Not all proverbs from the past fit today's circumstances. In the first place, we may not know the origin, thus skewing the meaning.

"A new broom sweeps clean" has been around since the 13th century. Its logic appears easy to comprehend. An old broom with its straws worn down halfway to the end of the handle can neither cover as much territory nor capture trash as well as a fuller, more flexible broom.

I remember that it was a big deal to have a new broom. The old one could be relegated to the back porch for duty and the handle of the one it replaced there could be bound around with buck berry bush cuttings to make a yard broom.

Incidentally, we know that the Shakers invented the flat broom, among many other ahead-of-the-times tools and products.

Over time, "A new broom sweeps clean" has come to mean that a new person in a certain position is doing a better job than his or her predecessor, or a new idea gets better results. Our tone of voice sometimes might carry sarcasm, indicating that after the "new wears off," that first saying might not hold true.

When my parents put me to bed with the rhyme "Good night, sleep tight," I thought they meant to shut my eyes tight. Well, they might have, but the origin came from the time that you periodically would need to tighten the ropes on the bed frame that held the straw mattress because they would stretch. Thus the bed would be firmer to sleep on. Box springs and foam mattresses had not yet been conceived.

An interesting example of how the original meaning of a saying has been misconstrued relates to the Bible verse Romans 12:20--"Piling burning coals on the head of our enemy." In that time, if a family's life-sustaining fire went out, the best way to rekindle it was to get a small portion of burning coals from a neighbor. The coals were carried home in a bucket balanced on the head. So then the neighbor "piled' or "heaped' the coals in the bucket, that would mean that he was being generous and helpful.

The Bible verse does not mean that we should harm those who mistreat us. Instead, offer blessings rather than hurt and the ultimate result will be greater.

We may say that someone is "dressed to the nines" but can we explain it? When a gentleman went to a tailor years ago to have a suit made, the best construction would need nine yards of material. Some scraps would be left over, but this added yardage allowed the tailor to line the direction of the fabric grain in a way that created the most beautiful suit.

The lesson to myself about proverbs is that I'd be wiser to speak literally in today's terms instead of through cutesy phrases unless I know for sure what I'm talking about.