What Goes around Comes Around: The Circulation of Proverbs in Contemporary Life

By Hill, Reinhold | Western Folklore, Winter 2008 | Go to article overview

What Goes around Comes Around: The Circulation of Proverbs in Contemporary Life


Hill, Reinhold, Western Folklore


What Goes Around Comes Around: The Circulation of Proverbs in Contemporary Life. Edited by Kimberly J. Lau, Peter Tokofsky, and Stephen D. Winick. (Logan: Utah State University Press, 2004. Pp. 190, introduction, notes, bibliographies. $22.95 paper)

What Goes Around Comes Around brings us an interesting array of new and established scholarship on proverbs. This particular collection is devoted to what the editors describe as the "circulation of proverbs and proverbial speech into and out of popular culture" (9). Exploring such diverse topics as proverbs in contemporary popular literature, proverbs in advertising, and phrases from popular media that enter vernacular speech, such as "Is that your final answer?" from the television game show, Who Wants to be a Millionaire, the essays in this wide-ranging collection all pay homage to Wolfgang Mieder, whom contributor Alan Dundes affectionately calls "Magister Proverbium, paremiologist without peer" (171)

The introduction by volume editors Lau, Tokofsky, and Winick lays out a helpful critical orientation. Beginning with early definitions of proverbs, they provide solid background in the history of proverb scholarship before providing their own working definition of proverbs as "short, traditional utterances that encapsulate cultural truths and sum up recurrent social situations" (8), a definition sure to be acceptable to most proverb scholars. The collection then opens with two essays that focus on traditional proverb usage. Charles clay Doyle explores the usage and form of the expression "written in water" from ancient times to the present and explores the ambiguity inherent in the phrase. Isaac Jack Levy and Rosemary Levy Zumwalt explore proverb usage in Sephardic narrative, showing that proverbs are often used to summarize a tale and that the teller's selection of an appropriate proverb is often critiqued by the audience, indicating a dynamic creative process (38).

The collection moves quickly into contemporary proverb usage with Shirley Arora's examination of baseball-related metaphors in contemporary Spanish. …

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