“A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste”: Knowledge and Ignorance in Modern Anglo-American Proverbs


Wolfgang Mieder (University of Vermont)

Traditional proverbs about knowledge and ignorance, intelligence and stupidity, wisdom and folly exist in all cultures and languages. Modern proverbs do not represent a unified worldview regarding smartness and stupidity and the role that education might play, but they contain basic attitudes and insights into modern viewpoints about mental activities. The proverbs amount to something like a folk psychology based on common-sense knowledge about the brain, education, experience, foolishness, forgetfulness, intellect, inquisitiveness, learning, memory, mind, student, teacher, smartness, thought, upbringing, etc. Metaphors play a lesser role in these proverbs that for the most part are straightforward indicative and at times didactic statements. Some of them, like “The internet never forgets” and “There’s an app for everything” are of very recent coinage and reflect the modern age.

Part of 21-04 Intersections of Knowledge and Belief, Speaking and Writing, Tuesday, October 19, 9:30 am–11:00 am