Talk:English proverbs

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Recommend All "meanings" Be DeletedEdit

The majority of meanings are incorrect or take the less intelligent interpretation. It is funny because proverb-like expressions are used in IQ tests and you can see why in many of the meanings. They do this on IQ tests because there are many "right" answers but the more intelligent you are you will read it differently as you ply into the depth of the statement. I'm sure many of the visitors to this page feel the same but don't want to waste time discussing it. Therefore, the best course is to simply remove these subjective meanings and allow the reader to take from it what they will. Otherwise, this page will continue to spread potentially incorrect interpretations regarding world famous and historic proverbs. 22:53, 5 December 2010 (UTC)


Deleted the following, because it is not a proverb.

  • A Believer cannot interpret his scriptures until he gains enlightenment, but he cannot gain enlightenment until he interprets his scriptures.
    • Meaning: fundamentalists and "true believers" are caught in a "catch 22" that limits their understanding.
    • Loren Dean - songwriter 2002

A bit baffled by...Edit


A camel is a horse designed by committee.

   * Meaning: a vision is more perfect from the individual rather than a group of people where it becomes anodyne.

Doesn't anodyne mean pain relief?

   * Meaning: Mind your manners (Please and Thank You)

I believe "Mind your Ps and Qs" is a shortening of "Mind your pints and quarts," so a better meaning would be not only to mind your manners, but also mind how much you drink.

I believe it comes from typesetting, in which lower-case p's and q's are easy to mistake for one another. It means pay close attention to details. --Jdcrutch 22:32, 29 May 2008 (UTC)

Particularly in movable type where you need to reverse the characters to make an impression anyway. 15:44, 9 June 2010 (UTC)

Anodyne means bland. You mean Anadin!

Actually an "anodyne" is a pain reliever (NefariousWheel)

Yeah, but that's precisely because it means bland. It means that it dulls sensation in that area. 15:44, 9 June 2010 (UTC)

It might be a good idea eventually to check all these English proverbs against a reference book, like "Everyman's Dictionary of Quotations and Proverbs."

"Meanings" are mostly off the markEdit

Most of the interpretations of these proverbs ("Meaning: ...") seem to hit rather wide of the mark. It might be worth discussing whether to include them at all; after all, a proverb is the evolutionary reduction of a meme to its simplest expression. It appears pointless to expand on these refined kernels of English thought with such an expansion, especially when there is poor consensus as to their validity. (User:NefariousWheel 27-Aug-2008)

A few thingsEdit

"A man's home is his castle"

The correct version is "An Englishman's home is his castle" since the rising of the yeomanry, it has been both a symbol of wealth and a tradition among english men to own their own home. The idea of renting a home (as is popular on the continent) is seen as undesirable.

It's also correct as written, particularly in common-law jurisdictions outside England, such as the USA. It means not mere bourgeois pride of ownership but that a householder is entitled to security and privacy in his home, be it owned or rented, and may defend it with force. --Jdcrutch 22:35, 29 May 2008 (UTC)

It appears in many films, televison programmes and given time i will cite a source. I have also heard the "little strokes, fell big oaks". In the yorkshire area, especialy rural villages. I believe it has become rather archaic but it does still exist. alternativly "Small strokes..."

it this farewell there's no blood there's no alibi cause I drawn regret from the truth of a thousand lies

so let mercy come and wash away what I've done

I'll face myself to cross out what I become erase myself and let go what i've done

put the rest what you thought of me while I clean slate of a uncertainty

so let mercy come and wash away what i've done


What about: Don't pee against wind.

  • Used like: Doing this is like peeing against wind

(this one tends to be a big issue for me.... I enjoy peeing against the wind.... The wind in my hair the piss in my face... Tasty. --Hurda

The proverb "Steter Tropfen höhlt den Stein" is closest to the English "A small leak will sink a great ship." The idea of "Little strokes fell big oaks." is nice but not a traditional proverb that I know of. The idea of the proverb that constant action will have a large effect means that the one with the ship is maybe the closest equivalent.

-- Takuan Soho

Native Southern American English speaker here, I have heard of "Little strokes fell big oaks" before in the US, but it is fairly rare (I may have heard this three times tops in my entire life). A more appropriote proverb in America which isn't *really* a proverb would be "Loose lips sink ships" from the infamous US World War II poster. Zidel333 17:18, 20 March 2007 (UTC)

you are one racist basterd i'm just playing this a rare proverb

How about "There's a thin line between love and hate"


I think the meaning of each proverbs should be also there. I know most of them are obvious for English speaking people, but may not for people having English as a second language. This page value for them would increase dramatically. Ervinn 22:51, 5 November 2006 (UTC) yes u should provide the meanings how do we get to the meanings now of the proverbs we want?

