The More Things Change

Published 12:51 pm Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Commentary by Dr. Don Newbury

Authorities usually offer specifics when asked about origins of expressions. “The more things change, the more they stay the same,” however, is not one of them. Attempts to pinpoint its first use are baffling to some and invite “waffling” for others.

Most linguists agree that the idiom began as a French expression in the mid-19th century.

Hardliners maintain that its genesis is biblical, birthed by the scripture about “nothing being new under the sun.”

I do not wish to enter the debate. First of all, I’m not an authority on anything. And, though I’ve seen more than my share of sunrises, I’ve not seen nearly enough to qualify me to determine what constitutes sameness. Old Sol’s rays were blazing down on folks long before I got here.

Hesitantly, though, I suggest to you that for more than a half-century, my wife and I have witnessed–yea, even participated in–undertakings that are Americana to the utmost.

Garage sales have changed little, if at all.

In our early days of marriage, we rose early on Saturdays to seek garage sales in affluent neighborhoods, rarely to buy items we needed, but more often to purchase items we might

find useful up the way. Once I bought a tackle box full of old lures. I never flung them from a reel, and decades later handed them off to a fellow who collects old lures.

On a recent Saturday, I almost participated in another garage sale. Adding to the allure was the proximity. New neighbors Michelle and Allen had a sale to benefit the Susan G. Komen Foundation.

I hastened next door, my eyes locking on a couple of frilly dresses that had been gently worn, if at all. I pictured granddaughter Addison in them. I was permitted to take them to seek approval at her home a couple of blocks away. During the drive, I imagined her eyes glistening, her hands clapping, and possibly even occasional shrieks of delight.

I was wrong. Still in her PJs and not yet excited about starting a new day, she quickly perused each frock.

She quickly punctured my picture of her being “delighted.” She wanted to know if I had already bought them and then confessed she couldn’t think of any place in the world where she’d wear them.

Admitting she was probably right, I hastened back to the garage sale to hang the dresses back on the rack.

My musing continued. Where, but at garage sales, would one see BMWs and jalopies parked bumper to bumper?

Where else in the Metroplex could one see friendly haggling, and learn that items priced at 25 cents each weren’t moving, but were snapped up when priced three for a dollar?

And where else do prospective shoppers get up “rooster early” to reach garage sales before the hoarders get there? Finally, where else, within a matter of feet, does a customer ask if the seller can make change for a $100 bill, while another, huddled nearby, is counting nickels and pennies, hoping to come up with 75 cents for a clothing item? (She counts 62 cents, and Michelle says that’s close enough.)

Later in the morning, Addison and cousin Kedren (visiting from Tyler) dropped in at the sale as it was winding down. At once the 10-year-olds spotted an electrical item with which they were unfamiliar. It was priced at 50 cents, so how could they go wrong?

I recognized it immediately, an old time piece providing “high time.” You remember them, the old bedside clocks that project the time on the ceiling.

Last I heard, they hadn’t decided if they’d share it for weeks or months at a time, or one would buy the other one out. At least they didn’t buy any fishing lures. And, without expending even one penny, I was reminded that current garage sales are pretty much the same now as they were many sunrises ago.


Dr. Newbury is a speaker in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. Inquiries/comments to: Phone: 817-447-3872. Web site: