Thursday, June 4, 2009

Topic: Proverbs

10-second review: All about proverbs—synonyms, form and use in the classroom.

Title: “Some Uses of Proverbs.” FJ D’Angelo. College Composition and Communication (December 1977), 365-369. A publication of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE).

Summary: Although proverbs and their synonyms are often used interchangeably, they do have distinctions: proverb, saying, sententiae, maxim, aphorism, adage, motto and epigram.

Proverbs consist of folk wisdom. They are often uncritically accepted as truth. They often win arguments. Example: “The squeaky wheel gets the grease.”

Saying: Any wise or truthful statement that is repeated often.

Sententiae: Comes from learned person. Alexander Pope: “A little learning is a dangerous thing.”

Maxim: Derived from practical experience. “Judge not that you be not judged.”

Aphorism: Not intended as a guide for behavior: “He that cannot conceal his wisdom is a fool.”

Adage: Acceptable through long use. “When the cat’s away the mouse will play.”

Motto: Terse. Applies to a group of people. “In God we trust.”

Epigram: “Paradoxical or satirical. “The Only way to get rid of temptation is to yield to it.”

The author makes it clear that these synonyms for “proverb” are used interchangeably in the real world of speaking and writing.


Alliteration: “Better bend than break.”

Rhyme: “Man proposes but God disposes.”

Metaphor and Simile: “Beauty fades like a flower.”

Repetition: “The best art conceals art.”

Ellipsis: “Generals pray for war and doctors for disease.”

Parallelism: “Life is short and time is swift.”

A good use for proverbs in the classroom? Teach paraphrase.

Proverb: “A Stitch in time saves nine.”

Author’s paraphrase: “Troubles will quickly multiply if you do not handle them at once.”

Comment: Great article from the past. Somewhere we need to stockpile these helpful articles form the past to make them available to teachers in the present. Maybe we should organize them by questions or problems. RayS.

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