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The supposed wisdom of proverbs is mainly imaginary. As a rule, proverbs go in pairs which say opposite things. The opposite of “More haste, less speed” is “A stitch in time saves nine.” The opposite of “Take care of the pence and the pounds will take care of themselves,” “Penny wise, pound foolish.” The opposite of “Two heads are better than one,” is “Too many cooks spoil the broth.” And so on. The great advantage of a proverb in argument is that it is supposed to be incontrovertible, as embodying the quintessential sagacity of our ancestors. But when once you have realised that proverbs go in pairs which say opposite things you can never again be downed by a proverb; you merely quote the opposite.

Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
“On Proverbs,” New York American (1932-11-16)
Added on 30-Mar-23 | Last updated 30-Mar-23
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The aphorism is a personal observation inflated into a universal truth, a private posing as a general. A proverb is anonymous human history compressed to the size of a seed.

Stefan Kanfer (1933-2018) American writer, editor, journalist
“Proverbs or Aphorisms,” Time (11 Jun 1983)
Added on 3-Apr-18 | Last updated 3-Apr-18
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The best aphorisms are pointed expressions of the results of observation, experience, and reflection. They are portable wisdom, the quintessential extracts of thought and feeling. They furnish the largest amount of intellectual stimulus and nutriment in the smallest compass. About every weak point in human nature, or vicious spot in human life, there is deposited a crystallization of warning and protective proverbs.

William Rounseville Alger (1822-1905) American writer, minister, translator
“The Utility and the Futility of Aphorisms,” Atlantic Monthly (Feb 1863)

Often paraphrased, "Aphorisms are portable wisdom."
Added on 22-Nov-17 | Last updated 22-Nov-17
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Proverbs contradict each other. That is the wisdom of a nation.

Stanislaw Lec (1909-1966) Polish aphorist, poet, satirist
Unkempt Thoughts [Myśli nieuczesane] (1957) [tr. Gałązka (1962)]
Added on 16-Mar-17 | Last updated 29-Mar-22
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King David and King Solomon
Led merry merry lives,
With many, many lady friends,
And many many wives;
But when old age crept over them —
With many, many qualms! —
King Solomon wrote the Proverbs
And King David wrote the Psalms.

James Ball Naylor (1860-1945) American physician, writer, poet, politician
“King David and King Solomon” (1935)
Added on 5-Jan-17 | Last updated 5-Jan-17
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Poets are like proverbs: you can always find one to contradict another.

[Les poëtes sont comme les proverbes : l’un est toujours là pour contredire l’autre.]

Jules Verne (1828-1905) French novelist, poet, playwright
The Survivors of the Chancellor, ch. 5 “An Unusual Route” (1875)
Added on 3-Jun-16 | Last updated 3-Jun-16
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A proverb is a short sentence based on long experience.

Miguel de Cervantes (1547-1616) Spanish novelist
Don Quixote, Part 2 (1615)
Added on 19-Nov-12 | Last updated 9-Jun-15
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Men’s maxims reveal their characters.

Luc de Clapiers, Marquis de Vauvenargues (1715-1747) French moralist, essayist, soldier
Reflections and Maxims [Réflexions et maximes], #107 (1746) [tr Stevens (1940)]

Alt. trans.: "The maxims of men reveal their hearts."
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 31-Jul-18
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