I agree that it's good to supply meanings, but (in my 'umble opinion) you guys should reach some consensus on the exact meanings before you supply them on the page proper. E.g.:

   * A calm sea does not make a skilled sailor. (African proverb)
         o Meaning: calm times do not show anything; it's the tough times that make you what you are.

I agree with the first half of this, but not the second. It's not so much about tough times making you what you are (i.e., "That which does not destroy me can only make me stronger"), but rather that the tough times are when you prove yourself.

I'd say:

         o Meaning:  anyone can look good when the task is easy.

To supply an analogy, I would use this to describe a new sports manager who seemed to be doing really well, if I wanted to remind people that he had inherited a very strong side and had only played crappy teams since he took over. In other words, I'd be saying, "Let's see how good he is when a storm hits!"

   * A chain is no stronger than its weakest link.
         o Meaning: The strength of any group depends on the individual strength of each of its members.

I think the meaning of this analogy is slightly more specific than that - it reminds listeners that *a single* weak member can undermine an otherwise very strong group. I'd say:

         o Meaning:  Even a good team can fail if one weak member lets it down.

Or, to borrow the phrase visible on the page itself:

         o Meaning: The strength of any group depends on the strength of its weakest member.

I'm not saying that these definitions are... er... definitive (or I'd put them on the main page) but thought I'd offer them here to prompt a little debate.

Why is nobody checking on this pageEdit

there have been about 15 revisions by unregistered users that don't make sense. Please stop. Lord GaleVII 13:37, 6 April 2007 (UTC)

I'm not registered yet myself, but as someone who comes here often, I too have noticed an awful lot of weird edits. (For example the only two that are outlined in blue from "vapocolypse"--whatever that's about...) 05:58, 27 May 2008 (UTC)

Non-proverbs, origins of Proverbs and too many duplicatesEdit

Please check the list carefully for duplicates before you add your entry. I have removed many duplicate entries, but people continue to add well-known proverbs before checking and seeing that someone else has already added it (perhaps in a slightly different wording).

Many of the supposed proverbs are quotes or witticisms, and not proverbs at all. A proverb has to give some kind of life rule or guidance.

Also, many of the proverbs in this list do not originate from English, therefore they are not English proverbs at all, they are merely proverbs translated to English. Should we exclude known foreign and translated proverbs, or indicate the national origin of a translated proverb? 16:38, 21 January 2008 (UTC)

A proverb may be just a common saying that expresses a truth, not necessarily guidance. All proverbs originate as quotations from somebody. For instance, a great many of our proverbs come from the poets, particularly Shakespeare.

That’s a pretty bold and unsubstantiated claim there, surely? Some proverbs may have originated from poets, but you’d be hard pressed to prove it – a poet is as likely to be quoting something they’d heard elsewhere. Proverbs might be found written down for the first time in Shakespeare, but nothing says he created them… 15:07, 20 October 2009 (UTC)

It's often difficult to know in what language or country a proverb originated. If it has become current in English, it's an English proverb, no matter where it originated.--Jdcrutch 22:43, 29 May 2008 (UTC)

Hello! If you are a native speaker of British English or American English, without obligation you are invited to participate in this study by completing the questionnaire. It is estimated that the survey will take approximately 10 minutes to complete. My dissertation research on psycholinguistics is based on “Man the Manipulator” by Everett L. Shostrom. One of the research objectives is to find out if the manipulations are more characteristic for English... or Russian. If you are interested and ready to complete the questionnaire or have further questions and comments concerning this study, please contact me at If you are interested in receiving a summary of the survey results, you can contact me by e-mail, and the results will be forwarded to you.

Sincerely, Marina Maravina, a postgraduate research student at the Department of Linguistics and International Collaboration, Ulyanovsk State University, Russia

Mmmmm… fliesEdit

  • A closed mouth catches no flies.
    • Meaning: One has to try in order to succeed.

Seriously? One has to open one's mouth in order to catch flies? And catching flies in this manner is a good thing?

