Editor's Note

Richard Saunders

Abstract

In my college years I took a folklore class from Barre Toelken, one of the modern giants of folk studies. Along the way I gained a personal appreciation for aphorisms and idioms—short sayings commenting on a situation by comparing it to something else, usually unfavorably. Dictionaries boil down an aphorism to “a pithy observation that contains a general truth.” An idiom is an aphorism with cleverness thrown in for good measure. Anyone who has sworn “when hell freezes over” has used an idiom. The seafaring people of northern Europe occasionally invoke a folkish comment describing a futile effort. “That Jan,” someone might say, “he’s sweeping back the tide with a broom.”

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