Is the Glass Half Full or Half Empty? Who Cares?!

It’s time to bury the glass half-full/half-empty metaphor. Here is the truth of it: If you are filling a glass, when you get to the halfway mark, the glass is half full. If you are emptying a glass, either by drinking it or pouring it out, when you get to the halfway mark, the glass is half empty. The amount of liquid in a drinking glass is an example of action not perception. And you know the truth of this. If I tell you a waitperson brought a bottle of wine and two glasses to the table and that a woman held out a hand when her glass was half full, you immediately presume the server had been filling the glass. If I tell you a waitperson brought two glasses of wine to the table and that a woman waited until her glass was half empty to begin to place her order, you immediately presume she’d been drinking the wine. In neither case does the partial glass of liquid leave you with a perception of optimism or pessimism. It’s merely a result of the action.

Even if it were a matter of perception, why is a “glass half-full kind of guy” considered to be a more upbeat, positive person than a “glass half-empty kind of guy”? Take for example a glass of very rare wine, so rare these are the last few ounces of its kind. While you are savoring every sip, delighting that half of a glass still remains, you can at the same time be experiencing the bittersweet knowledge that this glass of precious liquid is half empty. Which makes every remaining taste even more precious. In this case, the amount of liquid in the glass has nothing to do with positive or negative feelings and everything to do with appreciation.

If a glass with liquid in it is sitting on a table unattended, is it half full or half empty? I don’t care, and you shouldn’t either. You don’t know what it is, how long it has been there, who it belongs to, so it has no bearing on your state of mind. If this orphan glass is your responsibility to deal with or if you are a neat-freak who cannot bear to have unknown liquids lurking about, the glass is half empty because you will pour it out. Unless of course, you are so desperate for a drink you down the liquid despite its dubious origin. In which case, the glass is empty . . .  and so is your stomach after you throw up.

So please, let’s bury this particular metaphor in the graveyard of moribund cliches and be done with it.

The Proverbial Cliché

The only writer worse than one who falls back on clichés is one who prefaces the cliché with “proverbial.” That construct has been used so often it has become a cliché in itself. Even worse, it draws attention to the writer. It says that the writer is too lazy to come up with something original, but he or she knows it’s a cliché, so it’s okay.

No, it’s not okay. I admit that sometimes only a cliché will work, like the tip of the iceberg; it’s almost impossible to come up with another metaphor for something that is mostly unseen with only a bit showing. But if you are going to use a cliché, use it proudly. Don’t hide behind the mealy-mouthed “proverbial.”

In the past few months, I’ve come across:

The proverbial iceberg
The proverbial whipped puppy
Capture the proverbial brass ring
Out like the proverbial light
Bite the proverbial bullet
Kick the proverbial bucket
Shining like the proverbial beacon
Deer in the proverbial headlights
Proverbial duck to water
Wither on the proverbial vine
Needle in the proverbial haystack
Sleep like the proverbial top
The proverbial red herring
The proverbial shit hit the proverbial fan
The proverbial proverb

Okay, so I didn’t see the last one, but at the rate authors are tossing “proverbial” our way, it’s only a matter of time.

Note: all of these proverbial clichés were found in books by brand name writers. Another example of don’t do as they do.

Burying That Old Half-Empty/Half-Full Glass

Are you as sick of that whole glass-half-full/half-empty saying as I am? Not only is it clichéd, it’s a ridiculous analogy. How you see a glass has nothing to do with your optimism or lack thereof.

When you are filling a glass (or any container) and you get to the halfway mark, the glass is half-full.

When you are emptying a glass, either by pouring out the liquid or imbibing it, and you reach the halfway mark, the glass is half-empty.

It isn’t how you see the glass; it’s what you are doing with it that matters.

So, now that this particular cliché has been declared deader than a doornail, (another ridiculous cliché that is so dead it stinks) can we bury it and get on with life?