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Some words are worth pondering. Wise old sayings could help life. Yet life is more than sayings. That is the basic overview.

First-class proverbs are often brief statements that may assist broad overviews and neat views without being rudely insistent, but rather worth pondering for a little while. Some may also be well worth taking to heart, looming and vital for the long art of living, like this Dutch "Think before acting and while acting still think." It includes not only foresight but feedback or monitoring during a venture.

Below are several rounds of sifted proverbs. There are, naturally, limits to the impacts of "the tongue" (language): often more than notions are needed. But some ideascan be well worth taking to heart and into account as we move on with our lives.

The art of lojong. If you record well selected, helpful proverbs on tape and listen to the tapes in the evening while going to bed, you could learn thousands of helpful ideas without much effort. After getting them deeply into your system, they may come to mind often, and you may use them to add to happenings, for benefit. The Buddhist practice of Lojong, often translated as Mind Training, uses the same principles to relate to the world constructively.

From the History of a Big Book of American Proverbs

From the 1940s to the end of the 1970s, dozens of North American scholars collected proverbs, proverbial expressions, wellerisms, and proverbial comparisons that were in actual use in the United States and parts of Canada at the time. The scholars acted under the direction of Margaret M. Bryant, adhering to her guidelines for the collecting work. The extensive project yielded almost 150 000 citation slips of such interesting material at first. It took ten more years to sort and edit the proverbs in the collected material. There were about 75 000 true proverbs in it.

Oxford University Press published a collection of 15 000 of them in 1992, in the Dictionary of American Proverbs. Parts of the content are quotations of Shakespeare, Emerson and other notables. The very well organised book contains proverb variants to choose among too. For example, "Nothing ventured, nothing gained" has seven variants: "Never venture, never gain. Nothing venture, nothing have. Nothing venture nothing lose. Nothing venture, nothing win. Nothing ventured, nothing done. Nothing ventured, nothing made. Nothing ventured, nothing won." [Mieder et al 1992: 630].

A basic attitude behind the proverb and its variants is that we are encouraged to venture things. But how to venture is left out, and what conditions and adaptations that could be fit for it, are missing too. It is not said what marks a well accomplished venture either, so you can see for yourself how far you have succeeded at any time, and whether what you have accomplished is good for you.

The proverb may easily serve as an excuse for silly ventures. What is more, thoughtless ones can easily flounder by silly ventures. Thoughtful ones may too; it depends on what they have been thinking. Also, venture proverbs may have been used to justify bad ventures too. Thus, believing in proverbs without ample reservations or forethought can turn risky and should be discouraged.

A nice proverb selection to reflect on for upbringing purposes contains typically loose and open-ended rules of the thumb and perhaps underhand suggestions as to how to progress, and things to abstain from. That could be useful in a general way, although much depends on which proverbs are given attention. Many proverbs are not helpful when it comes to specifying constructive outlets. [See Mieder et al 1996:ix-x]


American Proverbs: Samples and Examples

LoThanks to the tall "contents" of being in a human shape and body, many odd-looking things a man has to do, follow quite naturally

A young man idle, an old man needy. [Cf. "If youth knew what age would crave, it would both get and save,"]

Many a man sees a wolf at the door because his wife saw a mink in the window.

Praise makes a bad man worse. (Partial)

Man gets and forgets, woman gives and forgives. [Or could it be "Man gives and gets; woman gets and gives"?] ◇

Man can't live in this world alone.

Man is greater than the tools he invents.

LoAll fools are not going for applause

A man chases a girl until she catches him.

Have what it takes to plant a tree.*

The man who does not know himself, is a poor judge of the other fellow.

Men apt to promise are apt to forget.

Men seek less to be instructed than applauded.

LoImpoverishments of many kinds happen to serve future maiming unless it's bulwarked against, and the servile goodies had better go against maiming fares while there is time

Don't be a yes-man. [And if you say "yes" to that, what are you then?]"

Source: American proverbs [Mieder et al 1996:396-405.


  1. Man forgets he is a banana to be plucked, peeled and eaten.
  2. And he thinks it wise to feather his own nest and get peeled there.
  3. He gives up after some time after serious troubles begin.

IN NUCE Man seems oblivious of the fact that his own nesting efforts probably spell mighty trouble.


Extracts on Marriage Coping

It is fine to be forewarned and forearmed instead of becoming gloomy and sinister after misfortunes that should have been foreseen and by that avoided. Thus, instead of whining about how bad men, women, and marriages are, learn how to avoid the underwater skerries, so to speak, to have a pleasant marriage voyage through life rather than shipwreck.

