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It is a little-known law that most proverbs have an equal and opposite. For example...

  • Too many cooks spoil the broth: Many hands make light work.
  • Fortune favours the brave: Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.
  • Actions speak louder than words: The pen is mightier than the sword.
  • A bird in hand is worth two in the bush: Nothing ventured nothing gained.
  • Etc...

What's a good antiproverb for "Variety is the spice of life"? I can't find one at the moment. I guess it would need to be something about preferring routine, having a favourite, or the benefits of doing things in a consistent way.

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  • 1
    Dance with the one that brung ya. Jul 20 at 15:26

24 Answers 24

40
  • If it's not broken, don't fix it.

Cambridge Dictionary gives the less formal version:

if it ain't broke, don't fix it

said when you recognize that something is in a satisfactory state, and there is no reason to try to change it

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  • 22
    The less formal one is also the much more common, in my opinion. Jun 28 at 10:53
  • 2
    "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" was my first thought when I saw the question.
    – Dan
    Jun 28 at 12:15
  • 8
    Ain't ain't informal. It's cultural. Damn yanks. ; ) Jun 28 at 19:33
  • Impossible not to hear John Cleese delivering the British translation, perhaps to Kevin Kline in 'A Fish Called Wanda'.
    – Dan
    Jun 30 at 13:03
39

How about:

  • Better the devil you know, than the devil you don't.

It is often used in relation to dealing with new people - but it would also apply more widely to other choices such as you describe.

32

The grass is always greener on the other side

Since "variety is the spice of life" implies constantly looking for new experiences as a good thing, this one implies that you should stick to what you already have, and you're looking for new experiences because you don't value the ones you already have.

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    I agree to a degree, other than that, this assumes one does not have a varied life already. Variety is the spice of life could mean: "Life is spicy because you keep it varied". Jun 28 at 8:13
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    Isn't this one used both ways? It's said when the grass really is greener on the other side as well as when warning somebody that the grass just looks greener on the other side until you get there. Jun 29 at 0:47
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    @hippietrail No, it's only used the second way. Or at least, it's only used the second way by people who know what it means. Of course I can't stop people using it to mean the grass is genuinely greener, the same as I can't stop people saying "irregardless", but that's just about them not knowing their own language. :)
    – Graham
    Jun 29 at 7:49
24

To the extent that "variety is the spice of life" implies that change is necessary for happiness, a contrary (though not exactly opposite) proverb might be "A contented mind is a continual feast." Here is the entry for that proverb in Martin Manser, The Facts on File Dictionary of Proverbs (2002):

a contented mind is a continual feast Those who are satisfied with their lot in life are far happier than those who are constantly striving for something better: "'...although I take fifty pounds a year here after taking above two hundred elsewhere, I prefer it to running the risk of having my domestic experiences raked up against me, as I should do if I tried to make a move.' 'Right you are. A contented mind is a continual feast.'" (Thomas Hardy, Jude the Obscure, 895). The proverb was first recorded in 1535 in the form "A quiet heart is a continual feast" (Miles Coverdale, Bible Proverbs {15:15}).

The implication of the proverb is that the way to achieve happiness is not by trying new things or avoiding routine but by being satisfied with what one already has (and does).

14

Here are some from John Clarke's Parœmiologia anglo-latina,1646.

  • It's no safe wading in an unknown water.
  • To every bird his own nest is best.
  • Better sit still than rise up and fall.
  • Better the devil you know. (As user426896 mentioned.)
  • Fresh fish and new-come guests smell by they be three dayes old.
  • Scall'd not your lips in another man's porridge.
  • They need much, whom nothing will content.
  • Hold on and be happie.
  • Cobler keepe to your last.
  • Change not thy old friend for a new.
  • Better to keep under an old hedge than creepe under a new furr-bush.
  • Will you have both fleece and fell?
  • He that medleth with all things may goe shooe the goslings.
  • Put no more irons i'th fire at once than you know how to coole.
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  • An unsettling collection - wisdom relayed in riddles with just a hint of 'The Slaughtered Lamb' about them!
    – Dan
    Jun 30 at 13:01
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    @Dan :-) Ha! I've only just seen this. Yes - they are unsettling when grouped together like that. Dispiriting. I hadn't noticed! The original collection isn't organised by meaning, so it took a while to find vaguely relevant ones. As, like you, I'm a musician, I'd love to know what this one meant: 'He hath crotchets in his head'. Jul 16 at 0:36
7

If “variety is the spice of life” celebrates change, consider pointing out the weakness of continual change:

  • jack of all trades but master of none.

