Pithy aphorisms abound in all professions and practices. Whether you milk goats for a living or paint in oils, there’s something somebody somewhere says that’s intended to make your job more intelligible…or perhaps simply entreats you to do things their way.

Same is true for veterinary medicine. In vet school we’re exposed to a continuous stream of these alternately folksy and blackish-humored maxims. And they stick with you—whether you want them to or not.

Not all are specific to veterinary medicine, of course, but here’s a sampling of the things we were taught either in school or by those old-timers showing us the ropes early in our practice lives:

For all us perfectionists out there here’s one that really keeps things in perspective: The enemy of “good” is “better.”

To assuage the ego of those who, contrary to our expectations for stellar surgeons, make big incisions: They heal from side to side not end to end. (Though that’s not exactly true.)

Then there’s the surgeon’s mantra: A chance to cut is a chance to cure.

And here’s its corollary: The way to heal is with cold blue steel.

If you think about it, all the fun sayings I can remember are mostly applicable to the surgical component of the veterinary job. And that doesn’t seem quite fair, does it?  That’s why I decided to seek some counsel on this.

The result? No good answer from the internal medicine crowd. A surgeon’s perspective on their close-lipped stance? “Internists need six paragraphs to say anything…and maybe a cardiology consult before they’ll commit to it.”

But this answer wasn’t good enough for me so we did a little research and dragged up three more great medical sayings:

This one’s my boss’s favorite, especially when he’s trying to placate an unruly owner impatient for results on a course of treatment: All it needs is some tincture of time.

Here’s my favorite, if only because the surgeons need a little comedown every once in a while: The pen is mightier than the sword: the case for prescription rather than surgery.

And then there’s the tried and true, even better in Latin than anything we could ever devise in our unwieldy English: Primum non nocere. (Above all do no harm.)

If you can come up with others, I’d love to add them to my list.