The following sayings contain tips for pondering. They are new, but aligned with derived from the sample of American proverbs right above, in the previous chapter - and they refer to probems "the American way", accordingly. Enjoy yourself; often there is nothing better to do -

LoThe idling young one may be a fool and think differently: prepare your future accordingly

All fools are not yes-men.

Every man who needs applause, has a fool inside his belly.

An idle young man [probably] gets worse if praised for it.

Every man has a fool up his sleeve - some have two. ◇

Insincere yes-men who serve two masters may wrong them both and themselves in he end.

LoLearn to study and measure in front of the important things of life if you reach up to it

Marriage without room for variation could have failed in some way or other.*

He who is without any purpose, often finds room for variations and courtesy.

Every man should measure how his troubles begin, and a long time before marriage. [Get into the Rahe and Holmes scale of stressors]

A good man without a purpose can be compared to an old man when all is said and done. ◇

LoWhere half of all marriages break, the odds of divorced fathers (or 'milk cows') are not so good

When man marries, he's often the last to admit his blunder.

The man who marries, should find lots of room for blunders, but does he?

When man only marries and admits his blunder, there may be plenty of room for courteous variation - perhaps.

"When man marries just one woman, he's [likely to be] the last to admit his blunder," said the Mormon.


  1. For long-lasting success in marriage one should mange well and perhaps also deal with conflicting influences or impulses. A "fool" or "baboon" within any man may well be a bit animalistic - such as the id-linked drives. Modern society seldom makes it easy to operate on top of these drives in an all-round, harmonious way. "First thrive and then wive," anyway, as a British proverb has it. Also consider, "Who goes a beast to Rome, a beast returns." It may apply to marriage and in particular remarriage with added problems to handle. [Fergusson 1983:240]

  2. Marriage with ample room for basic ease of living, or "without any tight schedule or such purpose" often finds room for variations, courtesy and enjoyments. If not, "Matrimony is a school in which one learns too late" and then may go on to find it is "the tomb of love." Statistics confirms it a long way for about two thirds of those who marry in Oklahoma -[Fergusson 1983:153-4 etc.]
  3. When man marries mainly as a result of various rational-looking calculations, he may be the last to admit how deep such a mistake was. Further, uniqueness of individuals is most often impossible to calculate fairly from average-based statistics.
IN NUCE Seldom harmonious ➟ ample room for mistakes. - And from mistakes in large numbers you get probability statistics and a lot of sayings of the type "What my life taught me after I was blessed to survive." Many proverbs are of such a kind.


Bear Fun or Make Sound Use of It?

LoConstructive utterances express things that are often valid, but much could depend on interpretation

Americans are changing. On this and another page you may find utterances from North America after the violent, lawless conditions in the Wild West, where boors ruled, and before outsourcing, aggravating environmental hazards through pollution and the like became alarming and demanded another main course away from bank crises and a drastic polarisation of wealth, where the rich get richer many poor ones not, and the middle class shrinking, and the whole society subjected to a tight surveillance and control that a generation ago was held to be kind of nightmarish. With social dependency increasing, it is also alarming how the richest one percent owns about half of the total wealth in the country (2016), and go on amassing wealth without caring all right for the less favoured Americans. So why admire outcomes and exponents of great greed and much too little concern for the welfare of fellow beings?

Many proverbs reflect shared dreams and often presupposed conditions of fulfilment. These have been changing, and times are changing still. For all that, some ideas look pretty and may be of value to us in the changing times too.

Likable living. Speaking of global changes, providing enough decent work and livelihoods for all who want to work is a rising challenge. When it comes to health and prosperity, the land of lefse and lutefisk (Norway) has topped the United Nations' Human Development Index (HDI) for twelve years in a row (2015), and the USA was the eight on the list in 2015. To be ranked as the eighth best country is not bad, but the gross imbalances in the USA are not reflected in average-based statistics. Sometimes averages are not good enough to describe the main conditions.

The three broad factors that the UN's HDI are based on, are not enough to give an accurate picture when it comes to ranking how good different countries are to live in: Quality of life is summed up by thriving too. Personal safefy, security, climate, housing, prices, unpolluted environment, (fresh air to breathe, undisturbed sleep, etc) and closeness to unspoiled or likable nature count too.