My personal interpretation of this proverb is closer to:

    • refrain from excessive talk to prevent unpleasant consequences

though you could further qualify "talk" (e.g. gossip, slander, etc.) -- 05:45, 22 February 2009 (UTC)

I doubt this is an English proverb at all, but is from the Spanish: En boca cerrada, no entran moscas. Flies have an iconic significance in Spanish culture that makes the proverb poignant, while English speakers are generally baffled as to what it means exactly. ~ Ningauble 15:17, 22 February 2009 (UTC)

Disputable entries, suggest clean-upEdit

A number of the entries are of very disputable justification. Mostly this sound like neologisms, possibly even something that the author of the entry thought out himself. Others, e.g. "All for one and one for all." are not commonly used as proverbs (although, given a suitable situation, it conceivably could be), but as pop-cultures references, pep-talk, or similar. "Damned if you do, damned if you don't." is handy to describe a certain situation, but is simply not a proverb.

A further criticism of unsufficient notability could likely be directed at many entries; however, considering that a proverb unheard of in London may be in common use in Tulsa, I do not feel qualified to make a definite statement.

I would suggest to check the entries against one or several reputable proverb collections, remove everything not found in them (for the time being), and subsequently only add entries that can be referenced from other similarly reputable sources. 16:14, 11 July 2009 (UTC)

I agree that many of these are neither proverbs in purport nor proverbial in fame. Each entry on this page should be both. A good housecleaning is in order butyou are right to approach the task with some caution since demonstrating a negative is difficult. ~ Ningauble 18:21, 11 July 2009 (UTC)

I have noticed that at the beginning of the page on English proverbs there is this sentence, "Ability can take you to the top, but it takes character to keep you there." This quotation by Zig Zigler, I believe, should not be included in the English proverbs section, as, at best, it is just a catchy aphorism made up by its author. Anyone can do that sort of thing (especially if he doesn't think about it for too long), but a proverb has to have more credence to it than this; it has to be a cultural saying accepted as a proverb by all who hear it, and, preferably, one not immediately attributable to its originator, be it its known author or someone who is just repeating it as a quotation. It does not have to be anonymous, although it helps, but it does have to be catchy --easily memorable. If this quotation by Zig Zigler is accepted as being a proverb then, in this way, any modern, throwaway remark made up on the spur of the moment could very quickly qualify, according to how often it was being used in modern society. As, for example, this one, "Able manners can open doors for you, but keeping them open requires you to push," which is as good an example of aphoristic triviality you will get for it, or would wish. If this is the standard that defined the acceptability of catchy remarks on this page as proverbs, then this sort of trivial remark would have just as much right to be included as this well-known quotation by Zig Zigler, that is: none whatsoever. I believe that, in the future, more care should be taken over what is included in this page as being an accepted proverb. ~ Wise Raven 14:17, 14 may 2012 (UTC)

good friends are good for your healthEdit

Real friends don't leave you if you are in a heavy situation for example you are ill and you need somebodys help.They will be with you forever in good and worse situation they are like a brother or a parent.Your friends will take care of you and your health and will love you all the time. A good friend always encourages you enjoy and treasure you.

“The childhood shows the man,

 As morning shows the day.”

the alternate format that took me 2 hours to incorporate and that has since been buried...Edit

Just wanted to make a note of the alternate format that took me 2 hours to incorporate and that has since been buried by some jack a**.

Here's a link to what the page looked like when I had finished with it:

And, before you mediocre goof balls even think it, a reminder of wikipedia's 5th pillar: "Wikipedia does not have firm rules."

"If a rule prevents you from improving or maintaining Wikipedia, ignore it."

i.e. if the format of this page really sucks (which it does) improve it (which I did).

Seipjere (talk) 04:40, 24 August 2012 (UTC)

I am with you. --Spannerjam (talk) 09:13, 24 August 2012 (UTC)


is there under: It's a cracked pitcher that goes longest to the well. Meaning: Frail people lasrs long.

