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> Proverbs Are Ideas Too
  Words Are Not Ideas

Proverbs Are Ideas Too

I claimed above that in order to be manipulated easily, a meme should be represented as a word. Another option, it turns out, is to represent a meme as a proverb. For many purposes, this is just as good. Proverbs can easily be remembered, and they call up the desired meme quickly and accurately. The one drawback I can see is that because they have to be quoted to be referred to, they don't make it easy to discuss the desired memes, only to invoke them.

As an aside, the name “proverb” is interesting in itself. The word's derived from Latin, but even in Latin it can be decomposed and studied. The word “verb” is of course the cognate of the word “word”—they both come from the same Proto-Indo-European root, I imagine. The thing that's interesting, or at least amusing, is that if the prefix “pro-” is considered as a preposition, one of the meanings it can have (according to my Latin dictionary) is “instead of”. So, a proverb could literally be something you use instead of a word, i.e., when there is no appropriate word. I doubt that's the correct etymology (“advantageous word” seems more likely to me), but I mention it anyway.

So, back to proverbs. Speaking from my soapbox, here's a thought for further consideration. Does anyone even learn or use proverbs any more, or have they all been commercialized or replaced by marketing slogans? Is the following, for example, a modern proverb?

Think outside the box.

As for actually finding proverbs, I'm sure there are books devoted to the subject, but Bartlett's is also an abundant source. Just to have a real example, I picked out one I like; it is listed as a Scottish proverb.

Live and let live.

Speaking of books devoted to the subject, I shouldn't neglect to mention the biblical book of Proverbs which, true to its name, does actually contain proverbs.

Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise:
Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler,
Provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest.


  See Also

  Notes (Game Theory)
  Out of Sight, Out of Mind
  Respect the Box
  What Would Memetics Look Like?

@ April (2000)