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Wednesday, May 28, 2014


I just returned from a long weekend in the Tulsa area. My mother is selling her house in Owasso, which is a northeastern suburb that has experienced incredible growth in the ~25 years she lived there.

This sign is a relatively new addition as I didn't notice it in my December visit:

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I investigated and found that back in 2002 the city government voted for a "character initiative." They apparently pick a trait of the month and the one for May 2014 is discretion.

A friend of mine from college used to paraphrase Shakespeare by saying "discretion is the better part of valor." However, the typical usage misses the irony the Bard intended:
In Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part I when Prince Hal finds the cowardly Falstaff pretending to be dead on the battlefield, the prince assumes he has been killed. After the prince leaves the stage, Falstaff rationalizes “The better part of Valour, is Discretion; in the which better part, I haue saued my life” (spelling and punctuation from the First Folio, Act 5, Scene 3, lines 3085–3086). 
Falstaff is saying that the best part of courage is caution, which we are to take as a joke. Truly courageous people may be cautious, but caution is not the most important characteristic of courage. 
This passage is loosely alluded to in the saying “discretion is the better part of valor,” which is usually taken to mean that caution is better than rash courage or that discretion is the best kind of courage. Only Shakespeare scholars are likely to be annoyed by this usage. 

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