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The Routledge Book
of World Proverbs

Jon R. Stone
Associate Professor
Religious Studies

Just published in September 2006, The Routledge Book of World Proverbs invites its readers to travel the globe in search of the origins of such words of wisdom as “A good book, a good friend,” (Italy) or “One enemy is too many, 100 friends is not enough” (India). The collection contains more than 16,000 gems that draw together proverbs that transcend culture, time and space to offer a collection that is useful and enjoyable. Stone is author or editor of 10 books, including The Craft of Religious Studies, The Essential Max Müller, Expecting Armageddon: Essential Readings in Failed Prophecy, and Latin for the Illiterati, which was named “1997 Outstanding Reference Source” by the American Library Association. “What I think probably makes a good proverb is that we can catch the meaning in an economy of words or pithy expression,” said Stone. “The best proverb is the one that impresses itself on the mind.” One of his favorite sources of proverbs is American founding father Benjamin Franklin. “I could see he was influenced by earlier proverbs,” he said. “They may not be original with Franklin but it was the way he told them that made them original.” Proverbs pack such a punch that even the untranslatable is quotable. For instance, the African proverb, “If your neighbor has a fire, don’t expect someone wearing a grass skirt to put it out.” The actual phrase is “grass on his gatto.” “There is no English approximation of ‘gatto,’” he said. “But you don’t have to understand what a gatto is. Whatever a gatto is, someone with ‘grass on his gatto’ is not about to run toward a fire.”

Book cover