Gnome (nome or no’-mee): One of several terms describing short, pithy sayings. Others include adage, apothegm, maxim, paroemia, proverb, and sententia.

“Short pithy sayings” are the coin of the realm for a sleeping dog like me; up against the wall, without a care in the world, like a warm summer breeze humming like hummingbirds on a nectar picnic, or a baby sleeping on a cloud. But, we mustn’t count our chickens before they hatch, or carry coal to Newcastle, or be a lender or a borrower. But, when the going gets tough, you should get going.

Let me tell you. When I was a little boy, the going got tough. I had never heard the “going gets tough” saying. So, when the going got tough, I didn’t get going. I sat in a corner banging my head against the wall, just like my other did. The wall was dented and dirty, and we injured ourselves. Once, when things were really tough, I gave myself a mild concussion. As I lay there on the floor, I did some thinking—the kind you do when you have a mild concussion, I sang the Murmaids “Popsicles and Icicles” in my head over and over accompanied by the ringing in my ears. When I regained consciousness, the song was gone, but the ringing was still there. Mom was still unconscious and I wondered what was going on in her head—I bet it was Dean Martin’s “When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie.” Mom was such a romantic—maybe it was Tony Bennet. Anyway, I was going to make lunch. I could warm up last night’s tuna noodle casserole. Dad had to work late with his Secretary again last night, so there was plenty of food left. He is a pig and would have licked the bowl clean if he had been here. He has missed dinner every night and come home at 11 for nearly a year. Dad works so hard with his secretary for us and we love him.

Oh dear! I had forgotten about my little brother. He had been locked in his room for three days. Whoops! Better let him out! He was laying on the floor chewing on his shoe and eating the contents of his terrarium. I dragged him into the kitchen and fed him some casserole and gave him a glassful of red Kool Aid to drink. It looked like he’d be able to stand up again soon. Mom started to wake up and wanted a cigarette. I wanted one too. Even though I was only nine, I lit up two, and handed one to Mom. My little brother was coming back to life, and I felt pretty good about that, but not about anything else. Then it dawned on me: “When the going gets tough, the tough get going,” actually means that the “tough” leave—that they go some place else.

So, I left. I went to Las Vegas by bus. Everybody always told me I had a beautiful singing voice. I was singing on the street when Wayne Newton happened by. He found my parents and adopted me. I used my real name—Roy Orbison—and became a star. All the whining and crying I had done growing up attuned my vocal chords to hitting powerful chords of woe. I guess I am grateful to my family for that.

So, don’t forget “When the going gets tough, the tough get going out the door to a new and better life.”

Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (

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