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Vulgarism in language is the next and distinguishing characteristic of bad company and bad education.A man of fashion avoids nothing with more care than that.
Proverbs as strategic signs for recurrent situations have long played a significant communicative role in political rhetoric.
Folk proverbs as well as Bible proverbs appear as expressions of wisdom and common sense, adding authority and didacticism to the multifaceted aspects of sociopolitical discourse.
As somewhat of an intellectual snob he had no use for proverbs as he stressed the importance of proper social behavior in a letter of 25 July 1741, to his son: There is an awkwardness of expression and words, most carefully to be avoided: such as false English, bad pronunciation, old sayings, and common proverbs; which are so many proofs of having kept bad or low company.
For example, if, instead of saying that tastes are different, and that every man has his own peculiar one, you should let off a proverb, and say, That what is one man’s meat is another man’s poison; or else, Everyone as they like, as the good man said when he kissed his cow, everybody would be persuaded that you had never kept company with anybody above footmen and housemaids.
A man of fashion never has recourse to proverbs and vulgar aphorisms; uses neither favorite words nor hard words; but takes great care to speak very correctly and grammatically, and to pronounce properly; that is, according to the usage of the best companies.
The basis of Lord Chesterfield’s educational philosophy and pedagogical program for his son consisted of the conviction that certain social graces must be maintained, including good manners, proper speech, moderation, civility, self-control, politeness, etc.Altogether this handbook presents ample proof that the ubiquitous proverbs always have been and most certainly continue to be part of oral and written communication.They serve the human inclination to summarize observations and experiences into generalized nuggets of wisdom that in turn can be employed as ready-made comments on everyday relationships and sociopolitical affairs of various types.Proverbial expressions and trite sayings are the flowers of the rhetoric of a vulgar man.Would he say that men differ in their tastes; he both supports and adorns that opinion by the good old saying, as he respectfully calls it, that What is one man’s meat, is another man’s poison.The art of proverb employment lies in citing the perfectly fitting one at the right occasion.And while the frequency of their employment might vary among speakers and writers, proverbs remain an effective discursive force in various communicative modes, from sermons to gossip, from lyrical poetry to dramatic dialogue, from short stories to novels, from conversational chatter to forceful political rhetoric, and from rap music to slogans and headlines in the mass media. There is no need for concern about the possible demise or death of proverbs today, as can easily be seen from the content of a book with the absolutely appropriate title (Mieder 2008), indicating that it behooves humanists to pay close attention to proverbs.For now it must suffice to look at several representative figures from the Anglo-American world of the 18th century to the present.Realizing that social politics are not only part of the national scene but can play out in family interactions as well, one Philip Dormer Stanhope, fourth Earl of Chesterfield (1694–1773) and his relationship to his illegitimate son Philip Stanhope (1732–1768) come to mind (Mieder 2000a, pp. Lord Chesterfield, as the father is generally known, was a well-educated British diplomat and a perfect example of the Age of Reason who felt that life in general and that of his son in particular could and should be controlled by reason.Some proverbs like the golden rule “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Matthew ) or “It takes a village to raise a child” can function as traditional leitmotifs while other well-known proverbs might be changed into anti-proverbs to express innovative insights.The moralistic, evaluative, and argumentative employment of proverbs can be seen in the letters, speeches and writings by Lord Chesterfield, Abigail Adams, and Benjamin Franklin in the eighteenth century.