The living conditions in our times are marked by urbanisation, centralisation, differentiation, profit-eager exploitation and competition, and much callousness in business. Pollution and explotation often go hand in hand, affecting those who are vulnerable first in many cases, for example vulnerable to the man-made climate changes that have begun to jeopardise living conditions in many places already.

Those who adapt to the wrong business trends may get rich and because of that live longer and and better than the many poor. Many values in the American society give hazardious living conditions for many, many, both in the United States and in cynically exploited other countries. The American dominance is a global phenomenon, but many economic values are clearly mad - like sawing off the branch one is sitting on - that is: not sustainable.

Freud and Americans. Proverbs circulating in a country may reveal values in that society. It is well to spend some forethought and monitoring thought on the values reflected or revealed in a society's cherished proverbs. It could prove crucial not to copy Americanism wholesale and rigidly, but consider its dominating outlets carefully. For example, every second American is of ill health.

We see the drift toward getting obese, but the average Jack and Jill over there are probably just victims of a life-style, the sugar industry, and advertising. For all that, there is still a lot of fantastic things to say about America and Americans. Maybe Sigmund Freud overlooked something when he decreed long ago (he visited America in 1909): "America is the most grandiose experiment the world has seen, but, I am afraid, it is not going to be a success" - and "America is a mistake, a giant mistake."

Some things have improved a lot in the US since Freud, and if not a lot, then a little, and if not a little, at least they may be possible to rectify in the future if that can be done against climate changes with drastic wildfires in the west and south; desertification and occasional tornadoes in the middle; more violent weather and flooding in the east, snow storms in the north and further. Yes, let us not agree like children with Dr Freud, but reserve our judgement, allied with the ominous trends already seen..

Are your key enemies from within a country behind advertising, too? Slowly and surely the States will need the help it can get from all the good-hearted, hearty guys it has got on board, so to speak, guys that are able to peer through some of the bad trends that serve only a fraction of the people and that create hazards for many. Good guys are many, and some come up with great solutions.

At any rate, in the light of statistics and trends we can glimpse today, we may rise to take in proverbs from one of the world's richest and most polluting countries with much reservation, considering there are many forms and levels of wealth; not everyone with money is cruelly possessive, and then seek to gauge who and what each of the visible major trends might serve first and foremost. We can learn to win from those with "good wealth", be taken aback with those with just amassed wealth, and think of better use of it also. In that process we can also consider "quite opposite" values than some at play, for the values of rascals with or without a bombastic Stetson hat and much money seem too vain. It goes without saying that fiendish, dirty or rotten ways are moulding some young people.

Buffet. Warren Buffet is the most successful investor in the world and among the world's wealthiest people. He is also a notable philanthropist. "How can this be fair?" Buffett asked, regarding how little he pays in taxes compared to his employees. "How can this be right?" Also: "It's my class, the rich class, that's making war, and we're winning." Buffett believes government should not be in the business of gambling, or legalizing casinos, calling it a tax on ignorance. Buffett also said about investments in tobacco that "I would not like to have a significant percentage of my net worth invested in tobacco businesses. The economy of the business may be fine, but that doesn't mean it has a bright future." Bufet had apparently learnt something since 1987, when he said, "I'll tell you why I like the cigarette business. It costs a penny to make. Sell it for a dollar. It's addictive. And there's fantastic brand loyalty." (Wikipedia, "Warren Buffet")

Some have wealth in many forms and way. Some are rich in looks, some are rich in books, and so on. Against being taken in by dirty ways, there is a motto from the French Revolution from 1789, where the high cry was for freedom (from gruelling poverty in the hands of the vain rich), equality (in some ways), and brotherhood among non-brothers. So the have-littles finally had it with the haves, and heads kept rolling.

Finally, here is Abraham Maslow's pyramid of needs. It has five levels. On each level Maslow postulates a series of needs. It follows that a need that is amply fulfilled, thereby suggests a form of wealth, or even several forms of wealth. A need well fulfilled allows for growth into higher levels and work toward fulfilment of some of the needs there, he says. The (money-)rich buy works of art as investments at first, but may grow attached to them later. At any rate, we may get rich on many levels and in many fields and walks of life. Life is enriched by decent fares, good nature contacts and much else too. The pyramid hints at "rich in many ways", and if not rich, then perhaps affluent, and if not affluent, then on the track to something.

Abraham Maslow's Pyramid of Needs +

Figure. Abraham Maslow's postulated pyramid of layered (hierarchic) needs with some "room on the top" added here - that is, room for developments.

