A Dictionary of Wellerisms
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A Dictionary of Wellerisms

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The wellerism - so called in English because it is a form of expression typical or reminiscent of Sam Weller or his father, two celebrated characters in Dickens's Pickwick Papers - is a major subtype of the proverb. It consists of three parts: a speech or statement (often a proverb), identification of the speaker, and identification of the situation, which gives the expression an ironic or humorous twist, often in the form of a pun. A Dictionary of Wellerisms is the first work to collect all of the wellerisms recorded in the English language. Containing a wealth of wit and wisdom, it also offers a preface, bibliography, lengthy introduction, and two indexes, one of speakers, one of situations. Wellerisms: 'Prevention is better than cure,' said the pig when it ran away from the butcher. 'We'll have to rehearse that,' said the undertaker as the coffin fell out of the car.show more

Product details

  • Hardback | 208 pages
  • 142 x 218 x 20mm | 421.84g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • Annotated
  • 0195083180
  • 9780195083187
  • 1,657,453

Review quote

"A splendid idea and a first in the English language. All libraries will want a copy; all scholars concerned with the English language will find it of interest. There is no competitive volume."-Alan Dundes, University of California, Berkeleyshow more

Back cover copy

"'I see, ' said the blind man, as he stumbled over a log". Since ancient times, people have engaged in clever word play, often creating humorous sayings of the same basic construction as this familiar one. In modern times termed a "wellerism" because it is a form of expression reminiscent of Sam Weller and his father, two celebrated characters in Dickens's Pickwick Papers, this major subtype of the proverb has been popular in most European languages and some African languages as far back as can be traced. As defined by folklorists and proverb scholars, a wellerism generally consists of three parts: a speech or statement (often a proverb), identification of the speaker, and identification of the situation, which gives the expression an ironic or humorous twist, often in the form of a pun. "Prevention is better than cure", said the pig when it ran away from the butcher. "We'll have to rehearse that", said the undertaker as the coffin fell out of the car. Hidden in these short quips is revealing commentary on social and political issues as well as human nature in general, and as such, they serve as valuable folkloric indicators of the mores of the time in which they were coined and used. A Dictionary of Wellerisms is the first work to collect all of the wellerisms recorded in the English language. Drawing on periodical literature and other scholarly sources, Wolfgang Mieder and Stewart A. Kingsbury have assembled, edited, and annotated over 1500 texts found in British, American, and Canadian literatures and oral collections. Mieder's preface, bibliography, and extensive introduction explaining the history, meaning, and function of wellerisms are supplemented by an index of speakers and anindex of situations. Containing a wealth of wit and humor, A Dictionary of Wellerisms is at once entertaining and informative. Whether mirthful, satirical, or wryly observant, the wellerisms herein will appeal to the casual browser as well as to students and scholars of literature, folklore, linguistics, anthropology, and cultural history.show more

About Wolfgang Mieder

Wolfgang Meider is Chairperson of the Department of German and Russian, University of Vermont, and the author a Dictionary of American Proverbs (OUP, 1992) and Proverbs Are Never out of Season (OUP, 1993). Stewart A. Kingsbury is Professor of English (retired) at Northern Michigan University.show more

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