By Wayne Chan
I’ve always wondered where that expression in the headline started. Nowadays, the expression is reserved for people who have overcome an obstacle or endured a hardship.
But, it’s not usually used in a truly life threatening situation. I doubt the first thing you’ll hear when you see a guy get run over by a bus is, “Somebody call a doctor! I hope he’s OK. Well, you know what they say…whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”
I have my own theories on where that expression started. My guess is that the expression was coined the first time someone was experimenting with some new discovery.
It could have been an engineer testing automobile air bags for the first time before someone else had discovered “crash test dummies”. Maybe it was the first person to try cooking metal in a microwave.
My own guess is that it started with some medical advancement hundreds, maybe even thousands of years ago. I wonder if some ancient medicine man in Asia might have uttered this now famous expression the same day they discovered acupuncture.
Now, before anyone starts writing me e-mails on why I’m poking fun (pun intended) at an ancient and proven method of eastern medicine, let me just say that I absolutely believe in the benefits of acupuncture as well as all other alternative Asian remedies. My only question is what motivated the first person to come up with the idea of sticking sharp objects into ones body for medicinal purposes?
I’ve got a raging headache. I wonder what would happen if I shoved this huge needle into my toe?
What I am poking fun at (OK, now I’m just being redundant) is how this alternative medicine came to be. At some point, thousands of years ago, I imagine a poor guy with some painful malady went in to see the village healer.
At some point in the diagnosis, the village healer must have said something like this to the patient:
Village Healer: OK. I see the problem. You have a hernia. We will have to operate. Let me give you your choices. In the past, our only choice to curb the pain during surgery was to take a huge mallet and knock you senseless with it until you are out. While you are still, we perform the procedure. You’ll heal from the surgery in a couple of days but it might take you a few weeks to wake up and recover from the beating.
Patient: Village healer, you said I had a choice. What is the alternative to the mallet? (hence the term, alternative medicine).
Village Healer: The alternative is a new procedure we’ve been looking at where we insert these sharp needles into your body in an attempt to block out the pain signals from reaching your brain. However, since this is the first time we’ve attempted this and don’t know what goes where, we’re going to have to poke around until we hit the right nerve. Since this is experimental, I would still recommend going with the mallet.
The patient spends the next few minutes shifting glances between the mallet and a huge pincushion while the village healer impatiently looks at his sundial while waiting for a decision.
Village Healer: Well, have you made up your mind?
Patient: Umm…I think I’ll just keep the hernia.
Village Healer: Nonsense. Look, whatever doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.
And with that, an expression was born.