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by Abigail Van Buren

Old Fashioned Epigrams Linger as Fond Memories

DEAR READERS: A reader signed "Desperate in Ohio" reported that a verse her aunt told her many years ago was rattling around in her head, but she couldn't remember the last line. It went, "If 'ifs' and 'ans' were pots and pans ... "

Yesterday, my column was filled with letters from readers eager to provide the missing line, " ... there'd be no work for tinkers." Today we'll see some fascinating variations on the theme. Read on for a sample:

DEAR ABBY: Not only do I remember my mother quoting the same phrase to me, she had another one: "If wishes were horses, beggars would ride." Both are from a bygone generation that held no truck with the "If only" and "I wish" mentality. In other words, if you want something to happen in your life, work for it. If something happens you don't like, deal with it, grow from it and move on. Don't just wish, complain and blame.

We could use a little more of that sage wisdom in this day of frivolous lawsuits, cheating in schools and business, etc. -- LEE BAKER DEVORE, HAMILTON, OHIO

DEAR LEE: You're right. And if everyone swept his own doorstep, this world would be a cleaner place. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: My Pennsylvania Dutch grandmother used to always say, "If 'ifs' and 'ands' were pots and pans, you wouldn't have to buy any!" She had quite the collection of little sayings, including, "If you put your shoes upon the table, you'll be bad when you are able." (My mother amended that one to: "Tables are for glasses, not for a--ses!")

There were many more for all occasions, and my cousins and I thought she was the smartest woman in the world. I still miss her after 35 years. -- CHRIS GORNIK, LEVELGREEN, PA.

DEAR CHRIS: Amazing how those early lessons stay with us. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: My sixth-grade teacher, the late Leona Hickey of Allegany, N.Y., used to recite the old "'Ifs' and 'Ans'" proverb to us in class (circa 1950).

Mrs. Hickey had many little epigrams. Another of her gems: "Whether it's cold or whether it's hot, we're sure to have weather, whether or not!" -- JOYCE HILLER, REDONDO BEACH, CALIF.

DEAR JOYCE: She certainly had a way with words (may she rest in peace).

DEAR ABBY: The phrase, "If 'ifs' and 'ans' were pots and pans, we'd have no need of tinkers," derives from George Bernard Shaw's play "Saint Joan," when Joan of Arc, under ecclesiastic interrogation for heresy, responds in exasperation to questions and accusations from her English persecutors.

I was in a Sydney stage production of "Saint Joan" starring Zoe Caldwell in 1962 (and later played the Earl of Warwick in a London BBC two-part television production of the story), but Zoe's earnest frustration so fervently rendered still resonates in my mind 40 years later. -- ALLAN LANDER (RETIRED ACTOR IN SAVANNAH)

DEAR ALLAN: Retired or not, take a bow!

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