My father, a high school teacher, was a master of the proverb – those short, pithy sayings that express a traditionally held belief, such as “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” In fact, his lectures were so liberally sprinkled with these phrases that a few of his students made a list over the course of a year. The variety was endless, with the total climbing into the hundreds. Although my Dad passed away eight years ago, every time I hear myself spouting one of these time-tested phrases, it brings him to mind.
After being passed down from generation to generation, proverbs become a familiar part of the general phraseology of a culture, and they reflect that society’s values. For example, the proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child,” originated in Africa, where a strong sense of community is still a common cultural characteristic and people in addition to a child’s parents take responsibility for developing his or her moral character. In North America, we use the proverb, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way,” because we believe in a strong work ethic.
Here are a few more of my favourites; feel free to share some of yours with me!
- Many a true word is spoken in jest.
- Every cloud has a silver lining. (We North Americans are optimistic.)
- Nothing ventured, nothing gained. (A
proverb from the U.S., a culture of risk-takers)
- Brevity is the soul of wit.
I’ll end now so that you’ll find me witty!