Philly’s coronavirus response

Challenge: Revise a Benjamin Franklin quote for coronavirus times

What would the Founding Father say about the pandemic?

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Challenges where you reinvent commonly known titles or phrases by swapping out a letter or word aren’t new. With the pandemic providing a new theme — and, for some, more time to spend on mind games — these memes are finding renewed life across social media platforms.

A new, local version comes courtesy of Billy Penn reader Bob Spross, (no relation) who created one pegged to Philly’s most famous Founding Father.

Spross was inspired by the Colonial Theater in Phoenixville, which solicited suggestions from its fans on how to change movie names to suit our current situation. “Scarface” became “Scarf Face,” for example, while “Shakespeare in Love” became “Shakespeare in Gloves” and “Close Encounters of a Third Kind” became “No Close Encounters of Any Kind.”

What if, instead of film titles, we used Benjamin Franklin sayings?

Here are some examples Spross started with:

Famous Ben Franklin quote: Join, or die.
Today we might say: Separate, and live.

Famous Ben Franklin quote: In this world nothing is certain but death and taxes.
Today we’d say: In these times there are two certainties: life and isolation.

Famous Ben Franklin quote: Well done is better than well said.
Today we’d say: Well covered is better than wide open.

Famous Ben Franklin quote: He that lies down with Dogs, shall rise up with fleas.
Today we’d say: He that lies down alone, wakes up.

Famous Ben Franklin quote: A penny saved is a penny earned.
Today we’d say: A life saved is worth more than a million dollars earned.

He also provided several more Franklin aphorisms, with the challenge that Billy Penn readers submit a revised statement fitting life during the coronavirus outbreak:

  • An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.
  • By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.
  • God helps those who help themselves.
  • Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days.
  • Beer is living proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.
  • Any fool can criticize, condemn and complain and most fools do.
  • Honesty is the best policy.
  • Wish not so much to live long as to live well.
  • Haste makes waste.
  • He that is wrapped up in himself makes for a small package.
  • When you’re finished changing you’re finished.

“Of course,” Spross added, “if you’re a Franklin fanatic you’d know scads more maxims that can be molded to these trying times.”

(If you’re a history buff, you also might know that some quotes usually attributed to Franklin were probably not actually his.)

Ready to play? Send us your revised Ben Franklin submissions via email or post them on social media (Instagram, Twitter, Facebook). We’ll collect the best and share them with everyone.

Want some more? Explore other Philly’s coronavirus response stories.

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Ben Franklin