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By Chilukuri Bhuvaneswar, CIEFL, Hyderabad, India


Proverbium 20 (2003) is a testimony to the true and unfailing commitment of the Editor, Professor Wolfgang Mieder, and his team members Galit Hasan-Rokem, Associate Editor, and Janet Sobieski, Managing Editor to the cause of paremiology. This precious Yearbook of International Proverb Scholarship, published by the University of Vermont, USA consists of 22 highly informative “Articles” (pp. 1 -- 438), an “Obituary” (pp. 439 -- 448), 7 “Book Reviews” (pp. 449 - 486), and 2 “Bibliographies” (pp. 487 - 534).

Out of the 22 “Articles” published in this issue, 13 have been written in English, 6 in German, 3 in Spanish and 1 in French. In this paper, a critical review of the articles in English has been made. In addition, a brief summary of the “Obituary” of the well-known paremiologist Kazys Grigas (1924-2002) has also been given.


I do not know whether any critical reviews of Proverbium 2003 have been published or not. Since Proverbium is the most important annual journal of proverb studies, it is essential to make a critical review of it regularly to promote active research in paremiology. Such an attempt has been made for the first time in this article.


The following authors have contributed their articles in English: Chilukuri Bhuvaneswar (No. 1: pp. 1 -- 14); George B. Bryan and Wolfgang Mieder (No. 2: pp. 15 -- 50); Maria Conca and Josep Guia (No. 4: pp. 71 -- 94); Aristeides Doulaveras (No. 6: pp. 133 -- 158); E.U.C. Ezejideaku (No.7: pp. 159 -- 170); Kevin J. McKenna (No. 12: pp. 237 -- 258); Wolfgang Mieder (No.13: pp. 259 -- 308); Roumyana Petrova (No. 15: pp. 331 -- 344); Pat Rogers (No. 17: p. 359 -- 366); Olga V. Trokhimenko (No. 18: p. 367 -- 378); Tatiana Valdaeva (No. 19: pp. 379 -- 390); Derek A. Williams (No. 20: p. 391 -- 406); and Yisa Kehinde Yusuf and Joyce T. Methangwane (No. 21: pp. 407 -- 422).

These 13 articles can be grouped under the following categories: Use of Proverbs by Authors (Nos. 2, 17, and 18); 2. Culture in Proverbs (Nos. 1, 7, 15, and 21); 3. Biography of a Paremiologist (No. 6); 4. Individual Proverb Studies (Nos. 12, 13, 19, and 20); and 5. Paremiological History (No. 4).

1. Use of Proverbs By Authors

Wolfgang Mieder wrote two articles on Carl Sandburg’s poems:

a). “Good Morning, America” (1928); b). “The People, Yes” (1936) in 1971 and 1973. In those articles, he dealt only “with Proverbs and not with the wealth of proverbial expressions, twin formulas, wellerisms, etc.” (p. 15). But in No. 2 in this book, Mieder along with his friend the late George B. Bryan (1939 – 1996) excerpted Carl Sandburg’s Complete Poems (1970) containing 797 pages and made an impressive collection of the proverbs, proverbial expressions, and proverbial comparisons from p. 16 - 49. These proverbial texts are listed alphabetically by keywords along with the page number from the Complete Poems (1970) and also wherever possible, annotations are cited from seven standard authorities such as the Oxford Dictionary of English Proverbs, Early American Proverbs, The Home Book of Proverbs, etc.

As usual. Mieder and Bryan’s work is painstakingly comprehensive and provides a 33 page check list of proverbial texts – enough data for research on Sandburg’s use of proverbs in his poetry. The proverbial texts are listed alphabetically topic wise which is a welcome procedure but they are not numbered serially. Such a numbering would save time to future researchers to know the exact number of proverbial texts used in Sandburg’s poems vis a vis other poets – otherwise they have to spend time in counting them and may make mistakes also.

In 17, Pat Rogers examines how Daniel Defoe makes use of the proverb lore. After a general introduction to the fictional and non-fictional work of Defoe which is “stuffed full of traditional tags and catch phrases”, Pat Rogers focuses his attention on Tour Thro’ the Whole Island of Great Britain (1724 - 26). The author through a number of examples (22 +1) shows how Defoe draws on the traditional sayings associated with some particular part of Britain as “part of his ongoing coverage of the life of the nation” (p. 361). In this process, the author argues that “They not only provide ‘ local colour’ but also bring with them something of the texture of regional experience as expressed in the hoard of domestic wisdom” (p. 361).

This paper is another valuable addition to that of Widdowson (1974) who studied the proverbs of Filey. An important fall out from papers of this nature is empirical evidence regarding the very formation of proverbs and their content. As we find that the context of all these sayings is the available social reality of practice in the society – be it the Dunmow Flitch, or the Suffolk Cheese, or All is fair at Horn Fair or Hops, Reformation, Boys, and Beer / Came into England all in a year, or This is Holmes Dale, / Never conquered, never shall, or That all the Cornish Gentlemen are cousins, or the Cornish Hug, or Lemster Bread and Weobley Ale, or Sharping K…S, or the Halifax law (implying ‘hang, and try later’), or Too dear for the Bishop of Durham, or Proud Preston (Proud Preston, poor people).