"Fulfillment steps" that Maslow postulate, to be read from bottom and up:

  • Self-actualization desires and yearnings.
  • Esteem hankerings.
  • Social yearnings.
  • Safety adherence.
  • Physiological, steady competence needs.

Topics to pry with or without enough decency. Spot a need, try to filfil it for yourself and near ones, then add others to that. This is being social. Some may instead choose to exploit others by playing on their needs, by subtly utilising them for getting rich. The danger of such behavior is that the best is overlooked, passed by, and people are made stupid victims of exploiters. You think about it.

LoGood and sober classifications can help us to build further or go on further

If labour standards are largely successful, we may apply them - adapt them to ourself and local conditions.

LoBy mere chance one is not likely to think and express cogently and well. One should study a lot to make deft use of good proverbs

Proverbs that served many Americans "back then and there", may not suit all and sundry, and not here and now either. They can still be entertaining! And what is more, they may assist our handling and we go about our business.

I have devised a sensible, quite all-round scheme that allows for practical use of proverbs. There is more about such figurative gold eggs here: [LINK]

Good sayings may contain sensible conclusions of significant life experiences. They may also express hopes "up in the air like balloons", so to speak. "I hope when I get to Heaven I shall not find the women playing second fiddle," is one interesting statement by Mary Watson Whitney shortly before her death. It suggests the balance of power between men and women should be changed.

Much research may be condensed into more or less figurative statements and even better too. Life experiences of scientists make for proverb-like utterances too. A few examples of the latter: "There is nothing as practical as a good theory," informs Kurt Lewin. "When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong," is Arthur C. Clarke's Third Law, as he calls it (it is just a quote).

"The priest persuades a humble people to endure their hard lot, a politician urges them to rebel against it, and a scientist thinks of a method that does away with the hard lot altogether," says Max Percy idealistically on behalf of science. In actual practice, research serves technology, which serves corporations and commerce, which exploit markets, people, animals, plant life and the soil the world over. There are luckily exceptions to this scheme, but to ignore the facts of a thing is not wise. "What we need is not the will to believe but the will to find out," says Bertrand Russell.

This round of quotations were to show there are deep waters, lagoons, and puddles in life, and that some proverbs probably are tailed to puddles of life experiences, but not the deep (existential) waters anyway. It is different with Buddha's great sayings. He said he chose to tell of only what was helpful for good people in general.

Sensible old sayings reach likeable conclusions that fit a lot of times, in part because they reflect human nature, which is harder to change than nature's mild flowers. (cf. cultivars). Some proverbs seem fit for America still, and some may be adapted to the demands and conditions outside of the United States too. Besides, when it comes to likeable outlets and outcomes, it's much up to associates we have.

A certain mishap once make a Norwegian carpenter slice cheese instead of wood, we have been told

Through the tick tack tao it is now possible to:
  • Align ourselves with the better outlooks of the past;
  • Enlarge on and substantiate many of them a bit;
  • Arrange (select and sift) reasonable and fine proverbs for even further help.

Advanced "scientific laziness" (cf. quotation above) makes some invent the refrigerator, others the microwave oven, others again the infra-red oven, and so on. Some developments of "clever laziness" save work and resources through intelligent thought put into system till things work. Some results of the research process tend to save work, like the washing machine.

Some forms of mishap make people try new ways and means, and come up with something handy, like the cheece slicer. The Norwegian furniture carpenter, Thor Bjørklund patented it in 1925.

Leaving that issue aside, the busy inventor could be driven by plotting laziness at bottom - that is, a desire to make life easier, at best like the Golden Age of man, according to Greek mythology.

Proverbs on women - denigrating for most part

American proverbs are less flattering to women than to men. It is a sad thing. Example:

A woman, a dog, and a walnut tree: the worse you treat them, the better they'll be.

The proverb is not true, for one thing. It smears women and dogs alike, so it is bad. It is still a proverb. Sayings that form attitudes to the opposite sex, had better be trustworthy and helpful (constructive). If not, social unbalances, injustice, and great unrest may grow, even suppressions of other people.

Proverbs on wives, mistresses, mothers, daughters and girls are many. Not all of them serve good and decent ends. It is not wrong to be principled in such an issue, but is Socrates the man to lend ears to here? "Everyone should be married. If it is successful, you will become happy. If not, you will become a philosopher." I should add that philosophers are few and far between, and divorces are not.

From a list of 166 American proverbs with variants on women in American Proverbs [Mieder et al 1992:]

It may be a woman's privilege to bless almost any man's average ambitions and make a good show out of it.