Subject headingsEdit

I think the recent introduction of subject headings in this article is not a good idea. That is what theme articles are for. ~ Ningauble (talk) 13:54, 14 October 2012 (UTC)

I completely agree - the use of the subject headings is not appropriate. ~ UDScott (talk) 14:24, 22 October 2012 (UTC)
Why is subject headings not a good idea, and why is it not appropriate? If you want to expand the theme articles, be my guest, but I don't see what that has anything to do with maintainiing and improving the "English proverbs" article. --Spannerjam (talk) 15:36, 22 October 2012 (UTC)
We have articles on things like Horses and Apples and Bears and Birds and Wine. It is certainly plausible to seperate out a section in these theme articles for proverbs on the subject (or using the subject to illustrate a point), and have a "see also" section on this page linking to theme sections. Also, to provide one concrete example of the problem, I think "A bad settlement is better than a good lawsuit" is not a proverb at all. Even so, I wonder why such a phrase would be listed under "Bad", since it's not about "badness" per se, instead of under "Settlement" or "Lawsuit". Furthermore, why would it be the only proverb listed under "Bad"? Why not "Better to be alone than in bad company", "Make the best of a bad bargain", or "A bad workman blames his tools"? These examples illustrate how this scheme of classification will always be somewhat arbitrary, and ultimately detrimental to the person seeking relevant quotes for a topic. BD2412 T 18:24, 22 October 2012 (UTC)
Nothing is stopping you from listing the same proverb under several headings. --Spannerjam (talk) 16:49, 23 October 2012 (UTC)
I have, for the time being, created English proverbs (alphabetically by proverb). This being a wiki, I see no reason why we can't have two pages presenting English proverbs in different formats. BD2412 T 19:02, 22 October 2012 (UTC)
BD2412 I am a bit confused. In your prior post you describe one of the problems with having a layout by subject, and yet now you are saying that it doesn't hurt to have both types of layouts. To me the one with the subject headings presents too many issues of subjectivity in placing quotes. Additionally, having two pages, with ostensibly the same content but with a different layout presents its own problems of keeping both up to date. I see them easily spinning off into two separate versions when someone adds a quote to one but not the other, or updates a source on one but not the other. I would rather we decide which way to go and limit it to one page. Obviously my preference is the simple alphabetical sorting. ~ UDScott (talk) 19:19, 22 October 2012 (UTC)
What I'm saying is, we should provide both layouts and let the reader decide what is useful to them. We would move this page to something like English proverbs (alphabetically by subject), and at the base page name English proverbs link to each and describe the difference between them, including the indication that the alphabetical listing by proverb includes full source information, while the listing by subject does not. I am not concerned about some divergence in material - no them page on this project has every quote that it possibly could have, and if my proposition about section redirects is taken up, proverbs on topics like dogs and apples will not appear on this page at all, but would appear on a page not organized by subject. BD2412 T 19:46, 22 October 2012 (UTC)
I agree with UDScott on this. Creating a fork is only going to multiply the problems with what has always been a very problematic page.

I and others have incrementally invested considerable effort in improving this page by researching origins, tracing variants, clearing out superfluous and spurious (and downright silly) explanations of "meanings", pruning contributions of various sorts that just ain't proverbs, etc. Much of this work has recently been thrown away. The prospect of recovering what has been lost and continuing the work was already daunting enough for a single page. I am finding it difficult to muster any enthusiasm for continuing this work when a fork virtually doubles the effort required. I don't even feel like re-doing the work of correcting the error of alphabetizing by leading articles "A" and "The". It seems futile. ~ Ningauble (talk) 17:38, 30 October 2012 (UTC)

I'd rather have a fork than have no page for proverbs laid out alphabetically and with full sourcing in the same place as the quote. BD2412 T 17:39, 2 November 2012 (UTC)
I fully agree with the proposition that it is better not to abandon the organization we had before. I also agree with your earlier statement (about which you may have changed your mind) that "this scheme of classification will always be somewhat arbitrary, and ultimately detrimental to the person seeking relevant quotes for a topic." It seems to me that if one is definitely to be kept and the other is ultimately detrimental then the logical conclusion is to stick with the former and not have a fork.

I'd rather have one foot on solid ground and one in a sinking ship than give up on terra firma altogether, naturally, but that doesn't mean straddling the options is the best course. ~ Ningauble (talk) 18:23, 2 November 2012 (UTC)

I haven't changed my mind about the headings scheme being arbitrary, but I suppose there are some users who will find aspects of this arrangement to be useful. It's useless and problematic to classify all proverbs containing the word "bad" or "new" in this way, but if you are looking for proverbs that mention apples or horses or candles, this is not an unreasonable method. BD2412 T 19:24, 2 November 2012 (UTC)
@ Spannerjam:  I disagree about listing the same item multiple times on the same page. There is nothing wrong with listing something in multiple theme articles where it is germane, but duplication within a page is best avoided. For a topic as broad as Proverbs, of which there must be tens of thousands in circulation and in historical literature, this could become monumentally bloated.