In my opinion, even though many proverbs are colored with wisdom, ‘it is safer to consider them as expressing ‘social practices’, which is a wider term that can account for those which do not have wisdom in them (see Bhuvaneswar 1997 – 1999). With reference to this paper, one can ask such a question as this: What is the ‘domestic wisdom’ (as expressed by Pat Rogers in this essay) in Suffolk Cheese, or That all the Cornish Gentlemen are cousins, or Lemster Bread and Weobley Ale? These expressions are certainly different from A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, or Haste makes waste, or Slow and steady wins the race. Again, there is an inherent problem in deciding what is wisdom and what is not. For example, will a woman be better “if she is beaten more” as expressed in the American proverb A Woman, a dog, and a walnut tree: the more you beat them, the better they be, or Do women naturally deceive, weep, and spin, or “Woman have no souls”?

These proverbs are impressional cognitions of social practices rather than sacrosanct expressions of wisdom. In fact many proverbs are suspect. Even a proverb like Every cloud has a silver lining is both factually (and socially) incorrect! I have seen hundreds of clouds without a silver lining, especially in the rainy season. A young man becomes a social wreck after a failure in life; it is not universal that all such men become philosophical or more enlightened or benefited. However, there are certain proverbs, which appear to be universally accepted in a society (e.g. Prevention is better than cure) and some others are mere comments on social praxis. The truth condition of proverbs is an important area that has to be examined from a formal and functional linguistic perspective to know more about wisdom and social practices!

There is an interesting feature about such expressions. They contain valuation of or judgment about social practices. For example, All is fair at Horn fair is a generalization arrived at after observing the “Rudeness” allowed at the annual Horn Fair at Charlton. But when such texts are used as proverbs, they cannot be used as generalizations -- as prototypes, they are possible. It seems this subtle distinction has escaped the attention of Nigel Barley (1987). That all the Cornish gentlemen are cousins is a generalization and is species specific. It looks appropriate only in a context of Cornish people. As such these texts raise another important issue regarding the scope of their application. Some of such texts are sayings rather than proverbs proper! They cannot be as extensively applied as other types of literary or metaphorical proverbs (such as: Honesty is the best policy/All lay loads on willing horse) across different domains of social life (Bhuvaneswar 1997).

In 18, Olga V. Trokhimenko argues how the proverbs in The Hobbit (written by J.R.R. Tolkien) are used primarily “to follow the plot line and to illustrate the growth of the protagonist, Bilbo Baggins, from a regular hobbit to the “elf-friend Bilbo the Magnificent” (p. 368). Trokhimenko considers the function of proverbs in The Hobbit to be validation most often at work. Also action in The Hobbit often fulfills a proverbial saying. To put it differently, if it is an actual proverb, it categorizes a social practice in terms of a prototype – not generalizing in terms of a particular action on the one hand, and “if a proverb like saying” is used by the character, it eventually becomes proverbial by being accepted.

More significantly, Tolkien creates a new function for the proverbs in The Hobbit. First, he uses proverbs as factual as well as proverbial statements at the same time. This is a striking innovation created by Tolkien. For example, “ ‘Every worm (i.e., dragon) has his weak spot’ as my father used to say ” (p. 374) is used by Bilbo not to simply assert that nobody is invincible but also warn the readers that Bilbo is literally about to discover a spot on Smaug’s side (the referential meaning of the assertion). This is an adaptation of the proverb Every man has his weak side, to hit two birds at a shot!

Second, the appropriate sequencing of the proverbs in the novel is not random. They function to prophesy and point out the spiritual growth of Bilbo. For example, the use of the above-mentioned proverb marks the difference between Bilbo in Chapter XII and I. In Chapter I, he fainted merely hearing the word ‘dragon’ and in Chapter XII, “he is willing to sneak into the dragon’s hole and can comfort his companions, the dwarves with this proverb” (p. 374). As such this proverb is used to indicate the transition from Bilbo the Coward to Bilbo the Magnificent.

One important contribution of such type of an analysis as this is in providing empirical evidence to show that the functions of language are not ‘out there’. They can be carved out creatively as new options in a network of choices and further chosen. In other words, this article proves that the number of options in a network is not fixed, and therefore the choices a speaker/writer makes are not close-ended. As a result, we get a new dimension, which has to be accounted for in systemic functional linguistics. In SFL, choices are made from an already existent network of options, which are close-ended. There are two problems arising from this theoretical perspective. First, the actual generic structure cannot be accounted for since the individual can choose any pattern according to his svabhavam (disposition) in a context; second, when he has an inclination to make a new option and choose it, then the existing network of options fails to account for it. That is why, as I point out in my Karmik Linguistic Theory, the individual’s svabhavam should be taken into consideration for a comprehensive description of language. In one way or the other, the relation between mind, language and society are not properly accounted for in SFL (cf. Tom Bartlett 2004) and Transformational-generative Grammar.

