AMERICAN PROVERBS ABOUT WOMEN

Overview

American Proverbs About Women is an examination of how women are treated by these popular sayings that perpetuate folk wisdom. While some are true-to-life, some are saccharine, and some are demeaning, condescending, and even violent towards women. Readers will be entertained yet disturbed as they assess the impact of these proverbs on our cultural perspective. Over 800 proverbs are categorized by type and identified according to states or countries and dates of origin.
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Overview

American Proverbs About Women is an examination of how women are treated by these popular sayings that perpetuate folk wisdom. While some are true-to-life, some are saccharine, and some are demeaning, condescending, and even violent towards women. Readers will be entertained yet disturbed as they assess the impact of these proverbs on our cultural perspective. Over 800 proverbs are categorized by type and identified according to states or countries and dates of origin.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781609107635
  • Publisher: BookLocker.com, Inc.
  • Publication date: 6/30/2012
  • Pages: 276
  • Sales rank: 1,261,053
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.62 (d)

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 6

Women as Property

A culture that has traditionally been designed for all things to be classified under the dominion of the male head of a household, and for all things to be seen from the male point of view of higher authority, expresses a male-female relationship in terms of ownership: "Dally not with others' women or money"; "He that lends his wife to dance, or his horse to bullfight, has no complaint to make." The latter proverb means that if harm results, the man has only himself to blame for not keeping his property under his control. However, some possessions are particularly difficult to keep: "After three days men grow weary of a wench, a guest, and weather rainy"; "Arms, women and books should be looked at daily" [a popular German adage which warns a man not to trust a woman further than he can see her]; "Handle with care women and glass."

Until recently, history was written as "his story" with almost all great achievements credited to men and only peripheral attention given to women. For example, our language refers to those who settled the American West as if they were all men-we are told about "the pioneers and their wives and children" which gives no thought to the possibility that the women and children might have been pioneers themselves. Instead, they are considered just part of what came along with the men, like any other part of the baggage or supplies.

In the proverbs, too, when men count up their tangible worth, the women and children are just lumped together with the rest of the goods: "A big wife and a big barn will never do a man any harm"; A lazy wife and a large barn bring luck to any man"; "There are three faithful friends-an old wife, an old dog, and ready money"; "Three things are as rare as gold: a good melon, a good friend, and a good wife."

Women are often put on a parallel with livestock. For example: "Never pick women or horses by candlelight" [the French say "By candlelight a goat looks like a lady"]; "Rooster, horse, and woman should be chosen by breed;" "Manage the horse with the reins, the woman with the spur." Other proverbs found below discuss women in the same breath with mules, poultry, swine, dogs, bees, sheep, and cats.

In like manner, women are connected to sports, games, food, and drink: "Be temperate in wine, in eating, girls, and sloth, or the gout will seize you and plague you both"; "Play, women and wine undo men laughing"; "Wine and women don't mix"; "Wine, women and song will get a man wrong;" "A woman is a dish for the gods"; "Women and wine are the bane of youth"; "Women and wine, game and deceit make the wealth small and the want great."

Men do the proposing, but they act like such put-upon victims and quickly reassign blame if domestic bliss does not ensue. A man is told that he "cannot possess anything better than a good woman, nor anything worse than a bad one" and he certainly knows how to complain about the bad one: "A smoky chimney and a scolding wife are two bad companions"; "I'd as leaf travel as stay home with a scoldin' wife, crying children, and a smoky chimney." Perhaps if he fixed the chimney and tried to please his family he wouldn't have such problems. But, a man is also told "Commend not your wife, wine nor house" "for fear of undue advantage being taken of the confidence reposed in another."

