English, Department of


Date of this Version

January 1933


Published in the University of Nebraska Studies in Language, Literature, and Criticism series, Number 13. Lincoln, Nebraska, 1933.


The following study attempts to list and to classify the proverbs and proverbial phrases in current oral use in Nebraska. My chief source for the collection was the talk of persons with whom I have been in contact for the last six months. The amount of proverbial lore on the lips of representatives of many walks of life is astonishing; one can have no conception of its extent until he consciously listens for it and keeps a record of what he hears. Further, friends in Lincoln and in other parts of the state gathered and sent to me many lists of the current proverbial expressions that they knew. The members of classes in American Literature at the University of Nebraska, classes made up of students coming from many different communities, contributed a considerable number. I also consulted collections of proverbial lore and the sayings that I immediately recognized as current were incorporated into my lists. I have lived most of my life in Nebraska so that I felt confident that any expression with which I was very familiar is in circulation in the state. In instances where there was the least doubt, however, I had the sayings identified by other Nebraskans.

My collection in no sense represents an exhaustive study of the subject. The very nature of proverbial lore makes a complete and finished list an impossibility. Proverbial lore, like all other lore, is a growing, living thing, changing from day to day. The figurative language popular today may become proverbial tomorrow, or it may pass into oblivion.

The organization of material that I have used is arbitrary; it was fixed upon for convenience in arranging a large number of proverbs and proverbial phrases. It is based on two types of groupings. The first type brings together a collection of proverbs concerning a certain subject, such as the section on Women, Love, and Marriage. In the other type, the sayings listed together are all derived from a common source, though they apply to many phases of life; e.g., the aphoristic sayings from animal life are significant chiefly as interpretations of human nature. In some cases, notably the section on weather, both types of classification are utilized.

I wish to express my indebtedness to Dr. Louise Pound, Professor of English at the University of Nebraska. for suggesting this study and for encouragement and practical aid while it was in preparation. I owe sincere appreciation also to the many persons who helped me in my compilation of lists of proverbial expressions in Nebraska.