2. Culture in Proverbs

Nos. 7, 15, and 21 are important studies about how proverbs represent the worldview of a society. Ezejideaku (No. 7) discusses how disability is viewed in the Igbo society and how it is portrayed in Igbo proverbs. Yusuf and Mathangwane (No. 21) agree with Burke (1941) that proverbs are strategies dealing with situations and so can be “justifiably expected to help provide a deep understanding” of the problem of HIV/AIDS and further guide the society in its conduct towards HIV/AIDS patients. Roumyana (No. 15) offers an epistemological basis for the use of proverbs to control and shape a people’s view of life (p.160) as shown in 7 and 21. She agrees with the commonly held assertion made by many scholars that “ proverbs reveal a specific way a people see the world” (p. 333) and proposes a method of discussing proverbs as cultural texts based on the concept of the linguocultural level of language and the cultureme as its basic structural unit. These three papers raise two significant questions about language, culture and proverbs.

The first question is regarding the correspondence between the worldview of a society presented in proverbs and the society in which the proverbs are created, used, and perpetuated. According to Ezejideaku (p.159), the Igbo worldview as portrayed in their proverbs has “a more or less balanced perception of disability as opposed to the general tendency to see disability only from the negative angle”. Again, Ezejideaku (p. 160-161) points out that “proverbs constitute the one veritable source of information of Igbo world view, including their perception of disability and their relationships with the disabled among them.” He further states that “Igbo proverbs are protean. They touch on every facet of human experience” (p. 161). Roumyana also shares this view and asserts that “ proverbs picture practically all the details of the every day life of ordinary people” (p. 337). Yusuf and Methangwane also support this view as follows: “and they (proverbs) can, in the words of Finnegan (1994: 23) refer to practically any situation.”

In my humble pinion, the two claims that proverbs represent the worldview of a society and that they touch on every facet of human experience need to be substantiated by empirical evidence from different cultures. Do proverbs represent the universal view of a society or do they represent only the viewpoint of a particular group within the society? If they represent the universal view of a society, there should not be a contradiction between the general tendency to see disability only from the negative angle and the balanced perception of disability in the proverbs as mentioned by Ezejideaku. Furthermore, we come across antonymous proverbs within the same society (e.g. Strike when the iron is hot vs. Slow and steady wins the race). In such cases, what is the worldview of the society? It becomes much more complicated when it comes to proverbs like the ones on women mentioned earlier in this article (p. 5). For example, does it mean that all the Americans consider women on a par with dogs and trees and believe that they should be beaten black and blue for making them better. Certainly not, according to my opinion. Anyhow, I leave it to the Americans for supporting or opposing the proposition on beating women, especially, in view of other antonymous proverbs such as: A good husband makes a good wife or A bad husband cannot be a good man. Does it mean that ‘a good husband’ is one who beats his wife black and blue as reflected in the proverb A women, a dog, and a walnut tree: the more you beat them, the better they be ? Again, a husband who beats his wife is certainly a bad husband and a bad man too!

The second question is: Do proverbs touch on every facet of human experience? The answer seems to be no since one counter example can invalidate the assertion. I do not know about Igbo or Bulgarian but in my language Telugu there are many material aspects of life that have not yet come into proverbs. For example, items such as phone, car and television. In my own view, the proverb is best defined as: “A culturally confirmed frozen text of a prototypical practice used as an illocution over a categorical action in a setting for a projected view of life” (Bhuvaneswar 2004). Another problem in such assertions is the absence of an inventory of material and social practices available in a society to crosscheck such observations. In my collection of Telugu proverbs on horse, I find that not all aspects of horse are represented in it (Bhuvaneswar 1999 a).

In view of the observations made above, it is safer to point out that proverbs contain social practices that can be visualized in a real or possible world and are not universal and exhaustive for a given society.

In Yusuf and Methangwane (No. 21), there is a discussion about the definition of the proverb in the Introduction and the meaning of metaphorical proverbs are arrived at by mapping the constituents of the proverbs on to the general meanings (pp. 407--410).

In the brief Introduction, various opinions regarding proverbs have been provided to give the reader a bird’s eye view of how proverbs are understood by different paremiologists but no specific definition has been given or supported. This might be due to the complexly of the issue. In the case of derivation of meanings, there is a need for further clarification.

In arriving at the meaning of the proverb “There are more ways to the wood than one” (p. 407) the author opines that ‘ways’ would be the metaphor for solutions and ‘wood’ would be the metaphor for the problem. The same type of a procedure is also applied in deriving the meaning of the first proverb “If the person with whom one’s willing is eating a bad insect and one does not warn them in time, their bad cough would not let one sleep at night”. Such a procedure does not take into consideration, the vehicle interpretation of the metaphorical proverbs, which is also an essential part of meaning making. If it were only the literal meaning (i.e. the focus interpretation) that is to be taken into consideration, the use of metaphorical proverbs becomes redundant. The vehicle interpretation (i.e., the meaning of the image) is also an integral part of the meaning as can be seen in the case of many proverbs that create humor and surprise. That is why Bhuvaneswar (2002, 2004) describes a metaphor as: an impressional (vasanaik) superimpositional (adhyasik) linguistic cognition of the adhishtanam (the topic) as the adharam (the vehicle)”.

