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Published: 05 December 1991

736 Pages

6-1/2 x 9-1/4 inches

ISBN: 9780195053999

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Bookseller Code (08)

A Dictionary of American Proverbs

Edited by Wolfgang Mieder, Stewart A. Kingsbury, and Kelsie B. Harder

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 literature. Based on the fieldwork conducted over thirty years by the American Dialect Society, this volume is complete with historical references to the earliest written sources, and supplies variants and recorded geographical distribution after each proverb.
Many surprised 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 "the opera ain't over till the fat lady sings?" 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.

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