mercredi 19 juin 2013

english proverbs with explanation

A "proverb" is a short, traditional saying that is commonly used, especially in
colloquial speech.  Proverbs usually express some obvious, universal truth or familiar
experience that is shared amongst many people. There are many proverbs in
existence, so here is a selection of some of the most well known in English. 
"The best things in life are free."
The things in life that are really valuable, like love, friendship and good health cannot
be bought and paid for.
"A stitch in time saves nine."
It’s best to repair something as soon as it is damaged or broken because that only
involves a small repair job. If not, you will end up with a much bigger and more
expensive repair job in time to come. If you do it now, you'll need only one stitch. If
you do it later, you'll need 9 stitches! (Why nine and not seven, eight or ten? Because
"nine" rhymes – almost - with "time".)
• stitch (a noun) means a link made with thread in sewing
• in time means to not be late
"Still waters run deep."

No two rivers are the same.  Some have rough surfaces with waves - usually
because the water is shallow and there are rocks near the surface. Deep rivers,
however, have no rocks near the surface and therefore the water is smooth and still.
"Still waters run deep" is a proverb that refers to people’s personalities.  People who
are calm and tranquil on the exterior often have a strong, "deep" personality, in
comparison to “shallow” people.
• still (an adjective) means calm, motionless
• deep (an adjective) means going far down, a long way down  

"He teaches ill, who teaches all."
This proverb is a little tricky to understand due to its unusual structure. It becomes
easier if we change the sentence structure round so that it reads "He who teaches a
teaches ill." The word "ill" here means "badly". Therefore, the proverb means that a
teacher, who teaches students everything, does not teach very well. A good teacher
lets their students discover some things for themselves.
• ill (an adverb) means badly
"You can't take it with you when you die."
We come into this world with nothing and when we die we leave behind everything
we ever owned on Earth. We do not take anything with us - even the richest people
in the world cannot take their money with them after death. This valuable proverb
serves to remind us that some material things are not really as valuable as we think.
Remember, “The best things in life are free”!
"Don't cross your bridges before you come to them."

This is a very common proverb and one that is said in everyday speech quite
frequently. You may have heard someone say “I’ll cross that bridge when I come to
it”.  It’s essentially the same proverb and means do not worry about problems before
they arrive.
"Soon learnt, soon forgotten."
This is a nice reminder for anyone who is learning something they find difficult or
trying (such as a foreign language!): Something that is easy to learn is easy to forget.

 "Even a worm will turn."
Everyone – people and animals - has their limits.  Anyone will revolt if pushed too far.
Even the “lowest” of animals will fight and hit back at some stage if provoked too
often. Even a worm, the simplest of creatures, will defend itself.
• worm (a noun) means a small thin animal with soft body and no bones or legs
• turn (a verb) means to revolt, fight back
"It was the last straw that broke the camel's back."

This links nicely to the previous proverb.  There is a limit to everything and people
can only take so much before they snap. We can load a camel’s back with lots of
straw, but finally the amount will be too much and the camel's back will break. And all
it takes is a single straw that breaks its back - the last straw. This proverb can be
applied to many things in life. People often exclaim "That's the last straw!" when they
will not or cannot accept any more of something.
• straw (a noun) means a dried stalk of grain (like a dry piece of grass)
• camel (a noun) means a large long-necked animal used for riding and carrying
goods in the desert
"The way to a man's heart is through his stomach."
This proverb describes how many women have won a man's love by cooking
delicious meals for him. They have literally fed his stomach and then found love in his

"Where there's a will there's a way."
When we want to achieve something badly enough we usually have the
determination to do it.  We can always find the path or method to achieve our goal.
• will (a noun) means strong determination, desire.
• way (a noun) means a path, method 