The point of BD2412's example was that the heading was wrong, or at best arbitrary. Another example is "nothing ventured, nothing gained", which is not about Nothingness, it's about (in-)Action. Headings ought not be used as a word index (even if the table of contents were not broken), that is the function of the search features of the wiki and the browser. ~ Ningauble (talk) 17:41, 30 October 2012 (UTC)

My sorting is perhaps a little bit arbitrary, but it's advantages far exceeds it's disadvantages, in my humble opinion. It is the very "indexing" that prevents the bloating of this page. By dividing the proverbs into theme headings the article comes to be much more lucid. Just because our browsers and search engines does a great job when it comes to giving us navigation capabilities, there is no reason not to make navigation even easier by enhancing this site. "Nothing ventured, nothing gained" is indeed about nothingness: venturing nothing, to be precise. We may have a problem with an overcrowding of proverbs in the future, but that should not hinder us from solving the problems with the overcrowding of proverbs we have now. --Spannerjam (talk) 18:47, 20 November 2012 (UTC)
To me your disagreement with where to properly place "Nothing ventured, nothing gained" highlights the very problem with this kind of sorting. While it may be quite obvious with some proverbs, with others it is not as simple and could cause more confusion in the end. Placing them into these sections is nothing more than a subjective exercise that reflects the opinion of the sorter, but not necessarily the opinion of others who may be searching for a specific proverb. ~ UDScott (talk) 18:58, 20 November 2012 (UTC)
That's why I suggest some proverbs can be listed under multiple headings. And if future visitors have problems with this page, why not let them sort it out rather than that we in this forum speculate about a problem that might not even come to be? After all, I was a visitor once, who registred because I saw flaws on the proverbs part of the website, not least this article. --Spannerjam (talk) 19:21, 20 November 2012 (UTC)
Respectfully, I completely disagree with that line of thinking. It is precisely to avoid anticipated problems in the future that we have such discussions. If we were to just let future users "sort it out" then we might as well stop trying to improve the site. I recently provided an explanation for one of the proverbs ("What goes up must come down") and I found myself a bit frustrated in trying to decipher under which subheading it appeared. I think that your scheme ends up pushing a user to a page search function anyway and defeats the purpose of having subheadings - just my opinion. ~ UDScott (talk) 19:45, 20 November 2012 (UTC)
My purpose of implementing theme subheadings was not to make the page easier to search, but to make it more readable. --Spannerjam (talk) 20:46, 20 November 2012 (UTC)

Removal of historical citations and proverbsEdit

Numerous historical citations have been removed from this article in recent months, including George Herbert's Jacula Prudentum (1651), Nathan Bailey's Divers Proverbs (1721) and, appallingly, even William Shakespeare and the Bible. Sometimes the earliest known source, or even the original one, has been replaced with a much less noteworthy recent one, and many historical proverbs have been removed entirely.

Whoever has been doing this is respectfully requested to review what Wikiquote:Sourcing#Proverbs says about citing original sources and earliest known literary sources. It will take quite a lot of work to restore all of the research that has been lost. ~ Ningauble (talk) 13:36, 22 October 2012 (UTC)

I agree that the removal of original sources is not the way to go - all proverbs pages should in fact use original sources if they are known. This, combined with the subject headings mentioned in the previous post combine to make this page require a substantial amount of work to return to its preferred state. ~ UDScott (talk) 14:26, 22 October 2012 (UTC)
The removal of the original sources and the earliest known sources was not a good way to go, I also think now that you mention it. However, it is still my belief that subject headings is a sound idea, simply because the page becomes much more easily readable. --Spannerjam (talk) 15:21, 22 October 2012 (UTC)
I have removed some proverbs because I think the page is better without them, but I will from now on not delete any more of them without pointing it out and give an explanation in the edit log. --Spannerjam (talk) 15:30, 22 October 2012 (UTC)
I would suggest that even if a quote is of questionable value as a proverb, it might still be useful on a theme page for the topic of the quote. Cheers! BD2412 T 17:23, 23 October 2012 (UTC)
I strongly and definitely agree that every proverb should indicate its earliest known source. Obviously, the authors of the various collections cited as sources are not authors of the quotes themselves. Why would we, as a project, want to tell our readers that they must go to a different collection of quotes to find full citation information? Furthermore, sometimes these collections have it wrong, and our editing structure puts us in a better place to correct the errors of printed publications. I believe the phrase, "some days you get the bear, other days the bear gets you" is popularly attributed to Davy Crockett, and I would be surprised to find an authoritative compendium of quotations that did not at least mention this, even if to debunk the notion. BD2412 T 18:16, 22 October 2012 (UTC)
I think there's a case for giving the earliest known cite and a cite to a dictionary of proverbs, to prove that it's regarded as a proverb.--Collingwood (talk) 19:17, 22 October 2012 (UTC)
That's true and certainly fine - as long as the original is included, I don't think it is a problem to include other instances where a proverb is cited (especially if from a particularly notable source). ~ UDScott (talk) 19:20, 22 October 2012 (UTC)
I mentioned above that I think "A bad settlement is better than a good lawsuit" is not a proverb at all. I would suggest that for every phrase asserted to be a proverb, we should require both the earliest known authorship of the phrase and reference to some authoritative source (e.g. a collection of proverbs) indicating that the phrase is indeed a proverb. BD2412 T 19:43, 22 October 2012 (UTC)

