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Knowledge is and will be produced in order to be sold, it is and will be consumed in order to be valorized in a new production: in both cases, the goal is exchange. Knowledge ceases to be an end in itself, it loses its use-value.
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( Lyotard, Jean Francois | Knowledge )




UP to this point we have been chiefly concerned with questions of origin and historical accidents of transmission and preservation; now we turn our attention to content and style. The content of proverbs affords a more suitable means of classification and more profitable subjects of study than does the distinction between "learned" and "popular," which we have rejected. Of course not all classifications according to subject are fruitful. Those which are based upon specific objects, such as collections of proverbs concerning dogs,[1] or women,[2] or God, do not form suggestive groups of material. But classifications which involve ideas or which bring together proverbs belonging to a particular cultural sphere, such as those of proverbs dealing with legal notions, the weather, health, agriculture, shipping, and so on, supply us with materials which reward the labor of collecting them. Even the bull ring has its collection of proverbs: Miguel Moliné y Roca, Paremiografía Taurina (Barcelona, 1888). Collections devoted to irreligious and harmful proverbs, such as E. Meisner's Ein hundert Drey- und dreyssig Gotteslästerliche, Gottlose, Schändliche und Schädliche, auch Unanständige, und theils Falsche Teutsche Sprüch- Wörter, Höchststräffliche Eingeschlichene Redens-Arten, Ungeziemende Reime und Grobe Gewohnheiten (Jena, I705); E[ric] P[ontoppidan]'s Onde Ordsprog, som Fordoerver Gode Hoeder, Igiendrevne af Guds ord (Bad Proverbs which ruin Good Morals, Refuted from the Word of God [Copenhagen, 1739]), which was translated and enlarged in Swedish (Stockholm, 1777); and J. G. Schöner's Sprichwörter, womit sich Laue Christen Behelfen (Nuremberg, 1802),[3] might seem likely at first sight to contain curious and interesting materials, but the authors' purpose is so exclusively didactic that they lose themselves in moralizing and quote only an occasional proverb as text.


Quite naturally especial interest attaches to proverbs which contain evidences of manners and customs. Several such proverbs have been already commented upon in other connections. We may here draw attention to a few more instances in which an old trait has been preserved. Good wine needs no bush alludes to the fact that wine shops were formerly marked by a bush in the same way that the barber still displays a barber's pole. The proverb occurs in two forms, one with "bush" and one with "ivy." The latter, The best wine needeth no ivie-bush, appears to have the closer connections with a tradition which begins in Renaissance Latin sources. It has often been said that this proverb reaches back to classical Latin, but the evidence is flimsy. If the cap fits, put it on alludes to the fool's cap. The mediaeval attitude toward saints' relics -- an attitude which was of fundamental importance in architecture, literature, and life -- is briefly summed up in Every priest praises his own relics (Ein jeder Pfaff lobt sein Heiligtum). Glass rings were gifts among poor folk in the Middle Ages. The minnesinger Walther von der Vogelweide declares that the glass ring of his sweetheart is dearer to him than the gold of a queen:

Swaz si sagen, ich bin dir holt,
und nim din glesin vingerlin fur einer kuneginne golt.[4]

Long before the twelfth century the fragility of a glass ring was a proverbial comparison for the fragility of certain friendships: as Bishop Salomon of Constance said at the beginning of the tenth century, "Give glass to friends of glass" (Vitrei amici vitro sunt donandi). The proverb A man is a man still, if he hath a hose on his head is found as late as 1732 and may allude to some mediaeval custom or game. It may refer to a man who has no cap and wears an old stocking in its place; in other words, a man is not to be judged by his apparel, however grotesque it may be.

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Proverbs, Sayings and Popular Wisdom - Audio Proverbs in English and Romance Languages, Proverb Studies, Proverb Collections, International Proverb Bibliographies


De Proverbio – Latin for ‘About the Proverb’ – is a website devoted to proverbs in several languages. It was founded in January 1995 at the University of Tasmania, Australia. De Proverbio was the world’s first refereed electronic journal of international proverb studies. It’s inspiration was Proverbium: Yearbook of International Proverb Scholarship edited by Prof. Wolfgang Mieder at the University of Vermont. The Yearbook continued the tradition of Proverbium: Bulletin d’Information sur les Recherches Parémiologiques, published occasionally from 1965 to 1975 by the Society for Finnish Literature, Helsinki.

Recently, the website has added audio proverbs in six languages, read by native speakers.  Also available for the lovers of languages and their proverbial richess is a page of multilingual proverb crosswords.

Proverbs and Their Definition

From time immemorial proverbs have fascinated people of all ages and from all walks of life. As it happened throughout centuries, common people today still avail themselves of the proverb’s rich oral tradition to convey their culture and values, while scholars collect and study them from a wide range of angles: linguistic, social, psychological, political, historical and so on.

Proverbs by James Chapman - cat
A cat in mittens won’t catch mice

The problem of proverb definition is still open. However, it is broadly accepted that proverbs were born from man’s experience. And that they generally express, in a very succinct way, common-sense truths. They give sound advice and reflect the human condition. But, as we know, human nature is both good and bad and the latter is often mirrored by discriminatory proverbs, be they against women, different nationalities or particular social groups. For a thorough discussion of proverb definition, see Popular Views of the Proverb by Prof. Wolfgang Mieder. Another article which sheds some light on the proverb definition is The Wisdom of Many and the Wit of One by Archer Taylor.

Proverbs and Their Origin

As to the origin of proverbs we tend to assume that they were born in times when human society began to self-impose rules and embrace principles necessary for communal living. Research can trace them back only to the time when language was recorded by means of some type of writing. The Sumerian civilisation of more than five thousand years ago is the oldest known civilisation to have made use of proverbs, some of which have been passed on through its cuneiform inscriptions.