Or stated in the positive:

  • practice makes perfect.
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7

While "variety of the spice of life" typically is used to refer to one's experiences, at least specifically in the realm of people and relationships, the antithesis of this would be

Birds of a feather flock together Rather than seeking variety, we look for the comfort and safety of the familiar.

Like attracts like "People tend to seek out or be attracted to those that are similar or like-minded."

While "variety is the spice of life" encourages one to seek out new and different experiences, many proverbs suggest that one should specifically not abandon the familiar when it is working:

Don't change horses midstream

Tried and true

If it ain't broke, don't fix it

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  • I'd say a better antithesis to "Birds of a feather flock together" or "Like attracts like" would be "Opposites attract". Jun 28 at 15:05
  • @DarrelHoffman - yes, that is the variety proverb restricted to the realm of personal relationships, as I note.
    – Kirt
    Jun 28 at 15:13
7

It's an apocryphal saying, but "May you live in interesting times." (It is usually used ironically as a curse--implying that interesting times are not good to live in.)

Or an actual saying which is less well-known in English: "It’s better to be a dog in a peaceful time than be a man in a chaotic period."

5

"Curiosity Killed the Cat"?

That seemed close-but-no-cigar to me at first, since it means it can be dangerous to investigate certain things or to experiment, but then I thought about when "Variety is the Spice of Life" would be used (I've heard of it, but have never heard a live human speak it). It would be used to talk someone into doing something stupid -- handglide, eat at the Thai-Fusion place reopened after the Health Inspection, try some new BDSM equipment, right? I have a hard time imagining a normal non-risky use: "honey, want to try Romaine lettuce tonight? Variety is the spice of life" would only be in a movie to prove how boring they are.

Put another way, this sounds right to me: "Hey Ralph, want to see if our wives are into you-know-what? Variety is the spice of life.", "I hear you, but for us it's more like curiosity killed the cat".

4

I’m going to take a different tack and suggest that the opposite of “Variety is the spice of life” is the opinion that variation isn’t really that interesting:

If you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all.

Or, as a stretch, that all of that variety is superficial and meaningless:

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

2

This is not a popular proverb, but it seems to ring true, contains the word variety, and disparages excess variety.

Too much variety is the enemy of popular participation.

(Return to Our Roots; Robert F Taft)

2

Maybe something familiar and comfortable: Home, sweet home.

2

If we assume that variety is an illusion, "there is nothing new under the sun" might apply.

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  • But even if there is nothing new, my personal experience of things is limited. So I might easily decide to visit a place I'd never been before, or eat some food I'd never tried. Even though those things might have existed for a long time, they'd be new to me.
    – jamesqf
    Jun 30 at 20:53
  • Places are places and food is food. In the greater scheme of things, there isn't much difference between them all. Jul 1 at 13:16
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    Perhaps if you're starving, or your sense of taste doesn't work all that well. But we have a thriving ethnic restaurant & cookbook industry that says a lot of people think otherwise :-)
    – jamesqf
    Jul 2 at 4:07
  • And about half of the US population think Trump was the greatest POTUS ever. If pop culture and commercialization are your defense, there is little hope for you. :) Jul 2 at 12:33
  • I hardly think variety in cuisine is limited to "pop culture", unless your variety means a choice between McDonalds, Taco Bell, or KFC. And even those limited choices are variety of a sort :-)
    – jamesqf
    Jul 2 at 21:11
2

Small choice in rotten apples

Said when all the options on offer are bad

~Shakespeare in The Taming of the Shrew

2

“I’m a Meat and potatoes kind of guy”

Would seem an appropriate riposte (if not strictly a proverb).

I remember this from a television commercial when I lived in the US in the 70s — certainly not common in Britain — and it seems to me to have both a figurative aspect of being unadventurous, with a specific culinary component as in the proverb.

Definition according to Wiktionary;

meat and potatoes

  1. (informal) Normal, average, typical, unexceptional, or nondescript. Rick is very experimental and open-minded about trying new things, but Ted is a meat and potatoes kind of guy.

The British equivalent might be “meat and two veg”, but I prefer:

chips with everything

partly because of the linguistic difference (British “chips” = US ”French fries”, but even then not the same) and because it recalls the 60s play of the same name by Arnold Wesker.

1

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

Farlex has

proverb Working too much can be bad for one's health or can make one boring

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    That doesn't mean the opposite of "Variety is the spice of life", it is agreeing with it. The OP is looking for proverbs that promote the avoidance of variety. Jun 29 at 10:20
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Let sleeping dogs lie.

Not for variety in the sense of trying new things, but variety in the sense of going back to old things.

A: Why don’t we get out our boards and head down to the skatepark? We haven’t done that for a while.

