Kicking Buts: An African Proverb
Don’t look where you fell, look where you slipped.
- A proverb is a short, generally known sentence of the folk which contains wisdom, truth, morals, and traditional views in a metaphorical, fixed and memorizable form and which is handed down from generation to generation.
- Both the Bible and medieval Latin (aided by the work of Erasmus) have played a considerable role in distributing proverbs across Europe, although almost every culture has examples of its own.
- Sub-genres include proverbial comparisons (“as busy as a bee”), proverbial interrogatives (“Does a chicken have lips?”) and twin formulae (“give and take”).
- Another subcategory is wellerisms, named after Sam Weller from Charles Dickens’s The Pickwick Papers (1837). They are constructed in a triadic manner which consists of a statement (often a proverb), an identification of a speaker (person or animal) and a phrase that places the statement into an unexpected situation. Ex.: “Every evil is followed by some good,” as the man said when his wife died the day after he became bankrupt.
- Yet another category of proverb is the anti-proverb (Mieder and Litovkina 2002), also called Perverb. In such cases, people twist familiar proverbs to change the meaning. Sometimes the result is merely humorous, but the most spectacular examples result in the opposite meaning of the standard proverb. Examples include, “Nerds of a feather flock together”, “Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and likely to talk about it,” and “Absence makes the heart grow wander”. Anti-proverbs are common on T-shirts, such as “If at first you don’t succeed, skydiving is not for you.”
- To make the respective statement more general most proverbs are based on a metaphor. Further typical features of the proverb are its shortness (average: seven words), and the fact that its author is generally unknown (otherwise it would be a quotation).