more if you google that phrase. (Some of the more famous ones are "An Irishman would rather die than be buried out of Ireland" and "An Irishman is never at peace unless he's fighting," but not all of them have to do with Ireland.)
posted by Violet Hour at 3:55 PM on June 1 [3 favorites]

"To hell with anything coarse or unrefined" is the motto of Mehitabel the alley cat, who was once Cleopatra.
posted by Quietgal at 4:01 PM on June 1 [4 favorites]

One of my favorites: "Eschew obfuscation."
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 4:20 PM on June 1 [2 favorites]

A line spoken by John Larroquette on Night Court (if anyone remembers that show): "A Nobel Peace Prize. Man, I'd KILL for one of those."
posted by Mallenroh at 4:46 PM on June 1

"We had to destroy the village in order to save it."
posted by marsha56 at 5:14 PM on June 1 [1 favorite]

Like most Cancers, I don't believe in Astrology.

If you can't read this, blame a teacher.

Death to all Fanatics!

Vote Anarchist.

They told me I was too skeptical, but I refuse to believe them.
posted by namewithoutwords at 5:15 PM on June 1

"I'll burn that bridge when I come to it"
posted by itesser at 5:27 PM on June 1

"no fighting in the war room."
posted by bruce at 5:45 PM on June 1 [5 favorites]

Support Mental Health or I'll Kill You
posted by jcworth at 6:02 PM on June 1

Eisenhower was to have said "Damn it! We'll have peace even if we have to fight for it!" He also said "Things are more like they are now, than they've ever been before." I Like Ike!!
posted by sgobbare at 6:57 PM on June 1 [1 favorite]

"Nobody follow us or I kill myself and then her!" (From "Knight and Day".)
posted by anaelith at 7:10 PM on June 1 [1 favorite]

I don't know if this quite works, but in law school one of my professors made the comment that the process of becoming a partner in a law firm was like "a pie-eating contest where the prize is more pie." I've used that many times since.
posted by argyle dreams at 7:43 PM on June 1 [8 favorites]

This is sort of adjacent to what you're actually looking for, but my dad often said, "'I see,' said the blind man, as he picked up his hammer and saw."
posted by naturalog at 8:17 PM on June 1

"If speaking English was good enough for Jesus, it's good enough for me!'
posted by double block and bleed at 9:14 PM on June 1 [1 favorite]

I remember a sitcom character from a long time ago responding to a shocking comments with "If your grandfather was alive, he'd turn over in his grave!"

There's also the infamous "Keep your government hands off my Medicare" comment.
posted by bibliowench at 10:30 PM on June 1

A lot of our local government flyers and public announcements and letters and so on have a small line at the bottom that says (in English), "If you do not read English, please contact [ph number] to request a copy of this information in your own language."
posted by lollusc at 10:51 PM on June 1 [1 favorite]

I used to be agnostic, but now I'm not so sure.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 11:24 PM on June 1 [1 favorite]

You have to go to people's funerals otherwise they won't come to yours.
posted by Jode at 3:31 AM on June 2 [2 favorites]

"I'm sure we all agree that we ought to love one another and I know there are people in the world that do not love their fellow human beings and I hate people like that" -Tom Lehrer, "National Brotherhood Week"
posted by softlord at 6:05 AM on June 2

One time when I was younger by brother threatened to kill me. He told me I was going to "wake up dead."

There's an old Jon Krakauer article about what it's like to be stuck in a tent for days and weeks at a time, your sanity rapidly fading and your resources running out. He quotes someone, I'm not sure who, with "If we had some ham, we could make ham and eggs. If we had some eggs."

I've always loved that quote.
posted by bondcliff at 6:15 AM on June 2

Stamp out and destroy redundancy! (and we don't need no double negatives, either!)
posted by MrMoonPie at 6:37 AM on June 2

Violet Hour's mention of the Irish Bulls reminded me of two album titles from an Irish band I like: "If I'd've been here, I'd've been there" and "No matter how cold and wet you are, so long as you're warm and dry"
posted by aimedwander at 6:56 AM on June 2

"Ed Gruberman, you must learn patience."
"Yeah, yeah, yeah, patience; how long will that take?"

The important thing is sincerity. Once you can fake that, you've got it made.
posted by Shmuel510 at 7:07 AM on June 2

Firesign Theater made astonishing radio programs (and films and records of those) which employed exactly this type of psychedelic logic.
posted by cleroy at 7:45 AM on June 2

I'm lying.
posted by adamrice at 8:33 AM on June 2

These are all great! Thanks so much to everyone who has answered so far.

I have been thinking about my comment that I planed to "BUY myself a more spartan life." It might be more accurate to say I fully planned to accumulate a more spartan life. I absolutely was going to keep buying stuff until that somehow resulted in less stuff. Cuz I am a freakin' genius.

Also, there is this thing I see sometimes: Men with well established career success and thus money who are still single and now want to get married. And they want to avoid ending up with a gold digging whore running through their accumulated wealth yet their plan is, nonetheless, to basically go fishing using their money as the bait. And also also they feel that the money should give them advantages in the relationship. Because that totally gets you to a loving, caring, marriage of equals based NOT ON THEIR MONEY.

Sure it does, sweetie.
posted by Michele in California at 9:48 AM on June 2

my tennis coach: "I want to see your backs up against the wall!"
posted by So You're Saying These Are Pants? at 4:19 PM on June 2

I saw an AARP mug yesterday... on someone's desk at work. (I know it doesn't stand for "retired" any more, but it made me laugh.)
posted by anaelith at 4:42 AM on June 3

>One time when I was younger by brother threatened to kill me. He told me I was going to "wake up dead."

There's an old Jon Krakauer article about what it's like to be stuck in a tent for days and weeks at a time, your sanity rapidly fading and your resources running out. He quotes someone, I'm not sure who, with "If we had some ham, we could make ham and eggs. If we had some eggs."

I've always loved that quote.

Since the 70's (at least), my dad's been saying, "If we had some chicken, we could have chicken and dumplings, if we had any dumplings."
posted by Joseph Gurl at 10:16 PM on June 3

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