An Army woman who fears no man may be the joy of her husband if she doesn't beat the joy out of him.


Samples to Be Worked On

Lo"American" fit for creativity training

Proverbs have variants, and the variants show how the living proverb tradition has worked through retelling: Variants appear, and new proverbs are formed on the pattern of older proverbs, for example. In this lies an opportunity for creativity training, and it can be fun. Conditions fit for creativity should not be locked and censorous in the first place, and should not disregard many of the basic conditions that help creativity on and up among youngsters and grown-ups either.

What makes a proverb "American"? It has been used "in that land of immigrants and their descendants in the first place, next recorded, and finally included in a dictionary as "an American proverb". It is just like that. In A Dictionary of American Proverbs we may see what regions or states given proverbs were recorded in too. [Mieder et al 1996:xiii]

LoProverbs are for marketing too

Sayings from the writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson are found in American Proverbs along with quotations by other famous persons, including Benjamin Franklin, Mark Twain, and William Shakespeare, because some proverbs are taken from writings of named persons, maybe modified, and other proverbs do not have known authors linked to them. [See Mieder et al 1996:xii; Fergusson 1983] ◇

Proverbs allow themselves to be worked on as part of creativity training, brainstorming, and marketing. Thus, "The true secret to genius is in creativity (Richard Feynman)."

LoYou may feel uplifted in thought and mind by terse metaphorical expressions, which are not infrequently part of proverbs that are put to good use

An American proverb can also be a hybridised offspring of some European proverbs - lightly modified or just translated into English, as the case may be. American immigration history itself lends credibility to that line of thinking, but there is some speculation into it too. Leaving speculation aside, the gathered proverbs of the study (above) show which states the different proverbs were recorded in, and this may be lined to US polls that tell how many of the population in the various states were of European descent, and which country they came from. If we have no direct, concrete evidence that certain proverbs are translated directly from an European tongue, we get at best statistically founded probabilities. Compare: [Statistics]

Immigrant history also has its statistical data. They may set us on the track to explore or investigate the similarity of proverbs between countries of the Old World and the New World too. That some American proverbs are English proverbs used by English immigrants in the new territories they settled in, looks rather obvious. Proverbs that originate in American soil may be rarer than the imported, immigrated ones. I find it fairly likely that immigrant subcultures kept their cherished proverbs in their new country and as their americanisation went on, rendered the proverbs into English. I would be astonished if that did not happen.

Yet, one is to give due consideration to the alternatives, such as: When for example American proverbs in states with many Norwegian-Americans are look-alikes of proverbs found in Norway (and Sweden and Denmark), theoretically speaking they may be one or more of the following: direct translations from the language; direct translations from another language that contains the same proverb; spontaneous, new occurrences of a look-alike proverbs in the hundreds and thousands.

There are many variants of proverbs. The variants serve as modifications. And to think up alternative expressions is a form a creative outlet, Such a way of handling proverbs may be suspected to have been at work, and indicates how you may use proverbs to stimulate thinking that allows alternatives, so-called divergent intelligence is at the root of it. It may be taken care of and trained too. Neural networks in the brain may get developed thus, and it could be good for you: Nice, not immoderate fun tends to be good for folks.

A good saying should be pertinent and graceous enough. You are free to try to fill in something in the way of proverbs as you wish. There is a series of patterned ways of expressing ideas that can be used to generate many more proverbial sayings - or variations over themes.

The example above about "venture" illustrates how different words are found in recorded variants, and that some variants have changed meanings too.

Fill in something funny, appropiate, interesting:

  • Any port in (a) . . . . [Mieder et al 1996:474-75]
  • Feather by feather a goose is . . . [Mieder et al 1996:204]
  • The tongue speaks wisely when . . . [Mieder et al 1996:605]

To find the proverbs in the Dictionary of American Proverbs, check its entry words. In this case, try "port", "goose" and "tongue". Besides, there are neat cross-references for entry words too. [See Ap xv]

It hardly matters where a proverb comes from or where it originates ultimately, so long as it functions well where we live.


  1. Creativity training may use American proverbs or proverbs of other countries to get alternative expressions in ways that tend to be fun.
  2. Proverbs, altered proverbs, and proverbial statements are used for marketing and in politics too (Mieder 2005).
  3. Apt metaphors can uplift the mind.

IN NUCE American proverbs are often funny, and funny statements may uplift the mind, and so can metaphors in some of them.