The idea that women are sub-human servants to be counted with the rest of the inventory and disciplined like the family hound is demonstrated by proverbs such as: "My farm troubles me, for a farm and a wife soon run wild if left alone long"; and "A woman, a dog, and a walnut tree, the more you beat 'em the better they be." The multitude of variations for this latter proverb is frightening evidence of the prevalence of acceptance for wife-beating in our culture. Current headlines show that many a man still thinks that he can treat his wife any way he wants because she "belongs" to him like any other piece of property with which he can do as he pleases. Too many people still think that if a man has to beat his wife to "keep her in line" then it is his right and duty to do so.

If a woman had any great value, then she couldn't be treated so pitifully, but the proverbs tell us "Never run after a woman or a streetcar; there'll be another along in a few minutes." As we see in the section on daughters, the female is an unwanted commodity among humans: "Farmer's luck: bull calves and girl babies" i.e., just unusable extras one puts on the market to sell for breeding.

Then again, if the woman is producing she has merit: "A ship under sail and a big-bellied [pregnant] woman are the handsomest two things that can be seen common"; "A little house well filled, a little land well tilled, and a little wife well willed are great riches." Otherwise, a woman is nothing but trouble: "A ship and a woman are ever repairing" [reflecting the many ailments to which, in one form or another, women are supposed to be susceptible ]; "A barn, a fence, and a woman always need mending"; "Swine, women and bees, cannot be turned." Perhaps that is why men pursue other pleasures and hobbies with such fervor. After all, "A woman is only a woman; a good cigar is a smoke."

After three days men grow weary of a wench, a guest, and weather rainy. (1733; Franklin)

Arms, women and books should be looked at daily.

Variation: Arms, women, and locks should be looked at daily. (Wisconsin)

A barn, a fence, and a woman always need mending. (Vermont)

Be temperate in wine, in eating, girls, and sloth, or the gout will seize you and plague you both. (1734; Franklin)

Beware of the forepart of a woman, the hind part of a mule, and all sides of a priest.

Variation: . . . every side of a priest.

A big wife and a big barn will never do a man any harm.

Children, chickens, and women never have enough. (Wisconsin)

Commend not your wife, wine nor house. (1797; English)

Dally not with others folks' women or money. (1757; Franklin)

Don't buy a wild horse, nor marry a girl with many boyfriends. (1963; Mexican-American)

Farmers' luck: bull calves and girl babies. (Washington)

Gold, women, and linen should be chosen by daylight. (Wisconsin)

Handle with care women and glass. (1535)

[See: Women and glass are always in danger.]

He that rides the mule shoes her. [referring to the support of a woman] (1541; New York, South Carolina)

He who lends his wife to dance, or his horse to bullfight, has no complaint to make. (Mexican-American)

I'de as leaf travel as stay home with a scoldin' wife, crying children, and a smoky chimney.

A lazy wife and a large barn bring luck to any man. (New York)

A little house well filled, a little land well tilled, and a little wife well willed are great riches. (1735; Franklin; Mississippi, New York, South Carolina)

Variation: "field" for "land."

Manage the horse with the reins, the woman with the spur. (1963; Mexican-American)

A man cannot possess anything better than a good woman, nor anything worse than a bad one. (Pacific Northwest)

My farm troubles me, for a farm and a wife soon run wild if left alone long.

Never pick women or horses by candlelight.

Never run after a woman or a streetcar: there'll be another along in a few minutes. (Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania)

Variation: Never run after a woman. They are like streetcars. Stand still, for another one will come along soon. (Vermont)

Play, women and wine undo men laughing. (1670; English)

Rooster, horse, and woman should be chosen by breed. (1963; Mexican-American)

A ship and a woman are ever repairing. (Scottish)

Variation: A ship and a woman always want trimming. (1670; English)

See: A ship under sail and a big-bellied [pregnant] woman are the handsomest two things that can be seen (common). (1609; English; 1735; Franklin; New York, South Carolina)

A skinny woman's like a racehorse: fast and fun, but no good for work. (New Mexico)

A smoky chimney and a scolding wife are two bad companions.(Illinois)

Swine, women and bees, cannot be turned. (1796)

Variation: Swine, women and bees, none o' these can ye turn. (Connecticut)

A taught horse, a woman to teach, and teachers practicing what they preach. (1733; Franklin)

There are three faithful friends-an old wife, an old dog, and ready money. (1739; Franklin; Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin)

There are three things it takes a strong man to hold-a young warrior, a wild horse, and a handsome squaw. (Oklahoma)

Three things are as rare as gold: a good melon, a good friend, and a good wife.