One such proverb, in its Latin version, is Canis festinans caecos parit catulos. It spread to other languages. The English translation is The hasty bitch brings forth blind whelps. In French, it became La chienne dans sa hâte a mis bas des chiots aveugles. In the Italian La gatta frettolosa fece i gattini ciechi, the bitch has been replaced by the cat. The Portuguese version is Cadelas apressadas parem cães tortos, and the Romanian, Căţeaua de pripă îşi naşte căţeii fără ochi.

Proverbs and Their Use

Apart from use on a wide scale in day-to-day speech, there is ample evidence that proverbs were essential tools in teaching and learning. The pedagogical use of proverbs was encountered first in Sumerian society and subsequently this use became widespread throughout Medieval Europe.

Proverbs by James Chapman - book
A book is like a garden carried in the pocket

Proverbs and proverbial expressions are found in religious manuscripts of the first half of the eighth century. The aim of introducing proverbs into religious texts was to help novices to learn Latin, and this practice became widespread by the tenth century.

The use of proverbs in teaching and learning was not circumscribed to England. Relatively new research attests to the use of proverbs in teaching in the eleventh century in Liège, France. In Italy the famous medical School of Salerno of the eleventh century formulated medical precepts which later became proverbs adopted by different cultures. Post prandium stabis, post coenam ambulabis was translated After dinner sit awhile, after supper walk a mile in English. In French became Après dîner repose un peu, après souper promène une mille, while in Italian Dopo pranzo riposar un poco, dopo cena passeggiar un miglio. The Spanish version is Después de yantar reposad un poco, después de cenar pasead una milla and the Portuguese Depois de jantar, dormir; depois de cear, passos mil.

Proverbs and Their Abuse

But from use comes abuse, as a Spanish proverb says.  There is no doubt that the capacity of the proverb to convey universal truths concisely led to their abuse and manipulation.

Hitler and his Nazi regime employed proverbs as emotional slogans for propaganda purposes and encouraged the publication of anti-semitic proverb collections. For a thorough analysis of this phenomenon, please read the fascinating article “ … as if I were the master of situation.” Proverbial Manipulation in Adolf Hitler by Prof. Wolfgang Mieder.

At the opposite end of the political spectrum, communist regimes of the past have not only manipulated proverbs, but also purged popular collections of features which did not reflect their political ends. The former Soviet regime is at the forefront of such actions. One type of manipulation described by Jean Breuillard in Proverbes et pouvoir politique: Le cas de l’U.R.S.S.  (published in “Richesse du proverbe”, Eds. François Suard and Claude Buridant. Lille: Université de Lille, 1984. II, 155-166). It consisted in modifying ancient proverbs like La vérité parcourt le monde (Truth spreads all over the world) into La vérité de Lénine parcourt le monde (Lenin’s truth spreads all over the world). As a result the new creation is unequivocably charged with a specific ideological message.

Manipulation did not stop at individual proverbs, it extended to entire collections. Vladimir Dal’s mid-nineteen century collection of Russian proverbs is such an example. Its first Soviet edition (1957) reduces the proverbs containing the word God from 283 to 7 only. Instead, those which express compassion for human weaknesses, such as alcoholism, disappear altogether. In more recent years, in Ceauşescu’s Romania, Proverbele românilor (published in 1877 by I. C. Hinţescu) suffered the same treatment. More than 150 proverbs were eliminated or changed in order to respond rigidly to the communist ideology.

Proverbs Across Time and Space

The Oxford Dictionary of English Proverbs states that foreign proverbs’ contribution to the English proverbial stock has enriched our language. Many proverbs of foreign origin were quickly absorbed into English life and have a rightful place in an English dictionary. Indeed, a close scrutiny of that dictionary reveals that more than two hundred and fifty proverbs are listed as first existing in Italian.

This is also true for other modern languages, particularly French and Spanish. The translation is not always literal. At times it is adapted to the new language and the resulting proverb is often enriched in its expression. For instance the Latin Homo sine pecunia est imago mortis (A man without money is the image of death) is rather closely translated in Italian as Uomo senza quattrini è un morto che cammina (A man without money is a dead man walking).

However, in other languages the metaphor changes, but not the meaning. In English the proverb becomes A man without money is a bow without an arrow, while in French Un homme sans argent / Est un loup sans dents (A man without money is a wolf without teeth) and an element of rhyme is introduced. The Romanian adaptation is a real poetic gem Omul fără bani e ca pasărea fără aripi; Când dă să zboare / Cade jos şi moare (A man without money is like a bird without wings; When he tries to fly / He falls down and dies). The concept is essentially the same: the man without money lacks something important…

Proverbs Today

Proverbs by James Chapman - egg and hen
The egg thinks it’s smarter than the hen

While proverbs are still used today in a traditional way, that is in speech, literature and teaching, they have found a new ever expanding use in the advertising industry and in the mass media. One example is Here today, gone tomorrow, which became Hair today, gone tomorrow in the hair-removal industry. In the mass media it has a variety of paraphrases such as Hear today, gone tomorrow or Heir today, gone tomorrow. Before the Barcelona Olympic Games the old proverb All roads lead to Rome became All roads lead to… Barcelona in many English language newspapers and magazines. A new phenomenon encountered in many languages nowadays and is undoubtedly a sign of the proverb’s resilience and vitality.

Important writers of the past, among them Goethe and Voltaire, have questioned the traditional wisdom of proverbs. That led to some proverb transformations. Prof. Wolfgang Mieder coined the term anti-proverb for all forms of creative proverb changes. They can be deliberate innovations, alterations, variations, parodies. Anti-proverbs are widely spread today, some living a short time, some even making their way into recent proverb collections. A new broom sweeps clean, but the old one knows the corners and Absence makes the heart grow fonder – for somebody else are considered anti-proverbs.

