A Chip Off The Old Block

How do you say happy birthday to a child of one’s loins? There are many ways. One way to show closeness to the child is by saying that they are a chip off the old block. Of course, there are some children who would not want that. What do some children want in this current age? It is the importance of the individual. And an individual would not like to think of him or herself as a chip off anything at all.

Chip - a happy birthday card to a younger relative - probably a son - with a a set of coloured blocks and one block tipped over at an angle to show it is a chip off the old block

What about those with more humility? They may have insight into the forces that formed them. From acknowledging that they can take pleasure in being called a chip off the old block.

Our take on this for a birthday card is to see those little chips assembled into a block. At least all of them assembled into a block except for one. That one is making its own way. But equally, that chip owes its origin to the substance of the block.

The Origin Of The Phrase

There is more than one claim to the origin of the phrase ‘a chip off the old block’. One source describes a sermon by a Dr. Sanderson in the 1600s who asks, rhetorically, is it not true that he is a chip of the old block, a child of Adam? Another source gives the credit to stonemasons in ancient times who used chips of a block of stone to make decorative pieces to go with the main carving.

Somehow that second claim doesn’t quite hit the spot with me. It seems a bit unimaginative to talk of stone and chips of stone. I prefer the idea of something living and carrying a thread down through the ages.

Perhaps it is because we know how genetics is carried down through the generations. Knowing that, it truly is that we are all really the same as the original Adam.

The Meaning Of The Phrase

There is more consensus about the meaning. It is used, as probably most people know, to describe a child who closely resembles one or both of their parents in personality, behaviour, or physical appearance.

Psychologically, the phrase reflects the concept of intergenerational transmission., where individuals inherit not only physical traits but also psychological traits and patterns of behaviour from their parents. Children often model their behaviour after their parents, and the phrase can be seen as a way of acknowledging this process of psychological influence. As we said, whether children want to acknowledge the fact is another matter.

The writer is old enough to see his father in him. It happens at specific times – putting on a coat, looking in the bathroom mirror. Oh how the life of those that came before inhabits the bodies of those chips.

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