Three things are men most likely to be cheated in: a horse, a wig, and a wife. (1736; Franklin)

Three without rule-A mule, A pig, A woman. (Irish; North Carolina)

Variation: Three things that will have their way-a lass, a pig, and an ass.

Variation: The three most difficult to teach-a woman, a pig, and a mule. (English)

To hunt out a wife as one goes to Smithfield for a horse. (1775)

When the wife dies and the mare foals, prosperity begins.

A whistling girl and an old black sheep are the only things a farmer can keep. (North Carolina)

Variation: A whistling girl and a bleating sheep are the best stock a farmer can keep. (English)

Variation: Whistling girls and jumping sheep are the poorest property a man can keep. (Washington)

Variation: Whistling girls and jumping sheep always come to the top of the heap. (Vermont)

Wine and women don't mix. (Alabama, Georgia)

Wine, women and song will get a man wrong. (1580; English; North Carolina)

A woman, a cat, and a chimney should never leave the house. (Texas)

A woman, a dog, and a walnut tree, the more you beat 'em the better they be. (1581)

Variation: A wife and a walnut tree, the more you beat them, the better they be.

Variation: A spaniel, a woman, and a walnut tree, the more they be beaten, the better they be.

Variation: a woman, a dog, and a hickory tree: the more you beat them, the more they beg.

Variation: A woman, a dog, and a walnut tree: the harder you beat 'em, the better they be. (Texas)

Variation: A woman, a dog, and a walnut tree: the worse you treat them, the better they will be.

Variation: A woman, a spaniel, and a walnut tree, the more you beat them, the better they be.

A woman and a greyhound must be small in the waist. (1866; Spanish)

A woman is a dish for the gods. (New Jersey)

A woman is only a woman. [often added: a good cigar is a smoke] (California, Michigan, Oregon)

Women and dogs cause too much strife. (1541; Mississippi, New York)

Women and hens are lost by gadding. (Italian; Pacific Northwest)

Women and wine are the bane of youth. (1742)

Women and wine, game and deceit, make the wealth small and the needs great. (1746; Franklin)

Women are ships and must be manned. (Pacific Northwest)

Women, cows, and hens should not run. (North Carolina)

Women, priests and poultry are never satisfied.

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Table of Contents

INTRODUCTION 1

CHAPTER 1: WIVES AND MARRIAGE 25

CHAPTER 2: A WOMAN'S NATURE 43

CHAPTER 3: A WOMAN'S LOOKS 57

CHAPTER 4: MOTHERS AND DAUGHTERS 67

CHAPTER 5: COURTSHIP 75

CHAPTER 6: WOMEN AS PROPERTY 83

CHAPTER 7: BAD WOMEN VERSUS VIRTUOUS WOMEN 91

CHAPTER 8: A WOMAN'S PLACE 98

CHAPTER 9: TALKATIVENESS 106

CHAPTER 10: WHORES AND OLD MAIDS 110

CHAPTER 11: FLIGHTINESS 116

CHAPTER 12: SEX 122

CHAPTER 13: WIDOWS 126

CHAPTER 14: OLD WOMEN AND GRANDMOTHERS 130

CHAPTER 15: THE LAW UNDER WOMEN 134

CHAPTER 16: A WOMAN AND HER HOUSE 138

CHAPTER 17: MISCELLANEOUS 142

CHAPTER 18: CONCLUSION 148

WORKS CITED 156

ALPHABETICAL INDEX 172

INDEX 268

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