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
women, 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), 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.
CUSTOMS AND SUPERSTITIONS
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
und nim din glesin vingerlin fur einer kuneginne
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
Warning: Division by zero in /home/world68/public_html/DPjournal/DP,2,2,96/CONTENT.html on line 446 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.
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 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…
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
Quickly too'd ('toothed') and
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
rare. 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. 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
geboren). 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
Phrases and sentences customarily used in a single
special situation form a special class of
proverbs. 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
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
Something wicked this way comes.
Act iv, sc.
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
formulae. 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
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
See, e. g., A. Koskenjaakko, Koira Suomalaisissa
ynnä Virolaisissa Sananlaskuissa (Helsinki,
See the bibliography in Bonser, Proverb
Literature (London, 1930) pp. 430-432, Nos.
3750-3777, and C. Benzon, Kvinden i Ordsproget (Copenhagen, 1907).
See Catalogue des Livres Parémiologiques
composant la Bibliothèque de Ignace Bernstein (Warsaw, 1900) Nos. 2144, 2412, 3271.
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,
Otto, "Die Götter und Halbgötter im
[Lateinischen] Sprichwört," Archiv
für latinische Lexikographie, III (1886),
There is another and better known proverb: Happy
is the bride the sun shines on, and happy the corpse the
rain rains on.
Wesselski, Poliziano, p. 214.
Wesselski, Erlesenes (Gesellschaft Deutscher
Bücherfreunde in Böhmen, VIII, Prague, 1928),
p. 10, n. I; Skeat, Early English Proverbs (Oxford, 1910), No. 117.
Hoffmann von Fallersleben, Altniederländische
Sprichwörter (Proverbia communia), Horae
Belgicae, IX (Hannover, 1854), 31, No. 486; Seiler, Zeitschrift für Deutsche Philologie, XLVII (
See the chapter "Obscure Proverbs" in Marvin, Curiosities, pp. 52-66.
E. g. Job vii, 2; Ps. cxxi, 5; Song ii, 3; Isa. xxv, 4, xxxii, 2; Jonah iv, 6.
Bracton, De legibus et consuetudinibus
Angliae, IV, xxi, § 4 (Rolls ed., III, 234).
Hulme, Proverb Lore, p. 125.
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).
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 , 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).
Quoted by von Künssberg, Jahrbuch für
historische Volkskunde, I (1925), 72.
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.
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 ,
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,
139-162, L , 85-122, LI ,
195-212, LII , 61-80, 375-392, LIV
, 55-74), and Lind ("Rim och verslemningar
i de svenska landskapslagarna," Uppsala Unisersitets
Årsskrift , No. 3). I have noted
only those concerned with Germanic materials. I have not
seen Seitz (Zur Alliteration im Neuenglischen [Itzehoe,1883]).
Zeitschrift des Vereins für Volkskunde, XXXV (1915), III, No. 5.
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.
"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,
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
,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 , 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. ,
reprinted in Due Opuscoli Rarissimi del Secolo XVI [Scelta di curiosità letterarie, XCII,
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,
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.
Schulte, as above, pp. 151-153.
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.
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
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.
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
, 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.
The longer form of this proverb,
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."
Hellmann, Sitzungsberichte der Preussischen
Akademie, Physikalisch-Mathematische Klasse, 1923, p.
Hellmann, as above, p. 152. I have expanded
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
electronic book, available from amazon.com and other leading Internet booksellers.
Le Roux de Lincy, II, 205; Polites, II, 601-602.
Le Roux de Lincy, II, 198.
Le Roux de Lincy, II, 216. Cf. Otto, Archiv
für Lateinische Lexicographie, IV (1887), 351.
Le Roux de Lincy, II, 195; Wander, Deutsches
Sprichwörter-Lexikon, V, col. 1545.
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.
P. F. Baum, "Judas' Red Hair," Journal of English
and Germanic Philology, XXI (1922), 520-529.
Hentig, Archiv für Kriminologie, LXXX
E. K. Kane, "The Personal Appearance of Juan Ruiz," Modern Language Notes, XLV (1930), 103-109.
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.
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.