This is going to take a tremendous amount of work. Look at the source for "Don't put all your eggs in one basket" for an especially appalling citation. The Oxford Dictionary of English Proverbs provides historical sources for most proverbs here; for example, the one about eggs in one basket is dated to an Italian dictionary of English phrases from 1666 and quite a few later sources. I'll try to make a start, but it's going to be slow going. - Macspaunday (talk) 22:52, 22 October 2012 (UTC)

Providing a comprehensive collection of quotations with better source information than all those fly-by-night quote websites, and better even then many printed collections, was always going to be a lot of work. Fortunately, we've got a wiki, and a small army of impassioned participants. BD2412 T 15:49, 23 October 2012 (UTC)

English proverbs "cleanup"-signEdit

Moving (copying) a discussion from Ningauble's talk page:

Why does the English proverbs page need a cleanup according to you? --Spannerjam (talk) 21:16, 19 November 2012 (UTC)
I will elaborate on this at the article talk page. I am a little busy with "real life" right now, so it will be later today or sometime tomorrow. ~ Ningauble (talk) 16:42, 20 November 2012 (UTC)
As indicated, Ningauble will provide comments later, but my opinion is that cleanup is needed for two reasons: the layout does not conform to the established templates (meaning the smaller font for the citation and meaning), as well as the sorting by subjective section headings, as discussed here. ~ UDScott (talk) 18:23, 20 November 2012 (UTC)
The layout does not have to conform to established rules, if they are preventing you from improving Wikipedia or any of Wikipedia's sister projects. See Wikipedias' fifth pillar. Spannerjam (talk) 21:15, 20 November 2012 (UTC)
You asked why the cleanup tag was on the page, and I gave the answer. Of course questioning or even ignoring rules if they prevent you from improving the site is good, but your alternate layout is the product of one person's opinion (yours). This site is built on consensus and, to quote from the same link you provided, ""Ignore all rules" does not mean that every action is justifiable. It is neither a trump card nor a carte blanche. Rule ignorers must justify how their actions improve the encyclopedia if challenged. Actually, everyone should be able to do that at all times. In cases of conflict, what counts as an improvement is decided by consensus." I don't believe a fight is warranted here, but your alternate layout should be discussed and a consensus reached on its use. I happen to believe that having templates does help improve the site because it provides a common look and feel. But in the end, mine is only one opinion too - this is something that should be brought up and discussed (and in the end, if a consensus is established, the templates can be amended) rather than just applied to a single page because one user feels it is better than what is already established. ~ UDScott (talk) 21:59, 20 November 2012 (UTC)
end of copied discussion
That sounds fair enough. Let's take this matter to the village pump, or whatever procedure is appropriate! --Spannerjam (talk) 06:39, 21 November 2012 (UTC)

I placed a {{Cleanup}} tag on this article because it has several problems:

  1. Lack of bullets:  The standard templates for Wikiquote articles use a bullet list for quotations with sub-bullets for citations and annotations. This page is using various typographic effects in lieu of these explicit semantic delimiters.
  2. Excessive use of boldface:  All of the quotes are written entirely with strong emphasis, defeating the purpose of boldface, which is to call attention to key words or phrases within a block of text. Instead, it gives the impression of writing with a crayon.
  3. Inappropriate use of fine print:  This greatly reduces legibility, and diminishes the importance which Wikiquote places on citation as integral to quotation.

(Note that the combined effect of items 2 and 3 is that the main body of the article consists entirely of headings, boldface, and fine print. No part of it uses the base font, specifically designed by professional typographers for ease of reading the main body of text.)