Governing Ideas: How to Find Some

Discern to find great concerns involved

Try to assess what is the governing idea in a set of proverbs about a thing. They often reflect problems, they may contain tips for or against certain developments, and on how to handle the thing, maybe loosely.

To be able to ascertain the value of any maxim, assertion or proverb, you should get able to sift, probe and ponder on several sides to issues expressed by dubious statements. "Practice makes perfect." Here the idea is that good practice makes more adequae, to say the least.

Perhaps you may ask, "Is there any common concern of great interest involved?" To delve into that topic, it may help to adjust to common methods of literature analysis to go for such proficiencies that are called for, and allow for ample time to mature.

Decent and not immoderate literature analysis is good to know in this sort of work, and so is probability statistics at its best, and the gift of forming neat-looking conclusions.

Example 1

  1. Man can't live in this world alone and unborn.
  2. He grows up to learn to fend for himself and to feather his own nest as another man's poison as best he can.
  3. When he marries, real troubles can begin. [See Ams 467-9]

Above, a central concern, a Leitmotif, is detected in a consecutive series of proverbial extracts, and fragments of different proverbs are fused and welded so that a few novel sayings appear. At the heart of this: "A man grows up to oust some others and get space to marry and harvest its troubles" - is not the old man's lot to get an inkling of that?

Example 2

Another strain:
  1. A good man without a purpose is like a ship without a rudder: has patience enough not to plant anything.
  2. But an old man who has lost most life anyhow, has guilt enough to plant a tree and do good without anything in return.
  3. According to this, well-nigh every man could measure himself by own sets of rules.

So: A good man who has lost trees, is not thereby barred from measuring. Is there any sort of relation between "lost trees" and "measuring"? If so, "why haven't I seen it before?" Most persons judge utterances they cannot understand, as silly, unless top physicists and other notable authorities tell them, after all. It is a sad thing. There is more on that note in the third section here: [LINK]

A fresh outlook on life and a few of its features may look silly at first, like much that is new-born. Yet, at times what first appears to be silly-looking, contains clues that are vital. But to find out of that, we may have to find finer shades of meanings that go into the cryptical statement, if it is feasible.

On a literalist level the statement is found to be almost not worth telling, because what is told looks obvious, but the two parts of the period seem unrelated. The question is: Are they related in some interesting way to us? Is there a meaning - depending on how we read the terse saying, that expresses something vital to know about, for example?

You may address the kinky topic of "lost trees": "And what is "good" anyway? And are there any possible figurative ways of expression into it, even novel ones? Ask: What might be suggested by "lost trees"?

Something that soons shows up to the student of proverbs from other times and nations, is that they use concrete words and ordinary happenings to tell of something that is not concrete and may be out of the ordinary. Idioms are such expressions where what is stated, does not mean what you might be lead to think if you read it literally, without knowing about fixed expressions (idioms) and what symbols and certain figures of speech signify. Thus, it a proverb speaks about the fox, it might be a type of cunning human that is really referred to by it.

If you detect an interesting and all-good, valid meaning by the words about "A good man . . ." above, try to say how you can be sure that your interpretation of it is valid. It could be good for you to try that, but if so, you should tell just how you succeed too. That is part of the scientific procedure, and may be part of a sensible scholar's ways too. Anyway, the enigmatic idea behind the second example was to indicate that a good teaching may be offhand-looking in the first place, and those who appear to make sense of it, they interpret, and some "put some of their own eyes into their understanding," to say it with Feynman. They project themselves into the thing, is another and far more common way of saying the same.

Summary so far

All in all, it is likely that you can be reckoned with as an expert of enigmas and cryptic utteances if you have reckoned-with education for that sort of things. Role, status, and position for it serve to back you up too.

A central concern of proverbs on many kinds of subjects - love, hate, work, leisure, and so on - can be found by a "string of beads", a consecutive series of takes.

It is better to settle for pertinent descriptions than risk a lot by silly metaphors or jokes, as the expert of extracts may seem silly till she or he is fairly well understood.


Well Calculated Expressions

LoSome Apt Fun First

Most languages in the world, maybe all of them, contain proverbs and proverbial expressions. Proverbs have served as culture presenters and transmitters of traditions. Some regard them as output of folk wisdom. The way of using them presuppose reservations; otherwise many of them easily get too categorical as norm givers and advice bringers. See for yourself: [MORE]

Some proverbs caution and warn against given risks and dangers, others bluff, and still others are for fun. Among the helpful proverbs are some that are aligned with deep trends. Some of these proverbs may also contain tips on how to deal with this and that.

