Wisdom in Art, Culture, Folklore, History, Literature and Mass Media
7. “Don’t Swap Horses in the Middle of the Stream” History of Abraham Lincoln’s Apocryphal Proverb 205
The detailed study of the origin, history, dissemination, use, function, and meaning of a single proverb must by necessity be based on intercultural and interdisciplinary research methods. Such investigations can quickly become involved case studies that result in extensive monographs, drawing on such scholarly disciplines as anthropology, folklore, history, linguistics, literature, philology, philosophy, political science, psychology, religion, sociology, etc.i Special attention must also be paid to the appearance of the particular proverb in the mass media and oral discourse, always citing references in context in order to interpret the polysituativity, polyfunctionality, and polysemanticity of the piece of folk wisdom. In the case of an internationally disseminated proverb, the fascinating aspects of loan processes enter into this complex picture, and all of this has great significance for the inclusion of the text in various types of dictionaries. There exists a fair number of investigations of individual proverbs,ii demonstrating how proverbs originate and evolve into rather ambiguous metaphors expressing general truths that are not necessarily universally true. The relatively “new” proverb “Don’t swap horses in the middle of the stream” and its vari- ants with their international dissemination may well serve as a further example to illustrate the complexity of paremiological scholarship once the questions regarding origin, history, and meaning of but one proverb are raised. “Don’t Swap Horses IN THE Middle OF THE Stream” History of Abraham Lincoln’s Apocryphal Proverb C H A P T E R S E V E N Mieder-07.indd 205 6/2/2008 3:57:17 PM 206...
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