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Humanities 2018, 7(1), 28; https://doi.org/10.3390/h7010028

The Humanistic Value of Proverbs in Sociopolitical Discourse

Department of German and Russian, University of Vermont, Burlington, VT 05405-0160, USA
Received: 1 December 2017 / Revised: 2 March 2018 / Accepted: 2 March 2018 / Published: 19 March 2018
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Challenge of Folklore to the Humanities)
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Abstract

Proverbs as strategic signs for recurrent situations have long played a significant communicative role in political rhetoric. Folk proverbs as well as Bible proverbs appear as expressions of wisdom and common sense, adding authority and didacticism to the multifaceted aspects of sociopolitical discourse. Some proverbs like the golden rule “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Matthew 7:12) or “It takes a village to raise a child” can function as traditional leitmotifs while other well-known proverbs might be changed into anti-proverbs to express innovative insights. The moralistic, evaluative, and argumentative employment of proverbs can be seen in the letters, speeches and writings by Lord Chesterfield, Abigail Adams, and Benjamin Franklin in the eighteenth century. Fredrick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, Elisabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony stand out in their use of proverbs for civil and women’s rights during the nineteenth century. This effective preoccupation with proverbs for sociopolitical improvements can also be observed in the impressive oratory of Martin Luther King, Barack Obama, Hillary Rodham Clinton, and Bernie Sanders in the modern age. The ubiquitous proverbs underscore various political messages and add metaphorical as well as folkloric expressiveness to the worldview that social reformers and politicians wish to communicate. As commonly held beliefs the proverbs clearly bring humanistic values to political communications as they argue for an improved world order. View Full-Text
Keywords: authority; Bible; civil rights; common sense; communication; democracy; equality; ethics; folk wisdom; golden rule; leitmotif; metaphor; paremiology; politics; rhetoric; worldview authority; Bible; civil rights; common sense; communication; democracy; equality; ethics; folk wisdom; golden rule; leitmotif; metaphor; paremiology; politics; rhetoric; worldview
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).
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Mieder, W. The Humanistic Value of Proverbs in Sociopolitical Discourse. Humanities 2018, 7, 28.

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