"Marry in haste, and repent at leisure."
Many have claimed to fall in love at first sight, but this proverb warns us that if we get
married too quickly, without thinking carefully, we may be sorry later. And we will
have plenty of time to be sorry!
• in haste means quickly
• repent (a verb) means feel sorry, regret
• at leisure means slowly, over time 

proverb examples

Beauty without grace is like a hook without bait.
Contributed by Charon Muck, 26 Jan 2000
Caught between a rock and a hard place
Caught between the devil and the deep blue sea
(to be stuck with two choices that are both undesirable)
Out of the frying pan and into the fire
(to go from a bad to a worse situation)
Might as well be hanged for a sheep as a lamb
(if you're going to get into the same amount of trouble, you might as well commit the greater offense)
Six of one, half a dozen of the other
(each choice is really the same thing)
Two sides of the same coin
(two aspects of a situation that are connected by necessity)
In for a penny, in for a pound
(if you're going to make a minor committment you might as well make the entire committment)
Don't count your chickens before they're hatched
(don't start making plans for something until it is a reality, rather than a pleasant speculation)
Don't cross your bridges before you get to them

(don't worry about future problems before you need to)
A stitch in time saves nine
(if you take care of a problem while it's small you won't have a bigger problem to deal with later)
(or, as Dr. Who likes to say: A stitch in time takes up space)
Time and tide wait for no man

jeudi 6 juin 2013

Common English Proverbs

- Don't put all your eggs in one basket. 
- Don't put the cart before the horse. 
- The early bird catches the worm.
- Every dog has hai day.
-Every why has a wherefore.
-Everything comes to him who who waits.
- An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.
-Fine feathers make fine birds.
-Fine words butter no parsnips.
-First come, first served.
- Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.
- The forbidden fruit is the sweetest.
- Give a dog a bad name and hang him.
- Half a loaf is better than none.
- Help a lame dog over a stile.
- It's easy to be wise after the event.
-   Actions speak louder than words.
-   All good things come to an end.
-    All's well that ends well.
-   All roads lead to roam.
-  All that glitters is not gold.
-   All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.
-   All's fair in love and war.
-    As you make your bed, you must lie in it.
A bad workman always blames his tools.
- Barking dogs seldom bites.
Beauty is only skin deep.
- Beggars can't be choosers.
-Better late than never.
-Better the devil you know than the devil you don't know.
-A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.
- Clothes do not make the man.
- Cowards die many times before their deaths.
- A creaking gate hangs long.
- Cross the stream where it is shallowest.
- Cut your coat according to your cloth.
- Do as you would be done by.
- Don't count your chickens before they hatch.
-Don't cross a bridge until you come to it.
- Don't have too many irons in the fire.
- Don't make a mountain out of a molehill.
-Honesty is the best policy.
- If a thing as worth doing, it is worth doing well.
-If at first you don't succeed, try, try, try again.
- It's a long lane that has no turning.
- It's an ill wind that blows nobody any good.

Proverb wise saying

A proverb is a short wise saying which has been in use for probably hundreds of years.

1) Don’t cross your bridges                                                   
2) He who hesitates                                                                  
3) Many hands                                                                           
4) You can’t teach an old dog                                                 
5) A leopard can’t change                                                      
6) People in glass houses                                                       
7) Don’t spoil the ship                                                              
8) You can’t make a silk purse                                                 
9) Where there’s life                                                                    
10) He who laughs last laughs                                               
11) Flattery will get you                                                            
12) What the eye doesn’t see                                               
13) There’s no time                                                                      

14) Fools rush in                                                                           
15) You scratch my back                                                           
16) There’s many a slip                                                            
17) You can’t have your cake                                                
18) Necessity is the mother of                                               
19) A miss is as good as                                                     
20) Let sleeping dogs                                                             

Since the house is on fire let us warm ourselves.
- Italian Proverb

Don't think there are no crocodiles because the water is calm.
- Malayan Proverb

When there is no enemy within, the enemies outside cannot hurt you.
- African Proverb

Enjoy yourself. It's later than you think.
- Chinese Proverb

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
- Chinese Proverb

An army of sheep led by a lion would defeat an army of lions led by a sheep.
- Arab Proverb

Ask the experienced rather than the learned.
- Arabic proverb

The beginning is the half of every action.
- Greek Proverb

Be happy while you're living, For you're a long time dead.
- Scottish Proverb

Be not afraid of growing slowly, be afraid only of standing still.
- Chinese Proverb

The best armor is to keep out of range.
- Italian Proverb

Better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.
- Chinese Proverb

By asking for the impossible, obtain the best possible.
- Italian Proverb

Call on God, but row away from the rocks.
- Indian Proverb

Cuando amor no es locura, no es amor. (When love is not madness, it is not love.)
- Spanish Proverb