  1. Footnotes are deprecated:  The full citation belongs with the quotation. Doing otherwise diminishes the importance which Wikiquote places on citation as integral to quotation.
  2. Original commentary:  The template for proverbs provides for "Notes (context, clarifications where needed, etc.)". There are a few proverbs for which well-cited explanations of historical context have been provided, and clarification of archaic terminology or obscure references is a good thing. However, the "etc." should not be taken as an invitation for users to add personal opinions and commentary. Superfluous and spurious "explanations" have been purged from the article repeatedly, and this needs to be done again.
  3. Idiosyncratic headings:  This is discussed by several users at #Subject headings above. The use of subject(-ive) headings in Wikiquote articles is strongly deprecated because it is essentially an expression of personal opinion about the meaning or significance of the quotes.

There are a lot of issues here, largely the product of a single user reworking the article. Apart from general observations about the current situation, I would suggest that if any of these numbered points need to be discussed in detail then it may be appropriate to use separate (sub-)sections (such as #Subject headings above) to facilitate coherent focus on individual questions that may need to be resolved. ~ Ningauble (talk) 16:56, 21 November 2012 (UTC)

  • I completely agree with Ningauble here, and would add that if we are going to provide "interpretations" of proverbs, we should avoid providing our own interpretations, but should as much as possible use those of a reliable third party, with a citation to that party's interpretation. BD2412 T 19:04, 21 November 2012 (UTC)
There are no interpreted explanations of a proverb's meaning: an explanation can only either be wrong or right. (Though there are some exceptions to this rule, just like every other rule.) --Spannerjam (talk) 19:54, 21 November 2012 (UTC)
Life imitates art.
Events in the real world was inspired by a creative work. (Bloom, 2007)
Says who? BD2412 T 23:48, 21 November 2012 (UTC)
The people who use this proverb. (hopefully) --Spannerjam (talk) 07:41, 22 November 2012 (UTC)
On what authority do you claim that this is what the people who us this proverb should mean? BD2412 T 21:02, 22 November 2012 (UTC)
From googling and public scrutiny. --Spannerjam (talk) 08:45, 23 November 2012 (UTC)
This is what is meant by original research. It is not Wikiquote's business to opine about what proverbs and other quotations mean. The point of BD's questions here is that, where an explanation is really necessary, we should cite what reliable sources ("authorities") say about it. ~ Ningauble (talk) 17:25, 23 November 2012 (UTC)
I am afraid I again must use the Wikipedia: Ignore all rules-card. I believe most visitors wants to know about the exact meaning of the proverbs they are reading. I base this on the fact that I myself was, and still am, frustrated about not knowing all the meanings of the proverbs here on Wikiquote, and finding proverb meanings claimed by scholars would just be too time consuming, since for some strange reason, most paremiological books don't explain the meanings of the proverbs they are listing. --Spannerjam (talk) 19:20, 23 November 2012 (UTC)
What if you're wrong about the meaning of a proverb? I think you're playing the "ignore all rules" card a bit too much. We can still develop consensus against that particular action, and "ignore consensus" is definitely not a standard here. BD2412 T 04:31, 24 November 2012 (UTC)
If I am wrong about the meaning of a proverb, hopefully someone will correct me. --Spannerjam (talk) 08:03, 24 November 2012 (UTC)
  • The layout does not have to conform to established rules, if they are preventing you from improving Wikipedia or any of Wikipedia's sister projects. See Wikipedias' fifth pillar. I just disagree with you that small font citation somehow "diminishes the importance which Wikiquote places on citation as integral to quotation". And even if that was the case, perhaps it is the price you have to pay in order to make the page more readable? Boldface can be replaced with italics and "citation marks" (Alltough I have never seen a need to emphasize a proverb in itself.)
Text written with a crayon is beautiful! :)
I am sure that the professional typographers not had every Wiki-scenario in the world in mind, when they choose what body text Wikipedia should have.
It is a wonderful thing that this page apparently is user friendly enough to encourage newcomers to contribute. They make beginner's mistakes like... well, all beginners, but they will quickly learn to put comments and personal opinions in the edit summary, instead of the main page, like everyone else.
I am not at all against rules for determining under which heading a proverb should be placed. However, I would prefer Hayekian rulemaking. In other words, the thesis that those who are actually consuming this page knows best what needs to be done. But I am open for suggestions of heading rules! --Spannerjam (talk) 19:45, 21 November 2012 (UTC)
  • I too agree with all of Ningauble's above points. While it is true that Wiki encourages the ignoring of rules if they prevent improvement, I believe that the changes made do not improve things, and instead make the page worse. ~ UDScott (talk) 21:03, 21 November 2012 (UTC)
  • Since the consensus is clear, I will begin implementing these six points soon, unless anyone else joins the discussion with an opposing view. It will take quite a while to complete the task. ~ Ningauble (talk) 13:17, 9 December 2012 (UTC)
    • ...Hold your horses! Three long time users with an ideological bias (Not meant as an insult, but as a simple description.) against one, can hardly be considered a clear consensus. --Spannerjam (talk) 14:41, 11 December 2012 (UTC)
      • Hold on for what? Contention about this article has been advertised at the Village Pump for seven weeks now, and not one person has endorsed your position. When, as the proverbial expression goes, "everybody's out of step but Johnny", it is time to stop holding on to the proverbial spanner that is jamming the works. ~ Ningauble (talk) 17:48, 11 December 2012 (UTC)
        • I agree and fully support Ningauble's decision to move forward. Although I am admittedly one of the "three long time users with an ideological bias" I believe the issue has been open long enough for comment and it is now time to act. ~ UDScott (talk) 18:39, 11 December 2012 (UTC)