Proverbs and Their Collection

Apart from studies on individual and multilingual proverbs and proverbial expressions, you will find a few e-books on our website. I will mention a Brazilian collection and a dictionary of equivalent English and Romanian proverbs. Prof. Wolfgang Mieder’s yearly bibliographies are an invaluable tool for students and researchers. Given their widespread use over the millennia, it is no wonder that scholars of the past started assembling proverbs in collections. Aristotle is believed to be among the first paremiographers (collectors of proverbs), but, unfortunately, his collection was lost. In more recent times a great impetus to the collection of proverbs was given by Erasmus. His fame spread from Venice throughout Europe after the publication in 1508 of his Adagiorum Chiliades. This collection contained 3,260 proverbs drawn from classical authors.

The success of the book led to several augmented editions culminating with that of 1536, which contains 4,151 proverbs. Erasmus’ work was translated into several European languages. While it became the model for future proverb collections in those languages, they were widely copied and translated.

One good example of such a practice is the 1591 Italian collection Giardino di Ricreatione, nel quale crescono fronde, fiori e frutti, vaghe, leggiadri e soavi, sotto nome di sei miglia proverbii, e piacevoli riboboli Italiani, colti e scelti da Giovanni Florio. And two decades later appeared in French as Le Jardin de Récréation, au quel croissent rameaux, fleurs et fruits très-beaux, gentils et souefs, soubz le nom de Six mille proverbes et plaisantes rencontres françoises, recueillis et triéez par GOMÈS DE TRIER, non seulement utiles mais délectables pour tous espritz désireux de la très-noble et copieuse langue françoise, nouvellement mis en lumière, à Amsterdam, par PAUL DE RAVESTEYN.

Proverbs and Fun

Proverbs by James Chapman - duck
If the world flooded, it wouldn’t matter to the duck

On the less academic side, you can test your knowledge of languages by solving our bilingual or multilingual crosswords. Or, you can listen to our featured proverbs in 6 languages – English, French, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian and Spanish. Also, enjoy sharing them with your friends. Some were posted on Twitter as comments to political events of the day.

Painters in Renaissance time, from Hieronymus Bosch to Pieter Bruegel, with his famous Netherlandish Proverbs, were attracted by the subject.

Modern artists like James Chapman illustrated recently proverbs from other world languages with hilarious cartoons. See some of his images on this page.

The full text of this article is published in De Proverbio - Issue 3:1996 & Issue 4:1996, an electronic book, available from amazon.com and other leading Internet booksellers.

It is often somewhat difficult to find proverbs which exemplify the retention of archaic forms. Language keeps an old or obsolete word more easily than an old grammatical form. The proverb When the bale is hest, thenne the bote is nest contains both words ("bale," 'evil, harm'; "bote," 'remedy') and forms ("hest" for 'highest,' "nest" for 'nearest') which have passed out of use. It is a little difficult to say how long this proverb actually circulated. Perhaps the Elizabethan form Whan bale is greetest, than is bote a nye-bore ('neighbor'), which Skeat quotes, may show that the old superlatives had been given up. A more famous example involves changes in the conjugation of the verb; it is the traditional German rhyme

Wie die Alten sungen,
So zwitschern die Jungen
('As the old sang,
So the young twitter'),

which keeps the obsolete verbal form sungen. We have similarly an obsolete declensional form in

Es ist nichts so fein gesponnen,
Es kommt doch endlich an die Sonnen.

Thus far we have examined chiefly proverbs expressing an ethical truth, in either aphoristic or metaphoric form. There are many sayings which can find no place among such proverbs. Yet the rigid form in which tradition preserves such sayings entitles them to the name proverb. These sayings deal with historical events, legal rights and procedure, the characterization of social or linguistic groups, the weather, health, and certain oft-recurring social situations. Although a metaphor may be used incidentally, it is not of fundamental importance to the saying. These sayings are understood literally.


Proverbs which turn on historical allusions are necessarily rare and short-lived. Since all proverbs make a general application of a particular incident, it is clear that the meaning and implications of the incident must be obvious to speaker and hearer. The handbooks, as well as Heinrich Heine, tell us that Divide and rule (Divide et impera) was a maxim of Philip of Macedonia. Polybius, Bossuet, and Montesquieu used it. Others ascribe it to Machiavelli. It was traditionally the motto of Austria. Under such circumstances its unique pertinence to any historical situation would be difficult to demonstrate, although no doubt its origin lies in some particular event. No grass grows where the Turk's horse has trod is cited three times between 1639 and 1732, but, as we might expect, it could not maintain itself long after the Turk ceased to threaten Europe. As a rule, the meaning of an historical allusion cannot long remain generally intelligible. Consequently the life of an historical proverb must be very brief, or the allusion must be rendered so general that it no longer has an identifiable connection with the historical fact. This situation appears in a rhyme about James I of England and Queen Anne:


April 23rd, 1619
Queen Ann departed out this life,
King James the first, his loving wife,
Of whom it hath a proverb been,
A hunting King, a dancing Queen.

The phrase died when it ceased to have meaning and point. The Swedes still figure in German local tradition and story as ravagers, but have left little trace in German proverbs.

The allusion in No money, no Swiss (Kein Geld, kein Schweizer) to the service of Swiss mercenaries in European armies may still be intelligible to the general reader, but it is quite beyond our power to attach it to a particular event. If we do so, there is almost no chance of being right. It is, to be sure, customarily assigned to an event in the siege of Milan in 1521, but it would be difficult to prove tradition to be right or wrong. An explanation of Those who live in glass houses should not throw stones can be confidently rejected. It has been referred to the so-called Glass House in St. Martin's Fields where the Duke of Buckingham, a favorite of King James I, resided. The Duke supported attacks against the Scotch followers of the king, and in retaliation a crowd smashed the windows of his house. When he complained to the king, the king replied, "Steenie, Steenie, those who live in glass houses should be carfu' how they fling stones." Clearly we have here an allusion to a proverb which was already in existence and not the origin of a proverb. We must of course distinguish between an historical proverb and a proverb which alludes to a custom or condition which no longer exists. It's good living under the crozier (Unter dem Krummstab ist gut wohnen) alludes to the preferred situation enjoyed by serfs of ecclesiastical lords, and not to a particular event.