Do not protect yourself by a fence, but rather by your friends.
- Czech Proverb

Don't throw away the old bucket until you know whether the new one holds water.
- Sweedish Proverb

Even a clock that does not work is right twice a day.
- Polish Proverb

Forget injuries, never forget kindnesses.
- Chinese Proverb

He who asks is a fool for five minutes, but he who does not ask remains a fool forever.
- Chinese Proverb

He who hurries can not walk with dignity.
- Chinese Proverb

If you must play, decide on three things at the start: the rules of he game, the stakes, and the quitting time.
- Chinese proverb

If you scatter thorns, don't go barefoot.
- Italian Proverb

Make sure to be in with your equals if you're going to fall out with your superiors.
- Jewish Proverb

One meets his destiny often in the road he takes to avoid it.
- French Proverb

Tell me and I'll forget. Show me, and I may not remember. Involve me, and I'll understand.
- Native American Proverb

Where there is love, there is pain.
- Spanish Proverb

Whoever gossips to you will gossip about you.
- Spanish Proverb

Funny irish proverbs

Funny Irish proverbs paint a reasonable picture of the nature and identity of the aforementioned reared Irish. These quotes are specimens going back numerous hundred years to those present. Appreciate these, regardless of what your experience may be….it still applies to you.
“Nodding the head does not row the boat”.

“When you marry your mistress, you create a job vacancy.”
James Goldsmith

“The Irish don't know what they want and are prepared to fight to the death to get it.”
Sidney Littlewood

“A man in love is incomplete until he has married, then he is finished.”

"An Irishman is never drunk as long as he can hold onto one blade of grass to keep from falling off the earth."

"A hair on the head is worth two on the brush."
Oliver Herford

"The Irish gave the bagpipes to the Scotts as a joke, but the Scotts haven't seen the joke yet."

"Don't talk about a rope in the house of someone whose father was hung."
Colin Farrell

"Being Irish is very much a part of who I am. I take it everywhere with me."

“We have always found the Irish a bit odd. They refuse to be English.”
Winston Churchill quotes (British Orator, Author and Prime Minister during World War II. 1874-1965)

"If ignorance is bliss, why aren't there more happy teenagers?"

"The Irish ignore anything they can't drink or punch."
James Boswell

"The Irish are a very fair people, they never speak well of one another."

"I like work: it fascinates me. I can sit and look at it for hours."
Jerome K Jerome

“God is good to the Irish, but no one else is; not even the Irish”

"My mother’s menu consisted of two choices: Take it or leave it.”

"Only Irish coffee provides in a single glass all four essential food groups: alcohol, caffeine, sugar, and fat."

“Sometimes I think I am a genius. Then I realize I’ve already seen this episode of Jeopardy.”

“If it was raining soup, the Irish would go out with forks."

"You never miss the water till the well has run dry."
Irish Proverb

"A turkey never voted for an early Christmas."

"Everyone is wise until he speaks."
Irish Drinking Toast

"Here's to our wives and girlfriends: May they never meet!"

“I think being a woman is like being Irish. Everyone says you're important and nice, but you take second place all the same.”
Iris Murdoch quotes (British Novelist and Philosopher, 1919-1999)

“Bless your little Irish heart and every other Irish part.”
Irish Blessings quotes

“Anyone who has been to an English public school will always feel comparatively at home in prison.”

"The Irish forgive their great men when they are safely buried."

"Every St. Patrick's Day every Irishman goes out to find another Irishman to make a speech to."

“It's a loser's emblem (swastika), because the Nazis lost the war. It's ridiculous to suggest we are involved with fascists. All my best friends are black, gay, Irish or criminals.”
Johnny Rotten quotes (British Musician)

“The trouble with me is that I am a vindictive old shanty-Irish bitch.”
Eleanor Medill Patterson

“I love deadlines. I especially love the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.”

"God invented whiskey to keep the Irish from ruling the world."

"Cheaters never prosper, unless they get away with it."

"May the curse of Mary Malone and her nine blind illegitimate children chase you so far over the hills of Damnation that the Lord himself can't find you with a telescope."

