West Cork and proverbs

Netherlandish Proverbs, Pieter Bruegel the Elder (1559) – Wikimedia Commons

I’m just back from the West Cork Literary Festival, talking about The Word Detective again. I included a section about Irish words in English and was surprised, when I researched the subject, just how many exclamations of sorrow and lament we record from Irish, as opposed to other languages. But that’s one of the strands of the Irish ballad tradition, so I shouldn’t really have been surprised.

Another surprise when I got home. My old friend Wolfgang Mieder, Professor of German and Folklore at the University of Vermont, had written to say he’d just published a review of The Word Detective in Proverbium (“the Yearbook of International Proverb Scholarship”). We haven’t met for about thirty years, so this was something of a bolt out of the blue. Wolfgang liked the book (phew!), but had an unusual take on it. The review focuses on the proverbs and proverbial phrases that I employ in the text, which are legion. It was hardly a shock to me, as I had intentionally written in a conversational, informal style, but seeing all of the occurrences listed and commented on gave me pause for thought (made me take a sharp intake of breath; could have knocked me down with a feather; etc.). Good for Wolfgang. The review is here.