Possibly the proverb The lucky man takes home ('marries') the bride (Wer Glück hat, führt die Braut heim) has something to do with events of the year 871; but since the proverb is not reported in contemporary accounts of the abduction which is referred to, and since the connection is first suggested by a chronicler seven centuries later, the explanation is more than doubtful. And the explanation that we have here a reminiscence of the "Brautlauf," a foot-race in which the bride was the stake, is equally dubious, although we know this custom existed at Germanic weddings. The proverb probably means only that luck is often the determining factor in success, and not wealth, rank, or cleverness.

The full text of this article is published in De Proverbio - Issue 3:1996 & Issue 4:1996, an electronic book, available from amazon.com and other leading Internet booksellers.

I cannot say how well established is the superstition that sleeping upstairs is healthful. Familiar general advice in England is An ague in the spring is physic for a king; Laugh and grow fat. Occasionally we have an observation regarding the climate: A green winter (var. Christmas) makes a fat churchyard, which is evidently the model for A hot May makes a fat churchyard. Rare is such an observation as Never rub your eye but with your elbow, and prognostications are not usual:

Quickly too'd ('toothed') and quickly go,
Quickly will thy mother have moe.

Some health proverbs are utterly obscure: Parsley fried will bring a man to his saddle, and a woman to her grave, which is evidently concerned with some superstition and may involve the aphrodisiac qualities of parsley. Only a very few proverbs concern themselves with the health of animals:

Uphill spare me,
Downhill forbear (var. ware) me,
Plain way (var. level ground) spare me not,
Nor let me drink when I am hot.

In general, proverbs concerned with physical peculiarities are rare.[44] Even those traditional sayings which describe or mock one's neighbors give little room to remarks on physical traits. It is worthy of note that proverbs mentioning physical traits are found most frequently among the Romance peoples. Recognition of such traits appears to be characteristic of a comparatively high culture which distinguishes individual details in the surrounding world; the savage and the peasant show little interest in physiognomic observations. Some traditional sentences relate physical attributes to psychical traits: Curled heads are hasty;

Lange Nase, spitzes Kinn;
Da sitzt der Teufel leibhaft drin

('Long nose, pointed chin;
The Devil himself sits within');

Cheshire born and Cheshire bred,
Strong i' th' arm and weak i' th' head.

It might be possible to discover the extent to which sayings concerned with a relationship between physical and mental traits draw on the stock of physiological information associated with the Renaissance belief in "humours." The distrust and even fear of red hair is ancient and universal: Rotbart nie gut ward ('A red-beard was never good'), but the association with treason very probably involves an allusion to the traditional color of Judas's hair.[45] Apparently the proverbial warnings against red hair concern only a man. An analogous tradition, also of international currency, is Crazy people don't turn gray, but asses are born gray (De gekken grijsen niet, maar de ezels worden grijs geboren).[46] The lack of a beard or its scanty growth marks a man, particularly in southern lands, as suspicious. Certain physical traits are proverbially indices of other physical qualities, e. g. Vir pilosus aut fortis aut luxuriosus ('A hairy man, either strong or lustful'), and the traditional comparisons based on the length of nose or size of mouth. Typical illustrations of these proverbs, illustrations which are perhaps less offensive than most examples, have been collected to prove that the description of Juan Ruiz in an old Spanish poem contains more traditional elements and fewer bits of actual descriptive detail than we might at first believe.[47]


Phrases and sentences customarily used in a single special situation form a special class of proverbs.[48] Although a metaphor is often present, its purpose is to describe the situation, not to convey an ethical or moral lesson. The Romans said An ass from Aesop's pit (Asinus de Aesopi puteo) of an unwelcome, noisy person. The allusion is entirely obscure. When the Scotch say Either the tod (fox) or the bracken-bush to silly people who speak vaguely and uncertainly, they are contracting an older proverb: It is a blind goose that knoweth not a fox from a fern-bush. The German sentence An angel flew through the room (Ein Engel flog durchs Zimmer) is widely used of the sudden silence which falls on a social group, but its origin is not clear. Another equally obscure phrase with the same meaning is Ein Leutnant bezahlt seine Schulden ('A lieutenant pays his debts'), which has not yet found universal acceptance. In the same situation the Dutch say "The pastor is going by" (De domine gaat voorbi) and Americans say "Quaker meeting" or "It's twenty minutes past." Let her go, Gallagher is, I believe, unexplained.

The full text of this article is published in De Proverbio - Issue 3:1996 & Issue 4:1996, an electronic book, available from amazon.com and other leading Internet booksellers.

Generally speaking, such fixed phrases as we are now considering rarely deal with superstitions. The ordinary English form of refusal to give the name of one's informant is A little bird told me, while on the continent it is My little finger (var. thumb) told me (Mein kleiner Finger [var. Daumen] hat es mir gesagt). The third witch in Macbeth alludes to the superstition underlying the continental phrase, but her remark is hardly proverbial in form:

By the pricking of my thumbs,
Something wicked this way comes.
Act iv, sc. 1.

Ask me no questions and I 'll tell you no lies is a brutally frank formula with the same general meaning. Old and widespread is the phrase A hair of the dog that bit you for a drink of liquor taken on the morning after a night of dissipation. It displays curious and typical variations: Ben Jonson says in Bartholomew Fair "pluck a hair of the same wolf" and Hermann Kurz, a German poet of the nineteenth century, alludes to the hair of a cat in a similar connection. These variations illustrate once more the substitution of analogous and contrary details in oral tradition. In both these examples of superstitions in fixed phrases we have very ancient and widely known tradition.