In addition to this, constituent mapping does not map the meaning systematically in all the cases. Take for example, the use of proverbs in the following real life conversation:

A: Sir! You have not given me the photocopies.

B: You ask (somehow) like a dog barking six months after the thief’s breaking-in… (Translated from Telugu)

In the above-mentioned instance, the meaning of the Telugu proverb “That six months after the thief’s breaking-in, the dog barked” cannot be mapped on to “my giving a book for photocopying” and “my asking him for the photocopies after a long time.” Here “a thief’s breaking into a house” is not equal to “my giving a book for photocopying/his photocopying the book given by me”. A thief is an antisocial element and his or her thievery is a socially unacceptable practice whereas giving a book for photocopying is not so. The second part may be somewhat acceptable since I asked him after a long time about the photocopies - even though I could not meet him for long. Here, the overall meaning has to be taken into consideration without breaking the proverb into parts and mapping the meaning separately.

In this connection, it is pertinent to draw the reader’s kind attention to my point of view as expressed in my papers on the metaphoricity of proverbs (ibid). There are three meanings in a proverb:

1. The referential meaning as given by the expression ( vehicle interpretation)

2. The prototypical meaning (focus interpretation); and

3. The contextual meaning, (the complex of focus and vehicle interpretations)

The meaning of a proverb in a context is not merely the general meaning of the proverb – I call it the prototypical meaning because the proverb functions as a prototype and categorizes the contextual action – and it is also not merely the figurative meaning of the proverb since the contextual action cannot be the same as the proverbial action in the proverb. It is a complex of seeing one as the other by superimposition (adhyasa) as given in the advaita siddhanta proposed by Sri Sankara Bhagavatpujyapada.

Unlike in adhyasa (superimposition) where a rope is mistaken for a snake, or a desert land is mistaken for water (mirage) owing to ignorance, in metaphorical cognition, there is awareness of both the topic and the vehicle, i.e. both the rope and the snake. As a result, a new awareness or a new meaning is created. If the image were not to be taken into consideration, the use of a metaphor becomes redundant and the proverb uncalled for. An ordinary paraphrase could pretty well do the job.

The image aspect of the meaning of a proverb takes us into another important factor, namely, associativity. Certain images capture the essence of the contextual action much more appropriately than others. For example, the proverbs Nos. 18 and 21: “We’re saving the chick from death, but it says it’s being prevented from going to the dunghill to eat” and “What cant be cured must be endured” capture the ideas much more forcefully in their contexts than proverbs Nos. 16 and 17 which are in fact inappropriate. No 16: “An once of prevention is worth a pound of cure” can be applied in situations where a cure, even though cumbersome or painful, is possible. In the case of AIDS, there is no cure. The wages of sin is death here. It requires a very strong proverb to suit the context. Probably, adaptations of proverbs, (Bhuvaneswar 1999 f) have become a necessity owing to such ‘weak’ meaning – there is a lot of difference between ‘Prevention is better than cure’ and’ Prevention is the ONLY cure’ or ‘Prevention is the ONLY cure when there is no cure’!

In 1, Bhuvaneswar considers proverbs from the perspective of indexical meaning – a new dimension to the understanding of proverbs from the pragmatics perspective. This paper considers how the use of proverbs point out to or index the personal traits of the speaker, the nature of the context, and the relationship between the speaker and the hearer. The indexes are divided into general and specific categories. It is a shame that in spite of all the care taken, there are many, typographical errors that crept into the article – it seems I sent the uncorrected floppy by mistake! I owe an unconditional apology to Prof. Mieder for this. The mistakes are as follows:

1. The phonetic transcription for the first two dialectal variants of ‘so he said’ in p. 5 is wrong. There should be a voiced, retroflex, stop instead of a voiced, dental, stop – as the d in so:ladu in Proverb No. 4.

2. In Proverb No. 5, there should be a voiceless, alveo-palatal, fricative which resembles ‘c’ with a curve backwards at the bottom of the letter instead of ‘s’ which stands for a voiced, alveolar fricative.

