«Gegengabe» in Paremiology, Folklore, Language, and Literature – Honoring Wolfgang Mieder on His Seventieth Birthday
Edited By Christian Grandl and Kevin J. McKenna
Rules Are Rules: Maxims in Our Time
Charles Clay Doyle
I hate simple questions; the answers are always so complicated! Recently an acquaintance asked me if proverbs and maxims are the same thing. With no premeditation, I heard myself answering, "Not exactly." But I could not, on the spur of the moment, articulate a substantial answer. I mumbled something about maxims stating rules.
Even though folklorists, for the most part, know better, the lay public often clings to the notion that proverbs as a genre typically propound rules that govern human behavior – rather than doing what the great majority of proverbs actually do: Make general observations about the social world (often comical or satiric observations) or proffer warnings or advice (often ironic or facetiously cynical advice) about personal behavior or attitudes.
The case may be different in fundamentally oral cultures, ones that lack a prevalently-employed system of writing in which regulations for conduct can be fixed and preserved, legalistically, as it were. For instance, certain African societies seem to have relied on the competing citation of proverbs to resolve legal disputes. Some similar process may, indeed, have prevailed in England in the early Middle Ages, when oral principles of Germanic law, with some influence of Roman law and ecclesiastical law, began to be loosely and informally recognized as "Common Law." Even after the cross-Channel predation of 1066, when so-called Law French emerged as the language for extensive written transcripts of judicial proceedings and legal precedents, maxims current in oral...
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.