Evasive descriptions of childbirth have in some cases become standing formulae.[49] The stork is proverbial in English, and the German phrase is even more specific: The stork has bitten mother's leg (Der Storch hat der Mutter ins Bein gebissen). A wholly satisfactory explanation is not forthcoming. Obviously the phrase cannot have been invented in England, where storks are rarely, if ever, seen. There may be some primitive symbolism in the mention of the stork. Another form, which is characteristically English, but has not spread to America, assigns the origin of chillren to the parsley bed; it is equally inexplicable. A more careful examination of the superstitions and medical lore associated with parsley would probably throw light on the matter. An analogous German tradition names the cabbage bed, and is very likely connected more or less directly with the English phrase.


A few proverbs forecast the future in politics or war. Perhaps the most famous example is Austria erit ultima in orbe ('Austria shall be the last thing in the world') or, arranged in the order of the vowels, Austria erit in orbe ultima. English proverbs are particularly concerned with military affairs: He that England will win must with Scotland (var. Ireland) begin; The vale of Holmsdale was never won and never shall;

When the black fleet of Norway is come and gone,
England, build houses of lime and stone,
For afterwards you shall have none;

When hemp is spun,
England is done.

Nene and Welland
Shall drown all Holland.

Spenser knew the last of these prophecies. Such sayings are probably fragments of mediaeval or later prophecies; we might understand them better if the whole were before us. Some chance has dictated the preservation of these prophecies. A still more curious prophecy was current in Germany before the recent war and during its early years:

1911 ein Flutjahr,
1912 ein Blutjahr.

When the Balkan War scare of 1912 passed over, the rhyme could of course no longer serve as a prophecy and it was revised to read:

1911 ein Flutjahr,
1912 ein gut Jahr,
1913 ein Blutjahr.

And still further additions and alterations were needed in the further course of events. So far as we may see in proverbs a summing up of a prevailing popular mood, this proverb illustrates the fatalistic attitude which preceded the war of 1914.


*Reprinted from Archer Taylor The Proverb and An Index to "The Proverb", Sprichwörterforschung Band 6, Herausgegeben von Wolfgang Mieder, Peter Lang, Bern-Frankfurt am Main-New York, 1985, pp. 66-134

  1. See, e. g., A. Koskenjaakko, Koira Suomalaisissa ynnä Virolaisissa Sananlaskuissa (Helsinki, 1909)
  1. See the bibliography in Bonser, Proverb Literature (London, 1930) pp. 430-432, Nos. 3750-3777, and C. Benzon, Kvinden i Ordsproget (Copenhagen, 1907).

  2. See Catalogue des Livres Parémiologiques composant la Bibliothèque de Ignace Bernstein (Warsaw, 1900) Nos. 2144, 2412, 3271.

  3. Ed. K. Lachmann, 50,12; see the notes in W. Wilmanns, Walther von der Vogelweide (4th ed. by V. Michels, Halle, 1924 [Germanistische Handbibliothek, I, 2]), p. 211; Simrock, Gedichte Walthers, I, 201.

  4. Otto, "Die Götter und Halbgötter im [Lateinischen] Sprichwört," Archiv für latinische Lexikographie, III (1886), 207-229, 384-387.

  5. There is another and better known proverb: Happy is the bride the sun shines on, and happy the corpse the rain rains on.

  6. Wesselski, Poliziano, p. 214.

  7. Wesselski, Erlesenes (Gesellschaft Deutscher Bücherfreunde in Böhmen, VIII, Prague, 1928), p. 10, n. I; Skeat, Early English Proverbs (Oxford, 1910), No. 117.

  8. Hoffmann von Fallersleben, Altniederländische Sprichwörter (Proverbia communia), Horae Belgicae, IX (Hannover, 1854), 31, No. 486; Seiler, Zeitschrift für Deutsche Philologie, XLVII ( 1916-18), 243.

  9. See the chapter "Obscure Proverbs" in Marvin, Curiosities, pp. 52-66.

  10. E. g. Job vii, 2; Ps. cxxi, 5; Song ii, 3; Isa. xxv, 4, xxxii, 2; Jonah iv, 6.
  11. Bracton, De legibus et consuetudinibus Angliae, IV, xxi, § 4 (Rolls ed., III, 234).

  12. Hulme, Proverb Lore, p. 125.

  13. Ordinarily collections make no distinction between historical and other proverbs. There are special German collections by Wick (Geogrphische Ortsnamen, Beinamen und Sprichwörter [Leipzig, 1896]) and Wurzbach (Historische Wörter, Sprichwörter und Redensarten2 [Leipzig, 1866]) and a special chapter on French historical proverbs in Leroux de Lincy Le Livre des Proverbes Français2 [Paris, 1859]). Ladendorf (Historisches Schlagwörterbuch [Strassburg, 1906]) gives few, if any, proverbs, but confines his collection to words and phrases. Compare also Hertslet, Treppenwitz der Weltgeschichte8 (Berlin, 1912).