3. In Proverb No 20, there should be ‘i’ in small letters (for the word muddi ‘anus’) instead of a capital letter.

4. In addition, the end brackets for Nos. 2, 3, 21 are missing.

3. Biography of a Paremiologist.

No. 6 is a comprehensive review of the work of D. S. Loukatos who is “the most important Greek Paremiologist after N.G. Politis”. Aristeides Doulaveras outlines, in his article, how Demetrios S. Laukatos worked on proverbs systematically, methodically, and on a scientific basis in his 67 publications out of which four are books and the other 63 are studies and researches published in various magazines. He divides his article into 15 sections and comments on the work of Loukatos under the following headings:

1. Proverbs in General;

2. Proverbs from the Domain of the Church;

3. The Proverbial Discourse in Heperos;

4. Local Collections of Proverbs;

5. The Study of the Types of Proverbs;

6. The Categorization of Proverbs;

7. The Form of Proverbs;

8. The Study of Ancient Proverbs;

9. Proverbs and Social Life;

10. Proverbs and Economic Life;

11. Proverbs and Political Life;

12. Proverbs and network Environment;

13. Proverbs and Neighboring Nations;

14. Other Works on Proverbs; and

15. Book Reviews.

This article also contains rich biographical details about Loukatos and his achievements, and 78 Notes -- References at the end of the article.

4. Individual Proverbs Studies

Nos. 12, 13, and 20 are important studies about individual proverbs. In 12, Kevin J. McKenna, through 15 cartoons, analyzes how the metaphor “ship of state’ captures the imminent collapse of the Soviet Union in the fall of 1991 and the 1991/2000 transition to Putin. He also shows how the ship of state metaphor has undergone a transformation to become a much more technologically advanced space-age version in the form of a complex control panel via the metaphor of a jeep truck.

This article offers empirical evidence to show how a symbolic image can be manipulated to suit the social practices obtained in the society. It is just not an image of a ship that is involved but an entire process of semiotic representation of social action in terms of caricatural action that is at focus. The same principle also works at the level of language at the most primitive level – it is karmik (impressional) cognitional representational action of action as in the Karmik Linguistic Theory proposed by me. Of course, language is much more complex and much more varied but the basic principle is the same.

In 13, Wolfgang Mieder in a long and comprehensively researched article traces the history of “Government of the people, by the people, for the people” from a quotable definition of democracy to a generally known democratic proverb” (p. 259). Starting from the “Early Beginnings with John Adams and John Marshal”, Mieder traces the long history and development of the phrase from 1794 to September 11, 2001 in its different forms in different contexts. One cannot but admire the patience and the resourcefulness, and the penchant for detail of the writer!

In 20, Derek A. Williams “follows the transit of a proverb through time within the context of one African American family, demonstrating how a vivid performance aids in that transmission” (p.394): The Proverb is: Everything that shine ain’t gold. Here again is an article that raises issues that have for reaching implications for a theory of proverbs:

What is the perlocutionary force of proverbs on the hearers?

How are proverbs acquired in real life situations?

What is the contribution of discourse analysis for a theory of proverbs?

What is language and how does it function from the perspective of proverbs?

It is difficult to discuss these issues in detail in a review of this kind but a few observations are submitted on these points for consideration by future researchers.

It will be a worthy study to know how proverbs influence the course of people’s lives in a culture and how they are inherited and transmitted. From my own experience, I find that proverbs have a varied degree of impact on people’s lives. In own family, my mother uses proverbs as a part of her grammar. Whenever she finds a proverb for an occasion, she uses it. Sometimes the proverbs are triggered by mere association with words – they are citations; sometimes, they are used to express very strong emotions of likes and dislikes, and censure; sometimes they are used to impart wisdom. My elder sisters use proverbs occasionally – it appears that they choose the proverbs consciously. My brother and myself use proverbs rarely. On the issue of inheritance, I have not conducted research but I asked my sisters about the influence of proverbs on their lives. In the case of my elder sister, proverbs have an influence on her living style. For example, she readily recollects the proverb u:rukunnanta uttamam, gundanta sukham le:du (There is no pleasure than keeping quiet (and) (having) a tonsured head) and tells that she remembers this proverb in group conversations and as a result avoids free conversation, not knowing who might pluck feathers out of which chicken’s egg; in the case of my second sister also, such an influence is visible. For example, asuddham mi:da ra:je:ste: mana mi:de: padutundi ( If a stone is thrown into excrement, it will fall only on us) has prevented her from getting into a quarrel with someone. Another proverb she mentions is adusu tokka ne la kallu kadugaga ne:la (Why stamp on mud? Why wash the feet? ). In my case, during my youth, it never occurred that I should follow the wisdom in proverbs and now I remember some proverbs and think about them but I have never put them into conscious practice until now. Probably, my life would have been more focused had I heeded to some proverbs, especially One thing at a time.

There are also instances where proverbs have misled people because of an improper understanding of them. One of my friends, an elderly gentleman above 60 years tells me that the proverb “Speech is silver; silence is golden” has unduly silenced his speech in real life. So it appears different strokes for different folks!

The question of how proverbs are acquired in real life has serious implications for the theory of proverbs in particular and language and culture in general. Identifying proverbs is one thing; remembering them is another thing; recollecting and using them appropriately is a different thing; and finally imbibing them into habits is an altogether complex thing! This question needs to be addressed by data driven studies.