B: I think we should just let sleeping dogs lie.

1

I would propose a counterproverb which I haven't noticed mentioned:

Out of the frying pan, into the fire.

In your example, variety = change, and change is seen as a positive thing. In this example, variety = change, but change is seen as a negative thing.

1

The question is based on a false premise. Most of the examples (and suggestions given in other answers) are not really opposite. NONE of them are equally opposite.

Take for instance the first example, "Too many cooks spoil the broth" versus "Many hands make light work". In the first case, you have one person - the cook - making decisions. In the second, you have many people doing parts of the work, such as chopping the vegetables & meat that will go into the soup, bringing wood for the fire, and so on.

I would suggest that there's going to be a similar situation with any suggested opposite of "variety is the spice of life": if you examine it closely, it won't be opposite. Take for instance the suggested "a contented mind is a continual feast". This says nothing about WHY the mind in question is contented. It might be living a life with enough variety to spice things up. (But not too much: "moderation in all things" to ring in another proverb.) On the other hand, a life of dull & unrelieved monotony can surely make a for discontented mind :-)

0

What's a good antiproverb for "Variety is the spice of life"?

For a good anti-proverb, one must look for the opposites of "variety" and "spice" (remembering that spice gives flavor, and thus something without spice is flavorless/dull).

The antonym of "variety" is "monotony", and the antonym of "spicy" is "bland". Thus, one must look for a proverb about continuity and blandness being good.

Thus, this quote alegedly by Mehmet Murat ildan, whoever he is: "One has to be dull to feel happy amongst the dull!"

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    If you invert both words, you're going to get the same meaning back. To me, that saying is very much aligned with the original proverb, rather than being its opposite. Jun 28 at 13:02
  • Yeah, but this doesn't say that blandness is good, it is the opposite. It is trying to put down anyone who is happy with blandness. Jun 28 at 13:30
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    Also, while this is a quote, it is hardly a proverb, as the OP requests.
    – Kirt
    Jun 28 at 14:12
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This one is specific to complicated delicate machinery like a computer, the context where I first heard it: "If it works, don't dust it."

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  • I'm struggling to see this as equal and opposite to the proverb of “Variety is the spice of life”. Jul 4 at 20:37
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There’s no place like home.

A very well-known proverb, emphasising the pleasure of the familiar over the novel.

0

"The more things change, the more they stay the same."

Meaning, the "variety" in life is often false.

People tend to repeat or rehash ideas & behavior patterns in ways that are only slightly different than previous generations. How many "as seen on tv" items advertize themselves as "new & amazing" but in reality are just a slight twist on something that is already common place?

  • The "new & amazing" tac-light. - It's just a flashlight. With a heavy -duty metal casing perhaps, but still nothing really new.
  • The "stonewave microwave cooker". - That was so innovative right? One day I was watching an old tv show from the 70's or 80's, and guess what the tv family had? Yeah a "stonewave", well the original iteration I guess, & it looked identical to the ones being advertized as "new & amazing" at the time.
  • A "new & amazing" home workout, fast results & you don't even need to lift weights, it's like no workout you've ever tried, wowie! Just 12 easy payments of $19.95! - Odds are it's an isometric routine, you know, the old "Charles Atlas" system. (and it wasn't even new back when he did it either)
  • A friend told me about "tazos". They're collectable discs that you can play a game with. - Like the pog discs from the 90's.

This concept is nothing new either, just take something (with an expired patent) that people have forgotten about, rebrand it & advertize it as "new & amazing", you'll be rollin' in dough without even having to come up with your own idea!

Hucksters have been parting people from their money with knock-offs & cheap sales gimmicks for as long as there has been money. Possibly even since before there was money. - "Hey Esau, you look really hungry. I'll trade you my 'new & amazing' stew for your birthright..."

Well, the more things change, the more they stay the same...

0

If your looking the exact opposite of "Variety is the spice of life” then I would break down the verb as: Difference = Excitement

The opposite being: Unchanging = Dull

If that is case I'd recommended "All work and no play makes 'name' a dull 'gender'"

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    I think you are looking for the boy, Jack.
    – David
    Jul 1 at 13:41
  • Would be the classic form. However I think the core premises of the saying holds-up whilst allowing the name/gender personalization if using to on/too a particular person. Jul 1 at 14:02
  • The idiom/proverb has already been suggested by @Keith Wolters
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jul 1 at 17:47
  • Apologies to @Keith Wolters for missing that one on my read down the list. Jul 2 at 8:51
  • And apologies to all for my lack of knowledge on how to properly @ someone. Jul 2 at 8:52

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