  14. The collection and study of legal proverbs has dealt chiefly with Germanic sources. Little has been done since the publication of the standard German collection by Graf and Dietherr in 1864 (Deutsche Rechtssprichwörter), although much is now to be expected from the excellent introduction of Eberhard, Freiherr von Künssberg to bibliography and problems ("Rechtsgeschichte und Volkskunde," Jahrbuch für Historische Volkskunde I [1925], 69-125). Introductory bibliographical naterials will be found in Claudius, Freiherr von Schwerin, Einführung in das Studium der Germanischen Rechtsgeschichte (Freiburg i. Br., 1922), p. 47; D. Martin, Lawyers' Merriments (Glasgow, 1912), pp. 47-59 (hasty, but informative); and the general bibliographies, e. g. Lundell in H. Paul, Grundriss der Germanischen Philologie2, II, i, 1174, for Scandinavia, and, in general, Bonser, Proverb Literature (London, l930) pp. 435-439, Nos. 3798-3838. Important collections and studies devoted to legal proverbs are chiefly German, e. g. Cohn, Drei rechtswissenshaftliche Vorträge in , Gemeinverständlischer Darstellung, I, Deutsches Recht im Munde des Volkes (Heidelberg, 1888); Eisenhart, Grundsätze der Deutschen Rechte in Sprüchwörtern (Helmstädt, 1759; 2nd ed., Leipzig, 1792, 3rd ed. by C. E. Otto, Leipzig, 1823); Gierke, Das Humor im Deutschen Recht (Berlin, 1871); Günther, Recht und Sprache (Berlin, 1898) and Deutsche Rechtsaltertümer in unserer Heutigen Sprache (Leipzig, 1903) Hillebrand, Deutsche Rechtssprichwörter (Zürich, 1858); Koehne, Gewerberechtliches in Deutschen Rechtssprichwörtern (Zürich, 19l5), Reyscher, "Die Ueberlieferung der Rechte durch Sprichwörter," Zeitschrift für Deutsches Recht und Rechtswissenschaft, V (1841), 189-209; Winkler, Deutsches Recht im Spiegel Deutscher Sprichwörter (Leipzig, 1927) For other languages and countries see Bouthors, Les Proverbes, Dictons et Maximes du Droit Rural Traditionnel (Paris, 1858); Corso, "Kalabresische Rechtssprichwörter," Zeitschrift für Vergleichende Rechtswissenschaft, XXIII (1910), 289-308; "Proverbi Giuridici Italiani," Archivio per lo Studio delle Tradizioni Popolari, XXIII (1907), 484 ff., "Proverbi Giuridici Italiani," Rivista Italiana di Sociologia, XX (1916), 581-592, and "Usi Giuridici Contradineschi Ricavati da Massime Popolari," Circolo Giuridici (Palermo), XXXIX (1908), 35-48; Saverio, "Collana di Proverbi Giuridici ed Economici Pugliesi," Rivista Italiana di Sociologia, XXII (1918), 300-322; Solari, "La Vita Economica nei Proverbi Greci," ibid., II (1898), 187-206, 303-320; Corso, "Proverbi Giuridici Abessini," ibid., XXIV (1920), 150-162; van Hall, Nieuwe Bijdragen voor Regtsgeleerdheid en Wetgiving, III (1852),247-314; A.Corvinus,Jus Canonicum per Aphorismis (Amsterdam, 1663); Matthaeus, Paroemiae Belgarum Jurisconsultis Usitatissimae (Utrecht, 1667); van Hasselt, Annotationes ad Antonii Matthaei Paroemias (1780); Ilu'ustrov, Iuridiceskiya Poslovitsy i Pogovorki Russkago Naroda (Moscow, 1885); Koskenjaakko, Sananlaskututkimuksia, I: Laki (Helsingfors, 1913).
  15. Quoted by von Künssberg, Jahrbuch für historische Volkskunde, I (1925), 72.

  16. R. Koegel, Geschichte der Deutschen Literatur, I, 242-259; see further, Siebs, Zeitschrift für Deutsche Philologie, XXIX (1897), 405 and "Friesische Literaturgeschichte," in Paul's Grundriss der Germanischen Philologie2, II, i, 527.

  17. Typical collections of legal and traditional formulae are Gering (Zeitschrift für Deutsche Philologie, XLVIII [1919-20], 304-306 [collected in a review of Feilberg, Bidrag]), Willert (Die Alliterierenden Formeln der Englischen Sprache [Halle, 1884]), Lean (Collectanea, II, 899-940), Heyne (Formulae Alliterantes ex Antiquis Legibus Frisica Conscriptis Extractae [Halle,1884] and "Alliterierende Verse und Reime in den Friesischen Rechtsquellen," Germania, IX [1864], 457-499), Koulen (Der Stabreim im Munde des Volkes zwischen Rhein und Ruhr [Düren, 1896]), Eiselein (Die Reimhaften, Anklingenden und Ablautartigen Formeln der Hochdeutschen Sprache [Leipzig, 1841]), Schulze ("Die sprichwörtlichen Formeln der Deutschen Sprache," Archiv für das Studium der Neueren Sprachen, XLVIII [187l], 435-450, XLIX[1872], 139-162, L [1872], 85-122, LI [1873], 195-212, LII [1874], 61-80, 375-392, LIV [1875], 55-74), and Lind ("Rim och verslemningar i de svenska landskapslagarna," Uppsala Unisersitets Årsskrift [1881], No. 3). I have noted only those concerned with Germanic materials. I have not seen Seitz (Zur Alliteration im Neuenglischen [Itzehoe,1883]).

  18. Zeitschrift des Vereins für Volkskunde, XXXV (1915), III, No. 5.

  19. See the Latin proverbs on business and money collected by Otto, "Geldverkehr und Besitz im [Lateinischen] Sprichwort," Archiv für Lateinische Lexikographie, VI (1889), 47-58, and p. 15 above. See an interesting small collection of German proverbs in a merchant's handbook: P. J. Marperger, Nothwendig und Nützliche Fragen über die Kaufmannschaft (Leipzig, 1714), pp. 429-446.

  20. "Latin Maxims in English Law," The Law Magazin and Law Rewiew, 4th Ser., XX (1895), 283-295. See a small collection of such maxims in J. Michelet, Les Origines du Droit (Paris, 1837), p. lxxiii, note, and L. Volkmar, Paroemia et Regulae Juris Romanorum, Germanorum, Franco-Gallorum, Britannorum (Berlin, 1854).

  21. Miscellaneous bibliographical notes will be found in Gaidoz and Sébillot (Blason Populaire de la France [Paris, 1884] and the Catalogus van Folklore['s Gravenhage, 1919-1922]). The best collections are French. Unfortunately there is no good discussion of the problems in the field of local witticisms; after Schulte ("Spottnamen und -verse auf Ortschaften im nördlichen Oberhessen," Hessische Blätter für Volkskunde, IV [1905],142-l67) the best irtroductions are the prefaces to the collections, notably Dejardin (Dictionnaire des Spots ou Proverbes Wallons [Liège,1863,2d ed., 1891]). Typical collections are Lean (Collectanea, I, ii-343), who gives English and Italian materials; Dejardin, as above; Raadt (Les Sobriquets des Communes Belges [Brussels, 1903]); Gittée ("Steden en Dorpen tegen Elkander," Volkskunde [Ghent], V [1892], 124-138, 167-179); Barjavel (Dictons et Sobriquets Patois des Villes . . . du Département de Vaucluse [Carpentras,1849]); Canel (Blason Populaire de la Normandie [Caen,1859]); Gaidoz and Sébillot, as above; O. de Watteville (Etude sur les Devises Personnelles [Paris, 1888]); A. Ledieu (Blason Populaire de la Picardie [Paris, 1905); Handelmann (Topographischer Volkshumor [Kiel, 1886]); Hesekiel (Land und Stadt im Volksmunde [Berlin, 1867]); Schlauch (Sachsen im Sprichwort [Leipzig, 1905]); Wick (Geographische Ortsnamen, Beinamen und Sprichwörter [Leipzig, 1896]); Cornelissen (Nederlandsche Volkshumor [Antwerp, n.d.]); Goebel (De Graecarum Civitatum Proprietatibus Proverbio Notatis [Breslau, 1915]). Examples of older, related collections are Caviceo (Urbium Dicta ad Maximilianum Primum Romanorum Regem [Parma, 1491]) and Ritio (Le Nomi et Cognomi, etc. [1585], reprinted in Due Opuscoli Rarissimi del Secolo XVI [Scelta di curiosità letterarie, XCII, Bologna, 1865]).

  22. See, for example, T. Roth, Völkernamen in ihrer Entwicklung zu Gattungsnamen, Friedland i. M., 1909-10; M. Spiegel, Völkernamen als Epitheta im Gallo-romanischen (extract of a dissertation [Berlin, 1921]); F. Boillot, Répertoire des Métaphores Français tirés des Noms des Villes et des Pays Étrangers (Paris, 1929).

  23. See a very useful list in Gaidoz-Sébillot, Blason Populaire, p. vi, and Schulte's collection for the different provinces of Germany in Hessische Blätter für Volkskunde, IV (1905), 146.

  24. Schulte, as above, pp. 151-153.

  25. A long list of feminine charms, ranging in number from seven to thirty, has been handed down by literary tradition rather than by word of mouth. Although the occurrences are numerous, their relations have never been studied fully. Since the list is scarcely proverbial, I cannot discuss it here. See Haltaus, Liederbuch der Clara Hätzlerin (Bibliothek der Gesamten Deutschen National Literatur, VIII [Quedlinburg, 1840]), p. lxviii; R. Koehler, Kleinere Schriften (ed. J. Bolte), III (Weimar, 1900), 31 ff.; Küffner, Die Deutschen im Sprichwort, pp. 200, 253a-c; Wesselski, Angelo Polizianos Tagebuch (Jena, 1929), p. 93, 195.

  26. Albrecht Keller, Die Handwerker im Volkshumor (Leipzig, 1912); P. Sébillot, Légendes et Curiosités des Métiers (Paris, 1895); H. F. Feilberg, Bidrag til en Jysk Ordbog (Copenhagen, 1886-1914); H. Klenz, Schelten-Wörterbuch (Strassburg, 1910). L. Ricker (Zur landschaftlichen Synonomik der Deutschen Handwerkernamen [Freiburg i. Br., 1917]) gives nicknames for the potter, cooper, and cabinet-maker. In an admirable article, which is soon to appear, Barbara Salditt traces the origin and dissemination of the traditional association of the tailor and the goat; see " Der Schneider und die Geiss im Deutschen Volksmunde bis zum siebzehnten Jahrhundert," Hessische Blätter für Volkskunde, XXX (1931).

  27. C. Streiff, Die Laute der Glarner Mundarten (Beiträge zur Schweizer-deutschen Grammatik, VIII [Frauenfeld, 1915]), p. 36, § 44. So also in Winteler, Die Kerenzer Mundart (Leipzig, 1876), p. 192, No. 1.