"There are three types of people in this world: those who make things happen, those who watch things happen and those who wonder what happened."

"I can resist everything except temptation."
Oscar Wilde

"The quickest way to double your money is to fold it in half and put it back in your pocket."

“Wherever you go and whatever you do, May the luck of the Irish be there with you”
Irish Blessings quotes

“St. Patrick... one of the few saints whose feast day presents the opportunity to get determinedly whacked and make a fool of oneself all under the guise of acting Irish.”
Charles M. Madigan

"As you slide down the banister of life, may the splinters never point in the wrong direction!"

"Cheer up, the worst is yet to come."

"Before borrowing money from a friend, decide which you need more.(Friend or Money!)"

"Life does not cease to be funny when people die any more than it ceases to be serious when people laugh."
George Bernard Shaw

"Praise the ripe field not the green corn."

"In heaven there is no beer...
That's why we drink ours here."

“May you always walk in sunshine. May you never want for more. May Irish angels rest their wings right beside your door.”
Irish Blessings quotes

“"Being Irish, he had an abiding sense of tragedy, which sustained him through temporary periods of joy.'”
William Butler Yeats quotes (Irish prose Writer, Dramatist and Poet. Nobel Prize for Literature in 1923. 1865-1939)

"He is bad that will not take advice, but he is a thousand times worse that takes every advice."

“If this humor be the safety of our race, then it is due largely to the infusion into the American people of the Irish brain.”
William Howard Taft (American 27th US President (1909-13).

"A son is a son till he takes him a wife, a daughter is a daughter all of her life."

"I see your face when I am dreaming. That's why I always wake up screaming."
A. A. Attanasio

"Better be quarelling than lonesome."

“The Irish - Be they kings, or poets, or farmers, They're a people of great worth, They keep company with the angels, And bring a bit of heaven here to earth.”
Irish Sayings quotes

“Leprechauns, castles, good luck and laughter.Lullabies, dreams and love ever after. Poems and songs with pipes and drums. A thousand welcomes when anyone comes... That's the Irish for you!”
Irish Sayings quotes

"When anyone asks me about the Irish character, I say look at the trees. Maimed, stark and misshapen, but ferociously tenacious."

"Some people ask the secret of our long marriage. We take time to go to a restaurant two times a week. A little candlelight, dinner, soft music and dancing. She goes Tuesdays, I go Fridays."
Henny Youngman

"What's dumber, expecting educators to be entertaining, or expecting entertainment to be educational?"

"I've had bad luck with both my wives. The first one left me and the second one didn't."
Patrick Murray

“Bless your little Irish heart and every other Irish part.”
Irish Blessings quotes

"Under the English legal system you are innocent until you are shown to be Irish.”
Ted Whitehead

“The English are not happy unless they are miserable, the Irish are not at peace unless they are at war, and the Scots are not at home unless they are abroad.”
George Orwell, (English Novelist and Essayist, 1903-1950)

"If one could only teach the English how to talk, and the Irish how to listen, society here would be quite civilized."

“I'm an Irish Catholic and I have a long iceberg of guilt.”
Edna O'Brien, (Irish Writer, b.1932)

"Good judgment comes from bad experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment."

"I didn't say it was your fault. I said I was going to blame it on you."

“Sheep are not considered the most intelligent animals but British scientist say humans may have underestimated the woolly creatures. In fact, the British scientific community is even suggesting that the animals might even be "Irish-smart."
Jon Stewart

“Irish Alzheimer's: you forget everything except the grudges”

"Wealthy people miss one of life's greatest thrills . . . Making the last car payment."

"A good laugh and a long sleep are the best cures in the doctor's book."

"I'm a nobody, nobody is perfect, therefore I am perfect!"

"A quarrel is like buttermilk: once it's out of the churn, the more you shake it, the more sour it grows."

jeudi 15 mars 2012

Proverbs Classification

Of the various verbal folklore genres (i.e., fairy tales, legends, tall tales, jokes,
and riddles), proverbs are the most concise but not necessarily the simplest
form. The vast scholarship on proverbs is ample proof that they are anything
but mundane matters in human communication. Proverbs fulfill the human
need to summarize experiences and observations into nuggets of wisdom that
provide ready-made comments on personal relationships and social affairs.

