Vernacular Phrasal Display: Towards the Definition of a Form


This essay discusses a genre of folksay, one paradoxically widely collected but little studied, lacking even a satisfactory definition or an agreed-upon name. The term “proverbial comparison”—which properly acknowledges the relation of the form to proverbs as understood more broadly—has sometimes been used to designate this form, but its defining characteristics are more commonly left to be inferred from lists of “rural-” or “old-time expressions,” although the form is quite at home in contemporary urban settings. Following on the regularity with which they are attributed to particular eloquent individuals, the present article conceptualizes these speech-items as a performance genre and examines their social functions.

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