African-American Proverbs in Context

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University Press of Mississippi, 1996 - Language Arts & Disciplines - 292 pages
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Such sayings as "Hard times make a monkey eat red pepper when he don't care for black", "The blacker the berry, the sweeter the juice", and "Nothing ruins a duck but its bill" convey not only axiomatic impact but also profound contextual meanings. This study of African-American proverbs is the first to probe deeply into these meanings and contexts. Sw. Anand Prahlad's interest in proverbs dates back to his own childhood in rural Virginia when he listened to his great-grandmother's stories. Very early he began collecting "sayings". In researching this book, he spent five years listening for proverbs spoken in bars, clubs, churches, and retirement homes; on street corners, basketball courts, and public buses; at PTA meetings and bingo games. To discover the full context of a proverb, Prahlad considers four levels of meanings - grammatical, cultural, situational, and symbolic. All these operate simultaneously when a proverb is spoken. Part of the artistry in using proverbs comes from the complex interplay of the dimensions of their meanings. From WPA interviews with former slaves, from the lyrics of blues songs, from extensive field research, and from expressions of protest and cultural affirmation, the author reveals the myriad ways African-American proverbs thrive today.

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Creativity and Innovation
Proverb Masters and Symbolic Meaning
Proverb Speech Acts among Peers

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About the author (1996)

ANAND PRAHLAD is Professor of English at the University of Missouri, Columbia. His previous books include African-American Proverbs in Context (1996), and Reggae Wisdom: Proverbs in Jamaican Music (2001).

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