As far as the contribution of discourse analysis for a theory of proverbs is concerned, this article of Derek A. Williams is an important contribution. Let us see in detail, how it is. First, no theoretically guided in depth analyses of real proverbial discourse, especially, conversation, are available to date, except that of Bhuvaneswar (1998 a, b, c, d). Even in this article of Williams, we have not been presented with the complete conversational exchange and its structure in the exchange in which the proverb was used. But from the two contexts in which the proverb Everything that shine ain’t gold is used clearly points out to the essential characteristic of proverbs, namely, the prototype – categorical instantiation property (as I call it). That is why in my definition of the proverb I have opted for it to bring out the uncommon characteristic of the proverb as follows: “A proverb is a culturally confirmed frozen text of a prototypical practice used as an illocution over a categorial action in a setting for a projected view of life” (Bhuvaneswar 2004).

Even though this proverb has wisdom in it, it is not necessary that all proverbs embody wisdom as already pointed out earlier and it is equally possible that they might be used merely as “comments” on social practice, without the tag of wisdom attached to them. They may perform a different function of giving aesthetic appeal as in the case of the following conversation:

A: Why aren’t you married?

B: Why buy the cow when you get the milk free? (Elvis Presley)

Of course, we can argue that there is wisdom in this sexually colored proverb and even though the function for which the proverb is used is for aesthetic appeal, to create humor, wisdom is inseparably linked to the proverb. That is running a race without a competitor! Further, the use of this proverb by Elvis Presley raises another question about the application of proverbs. Is it misapplied here in this context or a new function has been created by using it in an unsuitable context like this? That is why I consider language to be impressional cognitional representational action of action. In Bhuvaneswar (1999), another interesting use of an adapted proverb is discussed: a:di lo:ne: himsapadu (In the beginning itself, a violence foot) from the original version a:di lo:ne: hamsapa:du (In the beginning itself, a swan foot (i.e. a caret)). Here also it is a comment on social practice to attract and arrest the attention of the newspaper reader – thereby increasing the sales of the paper. Arguing from another perspective of equine proverbs, we find that the prepositional content of proverbs is nothing but social praxis (see Bhuvaneswar 1999 e).

There are many other issues that will become clear from discourse analysis: 1. Functions of Proverbs; 2. Metaphoricity and Literalness in Proverbs; 3. Difference between Sayings and Proverbs; 4. Cultural Values in Proverbs. Hence it is suggested that the attention of the researchers be focused on this area.

In 19, Tatiana Valdaeva conducts a stylistic analysis of anti-proverbs in English. She discusses different types of anti-proverbs related to religion, feminism, politics, advertising, humor, men-women relations and describes various phonetic, syntactic, semantic and lexical devices used in building anti-proverbs. She finally concludes her article by saying that “Anti-proverbs have the same function in every day as traditional proverbs, namely, they are an effective means for bringing a meaning in a short phrase” (p. 390).

The author of this article notes that “such changes are sure to affect the language (emphasis mine) because every new idea, new occurrence requires its own bearer, who will promote this idea using new, easily understandable and vivid language” (p. 379). She repeats the same idea in p. 380: “their changes will always have a toll on the language (emphasis mine); “their influence over the English language (emphasis mine) can be found in proverbs: But she has not shown how the effects on the language occurred. What she did was to show how the proverbs were challenged or adapted to reflect the immediately available reality.

Let us take one or two examples to illustrate this point of view. In “Life is like a bed of roses – full of pricks”, there is a play on the meaning of ‘bed of roses’ with a semantic change brought about in the phrase. In that sense, there is a change in language. In the original proverb Life is not a bed of roses, roses are considered without the pricks – only the flowers without the stems – whereas in the anti-proverb, they are not. Incidentally, the example chosen is a proof against deriving the meaning of a metaphor in terms of similarity in characteristics. Here ‘Life’ (the topic) does not possess any similarity with ‘a bed of roses’ (the vehicle) – they are dissimilar: ‘A is not B’. That is why I defined a metaphor as a superimposition (adhyasa) in my Karmik Linguistic Theory (cf. Bhuvaneswar 2002, 2004): “A metaphor can be defined as a vasanaik (impressional) adhyasik (superimpositional) linguistic cognition of the adhistanan (the topic) as the adharam (the vehicle)”. However, these two subtle points are not discussed and the thesis of the article has to be reexamined in view of the first observation and the following.

In the other examples cited: Woman’s place is in the House …in the Senate; 2. Better safe sex than sorry; 3. A Bible in the hand is worth two in the bookcase; 4. Rome wasn’t built in day, probably because it was a government job; 5. Pleasure before business; 6.A barking dog never bites, but not all the dogs know this proverb; 7. Marriage is a lottery… but you can tear up your ticket if you lose; 8. Marriages are made in heaven ….So is thunder and lightning; 9. A word to the wise is sufficient enough… only when the word is wise; 10. Practice makes perfect… when you practice perfection; 11. The early worm gets eaten by a bird; 12. Eat, drink and be Mary, etc.

