Wisdom in Art, Culture, Folklore, History, Literature and Mass Media
1. “Wisdom Is Better Than Wealth” Proverbs as Expressions of Culture and Folklore 9
Of the various verbal folklore genres like fairy tales, legends, tall tales, jokes, and riddles, proverbs are the most concise but not necessarily the simplest form. The vast scholarship on proverbs is ample proof that they are anything but mundane matters in human communication (cf. Mieder 1982–2001, 1999). Proverbs fulfill the human need to summarize experiences and observations into nuggets of wisdom that provide ready-made comments on personal relationships and social affairs. There are proverbs for every imaginable context, and they are thus as contradictory as life itself. Proverb pairs like Absence makes the heart grow fonder and Out of sight, out of mind or Look before you leap and He who hesitates is lost make it abundantly clear that proverbs do not represent a logical philosophical system. But when the proper proverb is chosen for a particular situation, it is bound to fit perfectly, becoming an effective formulaic strategy of communication. Contrary to some isolated opinions, proverbs have not lost their usefulness in modern soci- ety. They serve people well in oral speech and the written word, coming to mind almost automatically as prefabricated verbal units. While the frequency of their employment might well vary among people and contexts, proverbs are a significant rhetorical force in various modes of communication, from friendly chats, powerful political speeches, and religious sermons on to lyrical poetry, best-seller novels, and the influential mass media. Proverbs are in fact everywhere, and it is their ubiquity which has led scholars from many disciplines to...
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