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Appearances are deceptive.

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The modern woman is the curse of the universe. A disaster, that's what. She thinks that before her arrival on the scene no woman ever did anything worthwhile before, no woman was ever liberated until her time, no woman really ever amounted to anything.
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Cha bhreunaichear an seanfhacal
"There’s no belying a proverb"
(Scottish Gaelic proverb)

1. The pragmatics of proverbial usage.

If you agree with me that "Absence makes the heart grow fonder"
Then "Out of sight, out of mind" should also make you ponder.
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 can’t 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 article is published in De Proverbio - Issue 9:1999 & Issue 10:1999, an electronic book, available from amazon.com and other leading Internet booksellers.

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. 271-272.

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 Axiom.

David Cram
Department of Lingustics
University of Aberdeen
Aberdeen AB9 2UB

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