The change is in terms of the meaning of the expressions and not language per se- probably, the author used language to mean the change in meaning! What happens in these examples is an adaptation or challenge of the existing social practices. Thus, these anti-proverbs are another solid proof to consider proverbs primarily as texts of social practices rather than statements of wisdom (cf. Bhuvaneswar 2004). Furthermore, the creation of the anti-proverbs is synchronically or diachronically antecedent to the creation of proverbs and hence they are new options created to reflect the contextual reality. In that sense, the systemic functional linguistic model cannot account for it within the network of given options. Only in the Karmik Linguistic Theory that considers language as “karmik cognitional representational action of action”, it can be satisfactorily accounted for. The anti-proverbs are created as a result of many traits present in human beings: 1.Innovation; 2.Humour; 3. Satire. These impact on the social praxis and give birth to anti proverbs (cf. Bhuvaneswar 1999).

5. Paremiological History

In 4, Maria Conca and Josep Guia present “a summary of the most important milestones in the history of Catalan language proverbs from the thirteenth to the sixteenth centuries, including compendiums, moral – didactic works and literary pieces” (p. 71). This is a well-researched paper with 150 footnotes to indicate diachronic and cross-linguistic parallels for given proverbs (p. 71) and highlight the Catalan cultural contribution to the international paremiological wealth. One contribution of Catalan paremiology is the poetic composition Refrains Vimats containing 72 proverbs. “It is a paremiological, verse-producing game involving linking proverbs by rhyming the second clause of one proverb with the first clause of a following, and demands acute ability (p. 81).

In addition to these thirteen articles, there is an obituary (pp. 439 – 447) in which Mieder condoles the death of the famous Lithuanian paremiologist Kazys Grigas (1924) – 2002) who has a total of 246 publications (between 1953 and 1998) to his credit. Mieder also includes a list of 26 influential publications “with keyword annotations that will indicate the comparative and interdisciplinary approach to proverb studies by the renowned and admired paremiographer and paremiologist Kazys Grigas” (p. 443).

So far we have made a review of the 13 articles written in English in Proverbium 20 (2003), which are thought provoking and informative in their content and analysis. In view of the important issues raised during the review, it would be worthwhile to summarize them in a separate section.


The following observations, from the 13 articles reviewed, are restated for the kind consideration of future researchers. It would be helpful to number the proverbial texts in any checklist of proverbs used, collected or analyzed by writers.

o        That all proverbs do contain wisdom is a critical opinion that is debatable. It has to be re-examined from semantic, cultural anthropological, and pragmatic perspectives.

o        The semantic scope of proverbs in use, and whether they are used as generalizations or metaphors or prototypes or more than one of these categories in a context has to be carefully investigated.

o        It is worthwhile to explore the range of functions which proverbs are used to perform both within a culture and across cultures from a socio-pragmatic point of view.

o        The fact that new functions can be created and chosen as options in the performance of proverbs raises an important issue in systemic functional linguistics. Such an option needs to be incorporated into the model, especially, as a karmic linguistic theoretical input.

o        There in no correspondence between the worldview of a society and that presented in proverbs.

o        Whether proverbs represent every facet of human experience in a culture needs to be substantiated by empirical evidence.

o        The definition of the proverb has been a vexing problem and each critic defined it as he liked without any adherence to the basic principles of a definition. It is high time that paremiologists realized this.

o        The metaphoricity in proverbs and the very concept of metaphor from the angle of proverbs needs to be investigated carefully.

o        Very few data driven analyses of the perlocutionary force of proverbs in real life are available. Such analyses will provide a case for the propagation of didactic proverbs in a society.

o        The area of discourse analysis of proverbial conversational exchanges is one vital area that has been neglected by linguists.

It would be wonderful if Proverbium could start a subject/topic review of paremiological research with a cut off point as 2000 A.D. In a similar way, reviews on research according to geographical divisions will also be a welcome feature. Joe Healey recommends allotment of a separate section for Africa.



I. Articles in English

1. Chilukuri Bhuvaneswar. “Culture as Communication: The Construction

of Indexical Meaning in Proverbs”. 1– 14

2. George B. Bryan and Wolfgang Mieder. “The Proverbial Carl Sandburg

(1878 – 1967) An Index of Folk Speech in his American Poetry”. 15 – 50

4. Maria Conca and Josep Guia. “Verb volant, scripta manent’:

An Historical Panorama of Catalan Paremiology from Its origins to

the Renaissance.” 71 – 94

6. Aristeides Doulaveras. “Demetrios S. Loukatos as a Paremiologist”. 159 – 170

7. E.U.C. Ezejideaku. “Disability and Disabled in Igbo Proverbs”. 159 – 170

12. Kevin J. McKenna. “A Nation Adrift: The Russian “Ship of State”

in Pravda Political Cartoons during the Decade of the 1990s. 237 – 258

13. Wolfgang Mieder. “Government of the People, by the People,

for the People”: The Making and Meaning of an American

Proverb of Democracy”. 359 – 308

15. Roumyana Petrova. “Comparing Proverbs as Cultural Texts”. 331 – 344

17. Pat Rogers. “Daniel Defoe and the Local Proverb”. 359 - 356

18. Olga V. Trokhimenko. “If You Sit on the Doorstep Long Enough,

You Will Think of Something’: The Function of Proverbs in J.R.R.

