What Is a Proverb and How Did It Come About?
Proverbs are commonly held ideas and beliefs. That’s why it is common to find a variation of a proverb in different parts of the world. They are part of every spoken language and share a close relationship with riddles and fables. According to the Britannica encyclopaedia, the Egyptians were among the first to compile a collection of proverbs. One of the oldest books in the world, the bible also contains a book of proverbs and sayings.
How Should I Use Proverbs?
While proverbs are rich linguistic treasures, they have no value if they are detached from life through meaningless memorisation and recitation. If you plan to pick them up, try using these wise sayings when the opportunity arises. You can also keep a list of proverbs and use the ones that you find meaningful or applicable to the situations you describe in your compositions. To start you off, I have compiled a list of proverbs on friendship below:
- A friend in need is a friend indeed: A friend who helps you through a difficult time is one that you can rely on.
- A person is known by the company he keeps: Our reputation is based on our actions and our association with others. If we choose to associate with bad company, others will view us in a negative light. Likewise, if we choose to befriend others who are respected, we will gain the respect of others too.
- Birds of a feather flock together: People with similar opinions or interests tend to associate with each other.
- Don’t judge a book by its cover: Avoid judging someone on the surface; based on their looks or appearance. They may differ significantly from the prejudices you’ve formed in your mind.
- It takes two to tango: If someone attempts to argue with you, you can end the argument by walking away. Both parties involved are equally responsible for a situation or argument.
- Loose lips sink ships: Gossip can harm others emotionally and affect your friendship. It can cause a lot of trouble and animosity among friends.
- Many hands make light work: Many tasks are easier to accomplish through teamwork or if several people help.
- You can catch more flies with honey than vinegar: It is much easier to seek cooperation and get what you want by being polite rather than being rude and insolent.
When Can I Use Proverbs in My Writing?
When writing a story, you can insert a proverb in different parts of the narrative. Some appropriate places include:
- introduction – as part of the opening line or hook to interest your reader
- in the dialogue between two characters to emphasise a particular idea
- conclusion – as part of the main character’s reflection
Let’s take a look at each of the situations mentioned above using some of the proverbs on friendship listed earlier:
Starting your story with a proverb is a good way to grab the readers’ attention and it leads them in directly into the story. In the example above, the proverb helps to illustrate the close nature of the relationship that the writer has with Jack.
Using the proverb in the dialogue helps to highlight a complex idea that the character (Cindy) is trying to convey; that in spreading the gossip about her, the writer is actually harming their friendship and causing a rift between them. See how such a complicated idea is effectively summed up using an appropriate proverb?
Having the proverb in the ending can be an effective way to show the character’s reflections as well as to tie up the story neatly. In the example above, the use of the proverb clearly illustrates the main character’s realisation of what a bad friend Greg would turn out to be and why he would not want to associate himself with this person.
Before I end the post, just a little word of caution: although using proverbs can add spice to your writing, remember to use them sparingly. Using too many proverbs in one story can make it sound contrived and not at all interesting to read.
I hope you have enjoyed reading this post. If you would like more actionable strategies to help you improve in English, please read through our other blog posts from our talented team of teachers. Ta!
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