Saturday, February 03, 2007

I like "The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Proverbs" because it's fairly short, and therefore it was reasonable and interesting to read the whole thing.

It's British, and it was interesting to note which proverbs have not crossed the Atlantic as sayings living and used. For example, people in Britain really say, "There's naught as queer as folk" meaning there's nothing as odd as people. I can imagine using it as a not too judgemental response to some bit of gossip. It even implies that we'll all folk and therefore all weird.

So with that as a living saying, it has a different ring when the Brits make a TV series called "Queer As Folk" about gay guys. Interesting resonance. Sort of implying we all have our different bits that others may think weird and for some people that's gay.

But since "there's naught as queer as folk" isn't a living saying in the US, "Queer As Folk" doesn't have resonance--it's just the name of the UK series the US series is modeled on.

"When Adam delved and Eve span, who then was the gentleman?" The book said that is a living used saying in the UK. When Adam dug and farmed and Eve spun and did the domestic work, who was the gentleman? Where were the classes at the beginning of everything, hm?

In the introduction to the book, the editor says that people don't refer to proverbs as authority like they used to. His ideas was that people used to refer to proverbs as the wisdom of the ages and therefore something that should be heeded.

His saying that helped me notice what people do now. They refer to other people, older than them as authorities when they quote proverbs. "My uncle always used to say. . ." "Like my mother always said. . ." That which follows such a statement is often an old and anthologized proverb.

People are respecting the wisdom of elders, just elders closer in.

People when talking about proverbs as proverbs, rather than using them as something the beloved older relative said, say proverbs contradict themselves.

They do. They are a way of helping you say something in a pithy way, and invoking authority while you do so. You know what you think, and you remember what wise whoever used to say, which is a great way of saying what you think.

If you think you or someone else needs to slow down and be careful, "Haste makes waste" is available. If you think y'all need to get a move on, like your aunt used to say, "A stitch in time saves nine" is there for you.

--"The Oxford Concise Dictionary of Proverbs" was edited by John Simpson with the assistance of Jennifer Speake. That's the one I read. Now there is "The Oxford Dictionary of Proverbs" edited by Jennifer Speake. I look forward to checking it out when I'm in that reading-a-book-of-proverbs mood.