Paremiology 2007

Colloquium in Tavira, Portugal,  November 2007

Presentation titled:


Speaker: John HULIN, Private Individual, United Kingdom.


An examination, in an ‘alternative’ style, of the strengths and weaknesses of the proverb. Despite its lack of precision, the proverb’s place in our culture is secured by its colourful mode of expression. This light-hearted presentation used an ‘anthropomorphistic’ style, ie it considered the proverb as a person, with good and bad characteristics. Maybe it shows our old friend in a new light.

Click here to link to the Presentation

Here is the text of the ‘Ode’ as used in the Presentation.  It makes limited sense without the support of the illustrations in the Presentation.


O Proverb, skilled in rhyming verse,

Why stoop to simple sound bites terse ?

Are you a fair and balanced lawyer

Or just a salesman under cover?

Are you our daily inspiration

Or leading us to perspiration ?

You like things simple, even trite,

We’ll be persuaded that you’re right,

But with thought we’ll come to rue

We missed the other point of view.

We lazy ones will hear you say

“Cave diem” – “Seize the day”

Yet silently you know the need

To caution us ‘more haste, less speed’.

The flag of truth you’ll have unfurled-

The whole truth is another world.

Your family line goes back in time

Before the Romans marched in line,

And yet your modern voice is heard-

“Air internet” helps spread the word.

Your language skills are a sensation,

Though something is lost in translation.

Old prejudice is near at hand-

You’re sworn to fight to have it banned.

Old are you, but modern too,

Computers offer nothing new.

As technical as they may be

They’ve taught you new vocabulary,

Though we would strongly caution you

To join a data base or two –

Those who care for you will see

A greater productivity.

O Proverb, ‘twas your destiny

To love both rhyme and simile.

You’ve grown to be un bon gourmet

And can’t resist hyperbole.

You breakfast on an epigraph.

To start the day that is enough,

Though some tasty epigrams

Can go down well with verbs and nouns.

You love a taste empirical,

or par-em-i-o-logical.

But homonym and synonym

Can taste the very same to him.

Ellipsis with some metaphor

Is just the thing that you adore.

For sobremesa you would ask

For idioms with paradox,

And aphorisms are a must

With axiom and maxim crust.

Your wine must have alliteration

With just a touch of collocation.

An adage gives your guarantee

There’s no repeat banality.

“Man cannot live by bread alone”.

O cliché, truism begone!

Now we’ve seen you, good and bad,

Let’s pause a moment and be glad

That you dear friend serve us so well

With such a store of tales to tell.

O Proverb, may your life be long,

Your words float through the air like song,

Your wisdom be there as our guide,

A universe of thought worldwide.