There are proverbs for every imaginable context, and they are thus as contra-
dictory as life itself. Proverb pairs like “Absence makes the heart grow fonder”
and “Out of sight, out of mind” or “Look before you leap” and “He who hes-
itates is lost” make it abundantly clear that proverbs do not represent a logical
philosophical system. But when the proper proverb is chosen for a particular
situation, it is bound to fit perfectly and it becomes an effective formulaic
strategy of communication. And contrary to some isolated opinions, proverbs
have not lost their usefulness in modern society. They serve people well in oral
speech and the written word, coming to mind almost automatically as pre-
fabricated verbal units. While the frequency of their employment might well
vary among people and contexts, proverbs are a significant rhetorical force in
various modes of communication, from friendly chats, powerful political
speeches, and religious sermons to lyrical poetry, best-seller novels, and the
influential mass media. Proverbs are in fact everywhere, and it is exactly their
ubiquity that has led scholars from many disciplines to study them from clas-
sical times to the modern age. There is no doubt that the playful alteration of
the proverb “If the shoe fits, wear it” to “If the proverb fits, use it” says it all!
While the first part of this section deals with definition matters, the second
part analyzes how proverbs have been classified in a multitude of different
ways in thousands of proverb collections of differing quality and scope. This
proverbs is not the place to review the status of internationally or nationally oriented
paremiography (proverb collections) in great detail (see Mieder 1990). Suffice
it to say that there exist many major proverb dictionaries that list equivalent
proverbs from 2 to 15 different languages. Especially European paremiogra-
phers have worked on such synchronic comparative collections that at times
include indices, frequency analyses, sources, geographical distribution, and so
on. Collections of this type help to advance the structural, semantic, and
semiotic studies of scholars like Grigorii L’vovich Permiakov and Matti Kuusi,
who tried to develop an international type system of proverbs (see Permiakov
1970 [1979]; Kuusi 1972). By establishing lists of international proverb
structures in combination with semantic and semiotic considerations, over
700 “universal” proverb types have now been found.