Of course, we need to see a lot by our own light (understanding, what we grasp), and different angles include our own.

LoOf deep contradictions, in other words existential enough for particle physics

Where one third of the marriages break, one can say truthfully: "Marriage often breaks." If Sweden is referred to, a country where over two thirds of marriages break, it is generally valuable to say "Marriage seldom lasts, so bride-to-be, take sensible precautions ahead of time, to be better of if the marriage breaks," if Sweden is the reference or other enclaves where the majority of marriages break. If we nuance our statements carefully they can be made far more helpful, not so misleading. We use discernment to make sense.

For example, there may be happy marriages Sweden and other countries too, no matter what the average-based statistics yield when it comes to odds for successful marriages. Statistical trends and their odds do not apply full well to individual cases, or individual marriages, and there are differenced between subgroups of the culture too. Also, some couples know how to optimise their relation, by paying due attention to factors that may get critical if not, by deciding to be together in their quality time, and "get rid of pests", and so on. But what stands out as good about statistically had odds (from the divorce statistics), is that such reckoning may help us or prompt us to take sensible precautions that may come in handy in the long run. and when we know the most frequent causes of broken marriages, we may better bulwark against them in time, also if we remarry. That comes probably in addition to learning from one's experiences in the first marriage.

Some trends are not discovered easily without the help of statistics and gallup polls and other investigations. Other trends are more obvious, and a lot is grasped through overview coupled with personal, yet typical experience. Such sum-ups may further expressed both neatly and metaphorically to the end that it is both true to facts or trends and has proverbial shape.

Research summaries may be summed up also, with or without the use of apt metaphors. The advantage is a brief expression that may be recalled well; the disadvantage is that the more we condense topics by the use of fewer words and figurative speech, the less precise we may be too. Here is an example: Jerome Bruner calls a maxim of his "almost a philosophical proverb". It is "Any subject can be taught to any child at any age in some form that is honest." [Bruner 1996:119]

Now, this citation requires some added thought, perhaps. First: few things can be taught to newborn babies as they lie babbling in their hospital beds, by someone stands in the room and talks in abstract terms of many difficult subject. No matter how he rants, the babies may not learn anything of it. And yet, "If you can't explain something to a first year student, then you haven't really understood it," says Richard Feynman, with a variant, "If you can't explain it to a six year old, you don't really understand it." Maybe that is true, but he talks against himself in another citation by it.

Now if decent learning is what is aspired to, one has to adapt to the subjects. In the example they can find nipples and drink milk, but further than than few may be willing to go the first frew hours.

Teaching is one activity, learning quite another. They should go well along together, based on the fundamentals of what learning is, how it works, and how to benefit optimally from it. But does it happen? Further, if you talk or preach to stones in your way, like a half-blind Bede, you may have taught, but have they learnt? That is the question, and a criterion of fruitful activity on the part of the teacher.

Now consider such as the difficulties of quantum physics and the statements of some of its forefront researchers and thinkers, for example, "One becomes entangled in contradictions if one speaks of the probable position of the electron without considering the experiment used to determine it. We should be forced, for example, to include our own eyes as part of the system (Werner Karl Heisenberg, The Physical Principles of the Quantum Theory)." And "I think I can safely say that no one understands quantum mechanics," says the Nobel laureate Richard Feynman (1918-88), and also, "If I could explain it to the average person, I wouldn't have been worth the Nobel Prize," and "In wine is found the great generalization: all life is fermentation."

As research by Swiss Jean Piaget and Bruner shows, children cannot handle many laws of physics and chemistry. They may not even manage to judge when it is safe to cross the street, taking into account the speed of various vehicles there. Their minds and brains have not matured enough for it. So how one can teach them - so that they understand it - that "All mass is interaction," beats me.

Judged from this and so much else, I think it would be better for Bruner to admit that quantum physics may not be taught to four-year-olds. However, many subjects can be translated into quite sufficient common language. Popularisation of research results show it amply, I figure. Also, to present a thing in a form that the child is mature enough to benefit from - biologically and otherwise - may be possible too, by what may be called "embryonic statements" - they contain information that may be developed and differentiated in time. Simple definitions are of that shape, for example.

One should cultivate gist that matters. Bland and cultivated fairness and carefully gauged probabilities should hardly go ignored. Proverbs and proverbial statements may fit at times under some conditions, and at other times hardly so, and at other times in other conditions, not at all. Somewhere between the self-evident syllogisms and too obscure or diffuse statements, many proverbs do good and are appreciated too - and perhaps just as many proverbs don't. It depends on what they say and what they are taken to imply (suggest) by interpretations.