  28. In addition to the bibliographies in most collections of weather proverbs, e.g. Inwards, Weather Lore (London, 1893), there are admirable lists in Schweizer Volkskunde, XIV (1924), 16 and Bonser, Proverb Literature (London, 1930), pp. 422-429, Nos. 3675-3746. The following collections are important. England and America: Dunwoody, Weather Proverbs, Signal Service Notes IX (Washington, 1883); Humphreys, Weather Proverbs and Parodoxes (Baltimore, 1923); Inwards, as above; Swainson, A Handbook of Weather Folk-lore (London,1873). France: Corbis, "Recueil des Dictons Populaires sur le Temps," Bulletin de la Société Belfortaine d'Emulation, VIII (1886-87), 19-30; XIV (1895), 109-115; F. de Roucy, Dictons Populaires sur le Temps (Paris, 1878). Germany: Bahlmann, Alt-Münsterische Bauern-Reime (Münster, 1896); Haldy, Die Deutschen Bauernregeln (Jena, 1923), a recent popular collection without notes; Müldener, Das Buch vom Wetter oder das Wetter im Sprichwort (Bernburg, n.d.); Reinsberg-Düringsfeld, Das Wetter im Sprichwort (Leipzig, 1864); Walter, Wetterssprüche (Braunschweig, 1920); Wimmert, "Bauern- und Wetterregeln aus dem Rheinlande," Zeitschrift für Deutsche Mundarten, 1910, pp. 351-356. The Netherlands: van Hall, Spreekwoorden en Voorschriften in Spreuken Betreffend Landbouw en Weêrkennis (Haarlem , 1872); Thijm, Kalender- en Gezondheidsregels (Uitgaven der Koninklijke Vlaamsche Akademie, III, 9 [Ghent, 1893]); Beets, "Volkswijsheid over het Weer," Verslagen en Mededeelingen van het Vlaamsche Akademie, XXI (1908), 553-592 (an essay which is little more than a paraphrase of Yermoloff). Portugal: Thomaz Pires, Calendario Rural (Elvas, 1898). Russia: Yermoloff, Die Landwirtschaftliche Volksweisheit in Sprichwörtern, Redensarten und Wetteregeln, I (Leipzig, 1905). Spain: Rodríguez Marín, Cien Refranes Andaluces de Meteorología, Cronología Agricultura y Economía Rural2 (Seville, 1894) and Los Refranes del Almanaque (Seville, 1896). Sweden: Hildebrandsson, "Samling af Bemärkelsedagar, Tecken, Märken, Ordspråk och Skrock Rörande Väderleken," Antikvarisk Tidskrift för Sverige, VII, pt. 2 (1883), 1-106. Switzerland: Seelig, Die Jahreszeiten im Spiegel Schweizerischer Volkssprüche (Zürich, 1925). Most studies of weather proverbs deal with their meteorological aspects. The most significant studies are by Frick ("Le Peuple et la Prévision du Temps," Schweizerisches Archiv für Volkskunde, XXVI [1926], 1-21, 89-100,171-188, 254-279); Hellmann, "Uber den Ursprung der Volkstümlichen Wetterregeln (Bauernregeln)," Sitzungsberichte der Preussischen Akademie, Physikalisch-Mathematische Klasse (1923), 148-170; and Yermoloff, as above.

  29. The longer form of this proverb,
    1. March hack ham ('black ram')
      Comes in like a lion,
      Goes out like a lamb,

    is clearly derived from verses in a calendar. The obscure reference to Aries, the ram, in the zodiac has been lost in later forms. Today, the proverb is perhaps more often regarded as a prophecy: "If March comes in like a lion, it goes out like a lamb."

  30. Hellmann, Sitzungsberichte der Preussischen Akademie, Physikalisch-Mathematische Klasse, 1923, p. 159.

  31. Hellmann, as above, p. 152. I have expanded abbreviations.

  32. Kock and Petersen, Ostnordiska och Latinska Medeltidsordspråk (Copenhagen, 1889-94), II, 88.The full text of this article is published in De Proverbio - Issue 3:1996 & Issue 4:1996, an electronic book, available from amazon.com and other leading Internet booksellers.

  33. Le Roux de Lincy, II, 205; Polites, II, 601-602.

  34. Le Roux de Lincy, II, 198.

  35. Le Roux de Lincy, II, 216. Cf. Otto, Archiv für Lateinische Lexicographie, IV (1887), 351.

  36. Le Roux de Lincy, II, 195; Wander, Deutsches Sprichwörter-Lexikon, V, col. 1545.

  37. Hentig, "Physiognomik im Sprichwort," Archiv für Kriminologie, LXXX (1927), 136-144; Sartori, "Körperliche Merkmale im Westfälischen Volksmunde," Volk und Rasse, II (1927), 28-34; Bahlmann, "Der Menschliche Körper und seine Funktionen im Westfalischen Glauben, Brauch und Sprichwort," Zeitschrift des Vereins für Rheinische und Westfälische Volkskunde, XXIII (1926), 2-19, XXIV (1927), 46-52; Gittée, "De Volkshumor tegenover Lichamelijke Gebreken," Volkskunde (Ghent),VI (1893), 1-9; Otto,''Der menschliche Körper und seine Teile im [Lateinischen] Sprichwort," Archiv für Lateinische Lexikographie, VI (1889), 309-340; O. Scarlattini, L'huomo e sue parte figurato e simbolico, Augustae Vindelicorum, 1695.

  38. P. F. Baum, "Judas' Red Hair," Journal of English and Germanic Philology, XXI (1922), 520-529.

  39. Hentig, Archiv für Kriminologie, LXXX (1927), 138.

  40. E. K. Kane, "The Personal Appearance of Juan Ruiz," Modern Language Notes, XLV (1930), 103-109.

  41. I have noted special collections of conventional phrases only in Scandinavian languages; see, e. g., E. T. Kristensen, Danske Ordsprog (Copenhagen,1890), pp. 532-555; anon., "Ordlekar från Åkers och Österrekarne Härader," Bidrag til Södermanlands Äldre Kulturhistoria, I, pt. 1 (1884), 94-99, II, pt. 6 (1886), 86-92; Nordlander, "Svenska Barnvisor ock Barnrim," Nyare Bidrag till Kännedom om de Svenska Landsmålen, V, pt. 5 (1886), pp. 254-280.

  42. See the collectanea entitled "Woher kommen die Kinder," Am Urquell, IV (1893), 224 ff.; V (1894), 80 f., 162, 254, 255, 287; VI (1895), 41, 125,159, 218 f.; H. F. Feilberg, Bidrag til en Ordbog over Jyske Almuesmål, s. v. Barn (see also Tillæg); Boekenoogen, "Waar de Kinderen vandaar Komen," Volkskunde (Ghent), XXII (1911), 18-24, 143-151, 193-198, XXIII (1912), 29-37.


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