A compromise about the layout of "English Proverbs"Edit

How about we delete this page and have these two pages instead: English proverbs (alphabetically by proverb) and English proverbs (alphabetically by theme)? --Spannerjam (talk) 10:39, 24 November 2012 (UTC)

I don't see how that would address the problem of the selection of the so-called themes - they would still be the product of a subjective selection process. ~ UDScott (talk) 01:08, 25 November 2012 (UTC)
No solution is perfect, just like no medicine is without it's side effects. You still take the medicine which is more helpful than it is detrimental. --Spannerjam (talk) 08:05, 25 November 2012 (UTC)
My point is that this is in no way a compromise (as you've labeled this subsection). It does not address the problem that I and others have raised. It's not about an imperfect solution, but rather no solution. ~ UDScott (talk) 01:30, 26 November 2012 (UTC)
It is a solution to the following problem: You could not easily understand the meanings of the proverbs that were listed on this page. This was simply because they were not explained, but also for the reason that the layout of the page was poor. I have addressed both these issues. --Spannerjam (talk) 08:07, 26 November 2012 (UTC)
Not to belabor the point further, but you have solved the problems that you saw with the page, but you seem to not understand the meaning of the word compromise. I am referring to the problems with your changes that I and other editors have identified. You have not yet addressed these and therefore there can be no compromise. That is what I meant. No need to continue this discussion - the larger points enumerated in the above section are more important to address. ~ UDScott (talk) 15:18, 26 November 2012 (UTC)

Cross-wiki Proverb redundancyEdit

A discussion of cross-wiki Proverb redundancy relating to this page has been initiated at the Wikipedia Village Pump. BD2412 T 02:24, 9 May 2015 (UTC)


Why isn't this one on the list?

"Being a lion get’s you in the door, but you can’t eat at the table unless you’ve got a butt like a human butt. Due to the nature of the seats."

Should we delete this dogpile?Edit

Seriously, few of these have authoritative references and some are just silly. Maybe just delete those that lack authoritative references? (That would remove most of the entries.) —Danorton (talk) 15:33, 22 November 2018 (UTC)

Missing proverbsEdit

Where are the proverbs from Advice to H?--Risto hot sir (talk) 10:39, 18 July 2019 (UTC) - It seems that if we add a new topic some other will disappear. What to do?--Risto hot sir (talk) 22:23, 18 July 2019 (UTC)

Now I see the proverbs again. A curly bracket was missing. By the way please add a page number for the proverb source you provide, as you did on this page. Spannerjam (talk) 04:46, 19 July 2019 (UTC)
    • Fineǃ Did I forget some page numbers?--Risto hot sir (talk) 09:25, 19 July 2019 (UTC)
    • I am talking about your edits on Estonian proverbs and Finnish proverbs. Spannerjam (talk) 14:17, 19 July 2019 (UTC)

Well, I've copied the original proverbs from local sites. Because they consist 550 000 bytes I never ever will have time to search the page numbers.--Risto hot sir (talk) 15:26, 19 July 2019 (UTC)

Return to "English proverbs" page.