Proverbs Definition

There are literally thousands of proverbs in the multitude of cultures and
languages of the world. They have been collected and studied for centuries as
informative and useful linguistic signs of cultural values and thoughts. The
earliest proverb collections stem from the third millennium B.C.and were in-
scribed on Sumerian cuneiform tablets as commonsensical codes of conduct
and everyday observations of human nature. Since proverb collections usually
list the texts of proverbs without their social contexts, they do not reveal their
actual use and function that varies from one situation to another. Neverthe-
less, the long history of proverb collections from classical antiquity to the
present is truly impressive, ranging from compilations of texts only to richly
annotated scholarly compendia. For most languages there are major multi-
volume proverb collections available to readers interested in the origin, his-
tory, and distribution of their proverbs. In fact, the extant bibliographies of
proverb collections have registered over 20,000 volumes with about 200 new
publications each year. Many of these are small collections of several hundred
texts for the general book market, but invaluable scholarly collections also
continue to be produced with thousands of references. The numerous
proverb collections make it possible to study proverbs on a comparative basis, establishing for example that the Latin proverb “One hand washes the other”
and the biblical proverb “Man does not live by bread alone” (Deut. 8:3; Matt.
4:4) have been translated into dozens of languages in just that wording. On
the other hand, the German proverb “Morgenstunde hat Gold im Munde”
(The morning hour has gold in its mouth) finds its English equivalent in the
entirely different metaphor of “The early bird catches the worm.” With such
a wealth of proverb collections it should not be surprising that proverb schol-
ars consider paremiography (collection of proverbs) to be one side of the coin
of proverb studies.
The other side is referred to as paremiology (study of proverbs). It too has
a long history, dating back at least as far as Aristotle who had much to say
about various aspects of proverbs. In contrast to paremiographers, who oc-
cupy themselves with the collecting and classifying of proverbs, the paremi-
ologists address such questions as the definition, form, structure, style,
content, function, meaning, and value of proverbs. They also differentiate
among the proverbial subgenres that include proverbs as such, as well as
proverbial expressions (“to bite the dust”), proverbial comparisons (“as busy
as a bee”), proverbial interrogatives (“Does a chicken have lips?”), twin for-
mulas (“give and take”), and wellerisms (“‘Each to his own,’ as the farmer
said when he kissed his cow”). There are other related short and often for-
mulaic verbal genres such as sententious remarks, literary quotations, max-
ims, slogans, and graffiti, but they usually lack the traditional currency of the
xiiIntroductionproverbial genres, and, with the exception of graffiti, their authors are nor-
mally known. But since every proverb obviously originated from one person
once upon a time, there is no reason why a quotation or a slogan should not
become a generally accepted proverb, to wit Theodore Roosevelt’s “Speak
softly and carry a big stick” spoken on September 2, 1901, at the Minnesota
State Fair. For some Americans this might be a political quotation or slogan,
but for those speakers who are not aware of Roosevelt’s coinage of the phrase,
it is a proverb for sure.
The term “phrase” was used on purpose in the previous sentence as a rather
general concept. Especially linguists have decided to refer to all formulaic
phrases as phraseological units or phraseologisms. They have created a new
subfield of study, which they have designated as phraseology (the study of
phrases). That scholarly term serves as an umbrella for all phrasal colloca-
tions, including the entire area of paremiology. Linguists also occupy them-
selves with phraseography (collection and classification of phrases), once
again incorporating paremiography as well. And yet, most linguists deal only
tangentially with proverbs as such in their publications. When they do so,
they usually employ the Greek term based on paremia (proverb), clearly indi-
cating that proverbs are very special phraseological units. While phraseolo-
gists do and should include proverbs in their linguistic studies, paremiologists
usually look at proverbs from a more inclusive point of view as they draw on
such fields as anthropology, art, communication, culture, folklore, history, lit-
erature, philology, psychology, religion, and sociology.
As with paremiography, the paremiological scholarship has an impressive
history and continues to be very active today. About 400 significant books,
dissertations, and scholarly articles are published each year. The majority of
these studies as well as the new or reprinted collections are listed in my annual
bibliographies in Proverbium: Yearbook of International Proverb Scholarship.
These lists include all the proverb publications that I have been able to add
during any particular year to my international proverb archive at the Univer-
sity of Vermont. The archive contains close to 10,000 scholarly studies on
proverbs and also about 4,000 proverb collections from many languages.
About 9,000 slides of various iconographic representations of proverbs in art
(woodcuts, misericords, emblems, oil paintings) and the mass media (carica-
tures, cartoons, headlines, advertisements) are also part of this archive that
serves scholars and students worldwide.
For many cultures scholars have written a definitive book on the history of
both the paremiographical publications and paremiological studies. Such
books trace the development of various types of proverb collections and deal
with the origin and dissemination of proverbs in the given language and cul-
Introductionxiiiture, discuss definition problems of the various genres, analyze stylistic and
structural aspects, investigate the function and use in different contexts (oral
communication, literature, mass media), and attempt to give an inclusive pic-
ture of the meaning and significance of proverbs as verbal strategies. The En-
glish language is no exception in this regard. In the middle of the nineteenth
