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Download The Dictionary of Modern Proverbs epub

by Wolfgang Mieder,Fred R. Shapiro,Charles Clay Doyle

"You can't unring a bell." "It takes a village to raise a child." "Life is just a bowl of cherries." We sometimes think of proverbs as expressions of ancient wisdom, but in fact new proverbs are constantly arising. This unique volume is devoted exclusively to English-language proverbs that originated in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. The most complete and accurate such collection ever compiled, The Dictionary of Modern Proverbs presents more than 1,400 individual proverbs gathered and researched with the help of electronic full-text databases not previously used for such a project.

Entries are organized alphabetically by key words, with information about the earliest datable appearance, origin, history, and meaning of each proverb. Mundane or sublime, serious or jocular, these memorable sayings represent virtually every aspect of the modern experience. Readers will find the book almost impossible to put down once opened; every page offers further proof of the immense vitality of proverbs and their colorful contributions to the oral traditions of today.

Download The Dictionary of Modern Proverbs epub
ISBN: 0300136021
ISBN13: 978-0300136029
Category: Reference
Subcategory: Dictionaries & Thesauruses
Author: Wolfgang Mieder,Fred R. Shapiro,Charles Clay Doyle
Language: English
Publisher: Yale University Press (May 22, 2012)
Pages: 312 pages
ePUB size: 1573 kb
FB2 size: 1947 kb
Rating: 4.7
Votes: 365
Other Formats: mobi lit azw lrf

One can only stand in awe of the prodigious amount of research put into this book, even though it's clear that in some cases the authors' conclusions are a bit speculative. I've enjoyed just flicking through the pages, and coming across the occasional gem that I've not heard of before (eg. "Never chase girls or busses; another will be along shortly.")
It's a valuable reference book to have near my desk for when I need a pithy quote that readers may not have heard before.
This was a gift for my son who is a manager for an IT company. It was well received and he is enjoying it.
This new volume is an excellent reference if you seek a collection of English language "modern proverbs" as the present authors define these: sayings that, as far as they were able to tell, did not appear in print earlier than 1900. So if you wish to have a collection that includes all proverbs in common use, such as old, classical, popular wisdom--for example, "a stitch in time saves nine"--this isn't it. On the other hand, this could serve as a very good supplement to an older proverb book. Or it could be seen as a collection of the relatively new popular wisdom sayings (prompting the interesting questions, why these did arise and catch on and why others faded). As such, there is no absolute hierarchical authority to decide which sayings to include--though Prof. Mieder may come as close to such authority as anyone. And the editors acknowledge that the, what, corpus or canon, of modern proverbs keeps changing. The book announces a website for accepting suggestions for additional proverbs or for finding some of those included attested in print before 1900 (for that page, search "Submit to The Dictionary of Modern Proverbs").
Of course some readers may wonder why some are included and others not, or want more information about precursors.
Some probably can be antedated. Some possibly can be reattributed. The saying (with variations) attributed to Stalin in 1947 and later--one's man's death is a tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic--may draw on a writing of Kurt Tucholsky from 1925 (and in at least three later printings), Französischer Witz. A French diplomat is represented as saying, "Der Krieg? Ich kann das nicht so schrecklich finden! Der Tod eines Menschen: das ist eine Katastrophe. Hunderttausend Tote: das ist eine Statistik!" (Tucholsky, Gesamtausgabe, Band 7, Text 136, page 375).
Some can be discussed further. For example, the rather flat and silly imperative 1991 formulation "Don't rearrange deck chairs on the Titanic" may well have been influenced by perhaps more elegant and imaginative wording in January 17, 1969 reports in both the Washington Post and NY Times quoting Liz Carpenter of the Johnson administration: "There are already a lot of new faces in the White House. All the new people want an office close to the President's. You should see them scramble; it's like fighting for a deck chair on the Titanic."
Page 101 includes "If anything can go wrong, it will" (and variants). Then follows a discussion of Murphy's Law. Considerably more could be said about that "law"; the current Wikipedia entry for Murphy's Law includes some additional information--at least in today's version.
Is "bros before hos" a proverb? If you answered "no," then think again. This and other similar gems are listed in "The Dictionary of Modern Proverbs."

In their introduction, the editors noted that many references omit the most common 20th century adages. They managed to update the list with aplomb and a hint of naughtiness. Some of the proverbs will make no sense to neo-Luddites ("It's not a bug, it's a feature"), just as others will offend the politically correct.

The book takes on the herculean task of tracing the origins of the proverbs. While most are probably correct, others don't quite hit the mark. For example, "if it exists, there is porn of it" was probably in use before 2008. I personally remember hearing "assume makes an ass out of you and me" in a skit from "The Benny Hill Show"--which might have appeared before 1975.

Fortunately, the editors recognize the limitations of their current effort. I am glad to know there is a website where readers can contribute information, perhaps for inclusion in a future edition. While there is room for minor improvement, "The Dictionary of Modern Proverbs" is definitely an essential reference for all writers and editors.

(This review first appeared in the online edition of the San Francisco Book Review.)