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A few selected proverbs and folklore - informative, well presented, and a very easy read
on 18 April 2013
I have a large bound volume of The Oxford Dictionary of English Proverbs, which is very interesting in terms of giving a few lines about where the proverb came from, but sadly it doesn't actually tell you the meaning (I guess most are self explanatory). And the joy of proverbs is that they are often contradictory, i.e. 'Absence makes the heart grow fonder', and 'Out of sight and out of mind', although the bible can be little better with the likes of 'Spare the rod and spoil the child' and 'Suffer the little children'. I guess there's a bit of truth in all of them, depending on the situation. Unlike my Dictionary of English Proverbs that lists every single one it can think of, 'One for sorrow' chooses to concentrate on a just a few but go into far more detail, and to be honest that does make for a more interesting read - you can just sit down and read this book cover to cover, rather than just dip in (which also works as the proverbs are neatly laid out with titles).
Some of the folklore are truism's like `A stitch in time saves nine' and Chloe discusses the expense of cloth and clothing in years gone by. Others are more folklore myths, such as "St Swithun's day if thou dost rain, for forty days it will remain". St. Swithun, the Bishop of Winchester, had requested to be buried outside `where he would be subjected to the feet of passer's bye and the raindrops pouring from high', but after nine years his body was moved inside the Cathedral into a shrine, and on that day there was a huge down-pour - all linking him to rain. Chloe suggests that there is some scientific basis to this, as the weather pattern tends to hold at that time of the year, so if it rains on St Swithun's day, the 15th July, the tendency to rain can last until the end of August (and visa-versa). Many of the proverbs discussed are related to the weather, not surprising really given the importance of the weather to the Harvest (and Author Chloe Rhodes, now a freelance writer/journalist, was raised on a Fenland farm).
Other folklore and their origins discussed in the book are:`Better a wolf in fold than a fine february', 'When the Peacok loudly brawls, we'll have rain & squalls', `There's no rose without a thorn', `Red sky at night, shepherds delight', `If the birds fly low then rain we shall know', 'A leap year is never a good sheep year', Hares may pull a dead lion by the beard', `A burnt child dreads the fire', `Trout jump high when rain is nigh', `Cold hands, warm heart', 'Crooked logs make straight fires', `Curses like chickens come home to roost', and `Onions skins, very thin, mild winter coming in'. There's roughly one proverb per page, and the book has 192 pages. Although it's written in a very light and breezy style, there's a fair bit of authority in the book as well, with a detailed index and a three page bibliography. It's got quite a few very nice B&W ingravings by Thomas Bewick (b 1753) as well. Overall a good book, that is nicer in hardback printed form than on the Kindle, as it's quite small and so well presented. Quite good value for around a fiver.