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Summing up

Posted by ESC on October 25, 2002

In Reply to: Stubborn as a mule posted by R. Berg on October 24, 2002

: : : : In my english class I have to write this paper on proverbs and back them up, either prove or disprove them. I am having the hardest time so if anybody has any ideas on how I could do this I would really appricate it.

: : : : Food for thought

: : : : In a nutshell

: : : : stubborn as a mule

You posted an inquiry on The Phrase Finder about the following:
FOOD FOR THOUGHT - "Something to ponder; a provocative idea. It is a classic metaphor: food is crucial for the body, and the mind works best when given things to chew on. Robert Southey wrote, in 'A Tale of Paraguay' : 'A lively tale, and fraught for thought.'" From "The Dictionary of Cliches" by James Rogers (Ballantine Books, New York, 1985).

STUBBORN (OBSTINATE) AS A MULE - "Ornery. 'With no good reason, the mule is a proverbial type of obstinacy,' the 'Oxford English Dictionary' says. Many a mule driver would dispute the statement. If a mule does not want to go, it takes a considerable effort to get it going. At any rate, the impression of mulish obstinacy is of long standing. Maria Edgeworth's 'Absentee' says: 'She was as obstinate as a mule on that point.'" From "Dictionary of Cliches" by James Rogers (Ballantine Books, New York, 1985).

IN A NUTSHELL - From The Phrase Finder discussion archives: Entry for "Nutshell", _Dictionary of Phrase and Fable_, E. Cobham Brewer, 1898: "The Iliad in a nutshell. Pliny tells us that Cicero asserts that the whole Iliad was written on a piece of parchment which might be put into a nutshell. Lalanne describes, in his Curiosités Bibliographiques, an edition of Rochefoucault's Maxims, published by Didot in 1829, on pages one inch square, each page containing 26 lines, and each line 44 letters. Charles Toppan, of New York, engraved on a plate one-eighth of an inch square 12,000 letters. The Iliad contains 501,930 letters, and would therefore occupy 42 such plates engraved on both sides. Huet has proved by experiment that a parchment 27 by 21 centimètres would contain the entire Iliad, and such a parchment would go into a common-sized nut; but Mr. Toppan's engraving would get the whole Iliad into half that size. George P. Marsh says, in his Lectures, he has seen the entire Arabic Koran in a parchment roll four inches wide and half an inch in diameter. (See ILIAD.) 1
To lie in a nutshell. To be explained in a few words; to be capable of easy solution."

We (Phrase Finder folk) agree that these three aren't proverbs. Probably similes or metaphors. Simile -- a figure of speech comparing two unlike things that is often introduced by like or as (as in cheeks like roses). Metaphor -- a figure of speech in which a word or phrase literally denoting one kind of object or idea is used in place of another to suggest a likeness or analogy between them (as in drowning in money). Merriam-Webster online.

A proverb is a piece of practical wisdom expressed in homely, concrete terms. For example: 'A closed mouth catches no flies.' (".synonymous with an ADAGE - is a short, popular saying that expresses a truth or insight; for example, 'a word to the wise is sufficient.") From "When is a Pig a Hog?: A Guide to Confoundingly Related English Words" by Bernice Randall (Galahad Books, New York, 1991).

Here are some proverbs:

A PENNY SAVED IS A PENNY EARNED - "Money not wasted can be used in the future. A responsible person saves even small amounts of money.The proverb has been traced back to Herbert's 'Outlandish Proverbs" and is first attested in the United States in 'William and Mary College Quarterly' ." From "Random House Dictionary of Popular Proverbs and Sayings" by Gregory Y. Titelman (Random House, New York, 1996). Page 275.

WHAT GOES UP MUST COME DOWN - "No matter how high you go, you'll fall to earth sooner or later. The proverb probably originated in the 1870s, according to Eric Partridge, and is commonly associated with the Newtonian law of gravity. The earliest appearance in print was 1929 (The Stretchers' by F. A. Pottle), and it is first cited in the United states in Norman Mailer's 'The Naked and the Dead' ." From "Random House Dictionary of Popular Proverbs and Sayings" by Gregory Y. Titelman (Random House, New York, 1996). Page 359.

CLEANLINESS IS NEXT TO GODLINESS - "This ancient proverb is said by some to have come from ancient Hebrew writings. However, its first appearance in English - though in slightly altered form - seems to be in the writings of Francis Bacon. In his 'Advancement of Learning' he wrote: 'Cleanness of body was ever deemed to proceed from a due reverence to God.' Near two centuries later John Wesley in one of his sermons indicated that the proverb was already well known in the form we use today. Wrote Wesley: 'Slovenliness is no part of religion.'Cleanliness is indeed next to Godliness.'" From "Morris Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins" by William and Mary Morris (HarperCollins, New York, 1977, 1988). There are a couple more details in "Random House Dictionary of Popular Proverbs and Sayings" by Gregory Y. Titelman (Random House, New York, 1996): ".According to the fourteenth edition of 'Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable,' it is an old Hebrew proverb used in the late 2nd century by Rabbi Phinehas ben-Yair. First attested in the United States in the 'Monthly Anthology and Boston Review' . The proverb is found in varying forms."

EXPERIENCE IS THE BEST TEACHER - "One learns more from experience than from books. The proverb has been traced back to 'The Schoolmaster' by Roger Ascham and comes from the Latin phrase 'experientia docet' meaning 'experience teaches.' Walter Scott (1854-1900) disagrees with the proverb, saying that 'experience is the name every one gives to their mistakes.' First attested in the United States in 'Addition to Colonial Currency Reprints' ." From the "Random House Dictionary of Popular Proverbs and Sayings" by Gregory Y. Titelman (Random House, New York, 1996).