A Dictionary of American proverbs

Front Cover
Oxford University Press, 1992 - Reference - 710 pages
Americans have a gift for coining proverbs. 'A picture is worth a thousand words' was not, as you might imagine, the product of ancient Chinese wisdom--it was actually minted by advertising executive Fred Barnard in a 1921 advertisement for Printer's Ink magazine. After all, Americans are first and foremost a practical people and proverbs can be loosely defined as pithy statements that are generally accepted as true and useful. The next logical step would be to gather all of this wisdom together for a truly American celebration of shrewd advice. 'A Dictionary of American Proverbs' is the first major collection of proverbs in the English language based on oral sources rather than written ones. Listed alphabetically according to their most significant key word, it features over 15,000 entries including uniquely American proverbs that have never before been recorded, as well as thousands of traditional proverbs that have found their way into American speech from classical, biblical, British, continental European, and American written sources. Based on the fieldwork conducted over thirty years by the American Dialect Society, this volume is complete with historical references to the earliest historical references, and supplies variants and recorded geographical distribution after each proverb. Many surprises await the reader in this vast treasure trove of wit and wisdom. Collected here are nuggets of popular wisdom on all aspects of American life; weather, agriculture, travel, money, business, food, neighbors, friends, manners, government, politics, law, health, education, religion, music, song, and dance. And, to further enhance browsing pleasure, the editors have provided a detailed guide to the use of the work. While it's true that many of our best known proverbs have been supplied by the ever-present 'Anonymous', many more can be attributed to some very famous Americans, like Ernest Hemingway, Abraham Lincoln, Benjamin Franklin, Mark Twain, J. Pierpont Morgan, Thomas Alva Edison, Abigail Adams, and Ralph Waldo Emerson, to name but a few offered in this fascinating collection. Who wouldn't want to know the origin of 'paddle your own canoe'. This uniquely American proverb and many more are gathered together in 'A Dictionary of American Proverbs'. A great resource for students and scholars of literature, psychology, folklore, linguistics, anthropology, and cultural history, this endlessly intriguing volume is also a delightful companion for anyone with an interest in American culture.

What people are saying - Write a review

A Dictionary of American proverbs

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

This scholarly work lists U.S. and Canadian proverbs alphabetically by key word, cross-referencing for related proverbs. Although it draws strictly from oral sources, noting the recorded distribution ... Read full review

Other editions - View all

About the author (1992)

Wolfgang Mieder is Professor of German and Folklore at the University of Vermont. He is an internationally recognized proverb scholar, the founding editor of Proverbium: Yearbook of International Proverb Scholarship (since 1984), and the author of the two-volume International Bibliography of Paremiology and Phraseology (2009). His many books and articles deal with cultural, folkloristic, historical, literary, philological, and political topics. Among his books related to the present topic are The Politics of Proverbs: From Traditional Wisdom to Proverbial Stereotypes (1997), The Proverbial Abraham Lincoln (2000), «No Struggle, No Progress: Frederick Douglass and His Proverbial Rhetoric for Civil Rights (2001), «Call a Spade a Spade: From Classical Phrase to Racial Slur (2002), Proverbs: A Handbook (2004), «Proverbs Are the Best Policy: Folk Wisdom and American Politics (2005), and «Proverbs Speak Louder Than Words: Folk Wisdom in Art, Culture, Folklore, History, Literature, and Mass Media (2008).

Wolfgang Mieder is Chairperson of the Department of German and Russian at the University of Vermont. The late Stewart A. Kingsbury was Professor of English at Northern Michigan University. Kelsie B. Harder is Professor of English at the State University of New York, Potsdam.

Bibliographic information