Wisdom in Art, Culture, Folklore, History, Literature and Mass Media
5. “Good Old Yankee Wisdom” Proverbs and the Worldview of New England 143
It is a commonplace by now that proverbs are cultural signs for recurrent social situations. They are employed as verbal strategies to assure meaningful commu- nication, albeit in a metaphorical and indirect fashion (Burke 1941). The wisdom contained in these pithy and formulaic utterances is based on observations and experiences that are believed to be of a general enough nature that they merit to be couched into memorable and repeatable statements. Over time these sentences gain general currency among people, from ethnic, professional, or social groups on to regions, countries, and continents. Some traditional proverbs have reached people throughout the world by means of loan translations and the powerful modern mass media, indicating that at least some proverbs like “Time f lies”, “One hand washes the other” or “Big fish eat little fish” express truths that are universally recognized (Taylor 1931, Röhrich and Mieder 1977). But there are, of course, also countless proverbs that have not reached such broad geographic distribution. In fact, many proverbs have remained confined to nationally and linguistically defined areas. In a large country like the United States, one might indeed speak of proverbs that pertain primarily to certain minorities or regions. Nevertheless, there is bound to be much overlap, and it is an involved task to find those proverbs that “belong” to a certain group or area. Above all, scholars need be extremely careful in drawing generalized conclusions about the national or ethnic character of a people by simply amassing their proverbs. And yet,...
You are not authenticated to view the full text of this chapter or article.
This site requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books or journals.
Do you have any questions? Contact us.Or login to access all content.