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As somewhat of an intellectual snob he had no use for proverbs as he stressed the importance of proper social behavior in a letter of 25 July 1741, to his son: There is an awkwardness of expression and words, most carefully to be avoided: such as false English, bad pronunciation, old sayings, and common proverbs; which are so many proofs of having kept bad or low company.
Fredrick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, Elisabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B.
Anthony stand out in their use of proverbs for civil and women’s rights during the nineteenth century.
Proverbial expressions and trite sayings are the flowers of the rhetoric of a vulgar man.
Would he say that men differ in their tastes; he both supports and adorns that opinion by the good old saying, as he respectfully calls it, that What is one man’s meat, is another man’s poison.
For now it must suffice to look at several representative figures from the Anglo-American world of the 18th century to the present.
Realizing that social politics are not only part of the national scene but can play out in family interactions as well, one Philip Dormer Stanhope, fourth Earl of Chesterfield (1694–1773) and his relationship to his illegitimate son Philip Stanhope (1732–1768) come to mind (Mieder 2000a, pp. Lord Chesterfield, as the father is generally known, was a well-educated British diplomat and a perfect example of the Age of Reason who felt that life in general and that of his son in particular could and should be controlled by reason.The collection and study of proverbs goes back to antiquity with comprehensive studies existing in various languages (Lambert 1960, pp. Archer Taylor’s (Taylor 1931) is considered the classic survey of the origin, content, and style of proverbs including a final section on such sub-genres as proverbial expressions, proverbial comparisons, and wellerisms.The more recent (2004) presents an update of sorts by including the modern paremiological scholarship with a special section on the various scholarly approaches to the study of proverbs: (1) proverb journals, essay volumes, and bibliographies; (2) proverb collections and future paremiography; (3) comprehensive overviews of paremiology; (4) empiricism and paremiological minima (the most frequent 300 proverbs for a given language, see (Mieder 1992; Haas 2008)); (5) linguistic and semiotic considerations; (6) performance (speech acts) in social contexts; (7) issues of culture, folklore, and history; (8) politics, stereotypes, and worldview; (9) sociology, psychology, and psychiatry; (10) use in folk narratives and literature; (11) religion and wisdom literature; (12) pedagogy and language teaching; (13) iconography: proverbs in art; and (14) mass media and popular culture (Mieder 2004, pp.And, very importantly, it must not be forgotten that proverbs as everything else in life come and go.Proverbs whose imagery or message do not fit into the modern age disappear—as can be seen from the “dead wood” in proverb collections (Mieder et al. They are also not always didactic, authoritative or proscriptive but can take on many indirectly (usually by way of metaphors) expressed intents and meanings.A man of fashion never has recourse to proverbs and vulgar aphorisms; uses neither favorite words nor hard words; but takes great care to speak very correctly and grammatically, and to pronounce properly; that is, according to the usage of the best companies.The basis of Lord Chesterfield’s educational philosophy and pedagogical program for his son consisted of the conviction that certain social graces must be maintained, including good manners, proper speech, moderation, civility, self-control, politeness, etc.The art of proverb employment lies in citing the perfectly fitting one at the right occasion.And while the frequency of their employment might vary among speakers and writers, proverbs remain an effective discursive force in various communicative modes, from sermons to gossip, from lyrical poetry to dramatic dialogue, from short stories to novels, from conversational chatter to forceful political rhetoric, and from rap music to slogans and headlines in the mass media. There is no need for concern about the possible demise or death of proverbs today, as can easily be seen from the content of a book with the absolutely appropriate title (Mieder 2008), indicating that it behooves humanists to pay close attention to proverbs.The fact that such contradictory proverb pairs as “Out of sight, out of mind” and “Absence makes the heart grow fonder” or “Look before you leap” and “He who hesitates is lost” exist makes it perfectly clear that proverbs are not based on a logical philosophical system.Proverbs are as contradictory as life itself, and depending on their use in a certain context, they prove to be either true or false.