LoA largely unsettled body of "teachings and notions", therefore tantalising many

There are good odds and bad odds, and a terse saying may contain a good half-truth (probability) at large, maybe less.

We have freedom to sift evidence and gauge and evaluate much. Fables of Aesop as we know them today, got specific lessons or morals or comments added to them after centuries. [Temple and Temple 1998].

Half-standards and incomplete norms or half-norms can be arrived at by proverbs, by such beliefs and rules of the thumb. Some among the proverbs aim at living well, others do not. And research results can be put to such uses too: "Science is what we have learned about how not to fool ourselves about the way the world is," said Richard Feynman.


  1. Try to build from something apt and fun.
  2. Much that is deep or existential, revolves around contradictions.
  3. Incomplete, unsettled "half-principles" and norms of living may tantalise.
IN NUCE Build on top of the findings of physics, scientists or proverb makers or old, and the existential norms that are arrived at, may abound in contradictions and half-principles. Yet such a way may be the top take around. It is found in quantum physics, simply said.


American proverbs, proverbs in America, Literature  

Atkinson, Brooks, ed: Selected Writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson. Modern Library. New York, 1950. ⍽▢⍽ The American essayist, lecturer, and poet wrote important essays on a number of subjects, developing a variety of ideas. His work has greatly influenced thinkers, writers and poets, and he is very often quoted, also in quotation collections and proverb collections.

Bruner, Jerome. The Culture of Education. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1996. ⍽▢⍽ Dr Bruner writes on how education can usher children into their culture. Proverbs embody aspects of a culture.

Doyle, Charles Clay, Wolfgang Mieder, and Fred R. Shapiro. The Dictionary of Modern Proverbs. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2012. ⍽▢⍽ This collection of recent proverbs presents more than 1,400 proverbs with very much information about the earliest datable appearance, origin, history, and meaning of each proverb. Together, these colourful, recent proverbs reveal aspects of the modern culture and tact.

Kinnes, Tormod, coll. A Thousand American Proverbs. ⍽▢⍽ A sample with Norwegian translations/renderings.

Lau, Kimberly J., Peter Tokofsky and Stephen D. Winick, redr. What Goes Around Comes Around: The Circulation of Proverbs in Contemporary Life. Logan, UT: Utah State University Press, 2004. ⍽▢⍽ Critical essays on some of the aspects of the history of proverbs. The book is by folklorists who look at uses and contexts of proverbs and proverbial speech, some traditional and conventional. The contributions examine such as the idiomatic relevance of proverbs in modern culture.

Mieder, Wolfgang, main ed: A Dictionary of American Proverbs.(Paperback) Oxford University, New York, 1996 (1992). ⍽▢⍽ A comprehensive, top-notch work. More than 15,000 sayings, adages, and maxims commonly used in popular speech in the United States and Canada, based on oral sources rather than written sources, it includes thousands of uniquely American proverbs as well as many thousands of traditional sayings that have found their way into American speech from Europe. In it, proverbs are listed alphabetically by key word, with cross-references for related proverbs, and also variant proverbs. A very fine reference for general readers and scholars of literature alike.

Mieder, Wolfgang. Proverbs Are the Best Policy: Folk Wisdom and American Politics. Logan, UT: Utah State University Press, 2005. ⍽▢⍽ Professor Mieder discusses the role of proverbial speech in American politics from the Revolutionary War to ca. 2005. He discusses the origins and characteristics of American proverbs. He then looks at the history of the defining proverb of American democracy, "government of the people, by the people, for the people." Subsequent essays consider other matters.

Temple, Olivia and Robert, trs. The Complete Fables. London: Penguin, 1998. ⍽▢⍽ Many fables today often come with instructive proverbs added to them. Some common proverbs in Europa stem from the ancient fable tradition.

Titelman, Gregory. Random House Dictionary of America's Popular Proverbs and Sayings. 2nd ed. New York: Random House, 2000. ⍽▢⍽ The chosen proverbs in it are made easy to understand through some likable explanations, with historical examples of their uses

Watkins, Mel. ed. African American Humor: The Best Black Comedy from Slavery to Today. Chicago: Lawrence Hill Books, 2002. ⍽▢⍽ A revealing collection of witticisms, including anecdotes, quotations, about 70 proverbs, and much else.

Wikiquote, sv. "Richard Feynman". Accessed 22 May 2009.

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