Not really a rule, more like a guideline...

Biskit

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Sometimes, when I'm writing, I hit a scene where a knowing "Not really a rule..." or some variation would do very nicely, and then I tell myself to leave it alone, that's so Pirates or the Caribbean.

Except that is not the origin.

I have just been re-reading Pratchett's Lords and Ladies, which pre-dates Pirates by about ten years and "rule/guideline" pops up as a running joke. So, does anyone know if this is a Pratchett original, or is he quoting someone else?
 
I doubt a phrase like "Not really a rule, more like a guideline..." can be traced back completely because it's a very obvious bon mot common enough to be annoying and unimaginative in any era, unless we really like the character who adopts it as a catch phrase. It marks a character as being naughtily juvenile, like school boys breaking laws cheekily. It fits for some characters, but always veers into the too cute territory.

Another example is a character who does something, is chided why they didn't ask permission, and reply "Would you have said yes?"
 
It marks a character as being naughtily juvenile, like school boys breaking laws cheekily. It fits for some characters, but always veers into the too cute territory.
Which is very much the way it is used in both Pirates and Pratchett, or wryly as a counterpoint to the cheeky rule-breaking.

(I have a character for whom it almost seems perfect as he has his "golden rules" whilst breaking everyone else's rules, but he is not cute, or cheeky, or naughty, although perhaps a little juvenile.)
 
Unless it is an adaptation of rule vs custom or convention.
Common variations use the word "Suggestion" as in: "Those speed limits are more like suggestions, really."
 

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