Tolkien’s Hobbit ”. 367 – 378

19. Tatiana Valdaeva. “Anti – Proverbs or New Proverbs: The Use of

English Anti – Proverbs and their Stylistic Analysis”. 379 – 390

20. Derek A. Williams. “Everything that Shine Ain’t Gold”: A

Preliminary Ethnography of a Proverb in an African American

Family”. 391 – 406

21. Yisa Kehinde Yusuf and Joyce T. Methangwane. “ Proverbs and HIV/AIDS”.

407 - 422

II. Obituary

1. Wolfgang Mieder. “Kazys Grigas (1924 – 2002)”. 439 - 448

III. Proverbium 20

Wolfgang Mieder (2003): Proverbium 20 Yearbook of International Proverb Scholarship. Vermont: University of Vermont

B. General Reference

Barley, Nigel (1987). “ A Structural Approach to the Proverb and Maxim with Special Reference to Anglo – Saxon Corpus”. Proverbium 16 (1971) - 25 (1975). Ed. by Wolfgang Mieder. New York: Peter Lang. 737 – 750

Bartlett, Tom (2004). “ Exploring the Elephant: Combining Functional Perspectives”. 30 International SFL Congress. Lucknow: CIEFL Campus

Bhuvaneswar Chilukuri (1997). “Telugu Proverbs Used by Parents with Their Children”. A Term Paper for Ph.D. Course Work. Hyderbad: C I E F L (Also Accepted for Presentation at the Second International Conference on South Asian Languages (1999). Patiala: Punjab University)

_________ (1999 a). “Equine Proverbs in Telugu: A Checklist with Their Meaning and Usage”. 27th All India Conference of Dravidian Linguists. Thiruvananthapuram: International School of Dravidian Linguistics.

_________ (1999 b). “The Telugu Proverb in Inform/Elicit Exchange Structure: A Multilayered Systemic Analysis”. The Second Term Paper for Ph.D. Hyderabad: C I E F L. Also presented at the 27 A I C D L.

_________ (1999 c). “Telugu and English Proverbs in I/E Exchange Structure: a Multilayered Systemic Analysis”. First International Congress on English Grammar. Hyderabad: C I E F L

_________ (1999 d). “Variation in Telugu and English Proverbs on Horse: Evidence for an Integrated Linguistic Theory of Culture”. The Third Term Paper for Ph. D. Hyderabad: C I E F L.

_________ (1999 e). “Adaptation of Telugu Proverbs by Lexical Variation: A Sociolinguistic (Sociostylistic!) Analysis of 1999 Election Journalese”. The Fourth Term Paper for Ph. D Hyderabad. C I E F L

________ (1999 f). “ Proverbs in Conversation: An Analysis of Their Parma- linguistic and Socio-pragmatic Functions”. A Pre - Ph. D. Examination Paper. Hyderabad: C I E F L

_______ (1999 g). “ Approaches to Discourse: An Evaluation for Analysis of Proverbs”. A Pre - Ph.D. Examination Paper. Hyderabad: C I E F L

_______ (2002a). “Metaphors in Proverbs and Proverbs as Metaphors : Rethinking SFL as Karmik SFL”. 2nd Australian Systemic Functional Linguistic Association Conference. Macquarie: Macquarie University

_________ (2002b). “The Proverb and Its Definition: A Karmik (Systemic Functional) Linguistic Approach: 30 International Systemic Functional Linguistics Congress. Lucknow: C I E F L Campus

___________ (2004). “Metaphoricity in Proverbs: A Karmik Linguistic Analysis”. National Seminar on Theoretical and Applied Aspects of Lexical Semantics. Hyderabad: Osmania University

Burke, Kenneth (1941). The Philosophy of Literary Form: Studies in Symbolic Action. Baton Rouge, Louisiana: Louisiana State University Press

Finnegan, Ruth (1994). “Proverbs in Africa”. The Wisdom of Many: Essays on the Proverb. Ed. by Wolfgang Mieder and Alan Dundes. Madison: The University of Wisconsin Press. 10 – 42

Mieder, Wolfgang (1971). “Behold the Proverbs of a People’: A Florilegium of Proverbs in Carl Sandburg’s Poem Good Morning, America (1928). Southern Folklore Quarterly, 35. 160 – 168

________ (1973). “ Proverbs in Carl Sandburg’s Poem The People, Yes (1936)”. Southern Folklore Quarterly, 37. 15 – 36

Widdowson, John D. (1972). “Proverbs and Sayings from Filey”. Patterns in the Folk Speech of the British Isles. Ed by Martin F. Wakelin. London: The Athlone Press of the University of London. 50 – 72


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