century the philologist and theologian Richard Chenevix Trench (1807–1886)
presented his slim volume On the Lessons in Proverbs (1853) that went through
seven editions during his lifetime and several more later on, including a final
edition in 1905 with the slightly changed title of Proverbs and Their Lessons.
The book represents an important survey of the origin, nature, distribution,
meaning, and significance of proverbs in the English-speaking world. Realiz-
ing that all scholars stand on the shoulders of their precursors, I prepared a
reprint in 2003, about 150 years after the original publication, of this still in-
valuable and most readable study. Fifty years after Trench’s book, F. Edward
Hulme (1841–1909) published his volume on Proverb Lore: Being a Historical
Study of the Similarities, Contrasts, Topics, Meanings, and Other Facets of
Proverbs, Truisms, and Pithy Sayings, as Explained by the Peoples of Many Lands
and Times (1902). Hulme’s treatise basically replaced Trench’s popular volume,
and it was appropriate that it was reprinted in 1968 to honor the work of this
folklore scholar.
But according to proverbial wisdom, “All good things come in threes,” and
thus there is also Archer Taylor’s (1890–1973) magisterial volume on The
Proverb (1931). As the world’s leading paremiologist of the twentieth century,
Taylor wrote the definitive book on the subject and pioneered a vigorous
American interest in proverbs that included such renowned scholars as Alan
Dundes, Wolfram Eberhard, Stuart A. Gallacher, Richard Jente, Wayland D.
Hand, John G. Kunstmann, Charles Speroni, and Bartlett Jere Whiting. The
book was reprinted in 1962 together with a previously published An Index to
“The Proverb” (1934), and I had the distinct honor of reprinting The Proverb
and An Index to “The Proverb” (1985) some 50 years after the original publi-
cation. Taylor’s volume deals with definition problems, metaphorical
proverbs, proverbial types, variants, proverbs in folk narratives and literature,
loan translations, and the classical or biblical origin of many proverbs. Taylor
also analyzes customs and superstitions reflected in proverbs, he looks at legal,
medical, and weather proverbs, and he investigates their content and style.
Proverbial stereotypes, proverbial expressions and comparisons, and
wellerisms are also discussed in this comprehensive and comparative volume
on European proverbs. Seventy-five years after its original publication, Archer
Taylor’s The Proverb is still considered to be the classic study on the proverb
genre. Paremiologists around the globe have benefited from this unique vol-
xivIntroductionume, and there is no doubt that this book remains required reading for any-
body interested in proverbs.
It is then a daunting task for me to present my own attempt of yet another
treatise on proverbs. I have learned much from the three books by Trench,
Hulme, and Taylor, but their volumes are 150, 100, and 75 years old, respec-
tively. The time has clearly come to take a fresh look at proverbs that is based
on the work of these three paremiological scholars but that is also informed
by the new scholarship of the past seven decades, including to a considerable
degree my own extensive work in this field. There will be considerable mate-
rials and theoretical findings in my volume that were not available or known
to my three precursors. In its approach, this new book will take a position be-
tween the Trench and Hulme volumes on the one hand and Taylor’s book on
the other. The former were meant for a wide readership, while Taylor was ad-
dressing a scholarly community that justified a comparative approach based
on proverbs in various foreign languages. My book is intended for the edu-
cated general reader with an emphasis on Anglo-American proverbs in En-
glish-language contexts. It is also but one volume in the Greenwood Folklore
Handbooks series, and as such it is by necessity and design confined to a pre-
scribed outline and structure. Since the book is intended for English readers,
almost all proverbs discussed will be from the Anglo-American corpus. When
proverbs are cited from other languages, they will usually be rendered in En-
glish translation only. This linguistic restriction is also evident in the short
chapter bibliographies (often referring to journal articles or book chapters)
and the extensive bibliography (including only book-length studies) at the
end of the volume. The present book is thus not an inclusive international
and comparative survey of paremiology, but it is an attempt to lay out the rich
field of proverbs to general readers of English anywhere in the world. With
English or the various “Englishes” gaining ever greater prominence as the
global lingua franca, these linguistic limitations seem to be justified and to a
considerable degree even desirable. What will be stated and explained by
quoting from the Anglo-American stock of proverbs will for the most part be
transferable to the proverbial wisdom of other cultures and languages. How
could it be otherwise, since the human condition distilled in the world’s
proverbs proves to be more alike than different. The American proverb
“Human nature is the same all over the world” quite literally hits the prover-
bial nail on the head.
At the end of these introductory remarks I would like to thank George
Butler, general editor of the Greenwood Folklore Handbooks series, for his
help and guidance during my work on this book. I also extend many thanks
to Audrey Klein and Karl F. Bridges for their help in obtaining various per-
Introductionxvmissions. In addition I wish to express my sincere appreciation to my friend
Alan Dundes (Berkeley) for his continued interest in and comments on my
proverb studies. My colleagues and my students in the Department of Ger-
man and Russian at the University of Vermont have also been most support-
ive. The same is true for my wife, Barbara Mieder, who lets me be the
proverbial fool obsessed with his research endeavors. And lasting thanks and
appreciation are due my beloved father, Horst Mieder, whose death I grieved
while working on this book. He instilled in me a solid work ethic and showed
me by example that a good life includes helping and caring for others. As I as-
pire to live up to his commitment to high moral standards, I hope that I
might do justice now and then to the proverb “Like father, like son” in its
most positive sense.