A NOTE ON THE LOGIC OF PROVERBS
Cha bhreunaichear an seanfhacal
"Theres no belying a proverb"
(Scottish Gaelic proverb)
1. The pragmatics of proverbial usage.
If you agree with me that "Absence makes the heart grow
Then "Out of sight, out of mind" should also make you
And if you claim "Too many cooks will spoil the broth"
Then "Many hands..." should stop you skiving off.
2. The Law of Proverbial Non-Contradiction
Consider: "You cant tell a book by its cover."
Now given a proverb there must be another
Of equal and opposite meaning. 1 The truth
Of: "The apparel bespeaks the man" is proof.
3. An axiomatised proverbial logic
The full text of this
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And being reflexively both wrong and right 7
Its logical bark is no worse than its bite.
Permission to publish this article
granted by Proverbium (Editor: Prof. Wolfgang Mieder,
University of Vermont, USA).
Previously published in Proverbium 2 (1985), pp.
1 Cf. the perceptive remark attributed to Niels Bohr:
"The opposite of a trivial truth is a falsehood. The
opposite of a profound truth may well be another profound
truth" (Globus, G. G. Maxwell, G. & Savodnick, I. (1976) Consciousness and the Brain, New York & London,
Plenum Press, p. 271).
2 Including this one of course.
3 The First Axiom of Proverbial Logic: A proverb is
either true or very ture.
4 The Second Axiom of Proverbial Logic: For every
proverb there is an equal and opposite proverb.
5 Including this one of course.
6 The Third Axiom of Proverbial Logic: All proverbs are
not true (whichever way you look at it).
7 The Third Axiom (which is self-contradictory)
contradicts the First Axiom (which is self-supporting), from
which it can be logically derived by the Second
Department of Lingustics
University of Aberdeen
Aberdeen AB9 2UB