On Social Characteristics of English Proverbs

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2012 年 08 月

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Proverbs—Reflection of Influence of the Holy Bible on Western Culture 徐铖
(国家税务总局干部学院教研三部,
江苏 扬州 225007)

Abstract: Christianity is the most influential religion in west world while the Bible is often labeled as a“Western book”and considered a vital part of western culture.With the help of related English proverbs as well as the Holy Bible -the major resource of Christian doctrines and western concept of values, the thesis analyzes the influence of this scripture on western culture from the angle of human nature orienta⁃ tion, relationship of humankind to nature, time orientation, activity orientation and relational orientation. Key words: Proverbs; the Holy Bible; western culture

中图分类号: 03 文献标识码:
G
A

文章编号: -5039(2012)16-0279-04
1009

Proverbs, in colorful and vivid language, reflect important typi⁃ cal cultural values of every nation. Simple and popular, concise and pithy, they are passed on from generation to generation in the read⁃ able oral form and have gradually become a component indispens⁃ able to the dominant culture of that nation. As a part of language, proverbs have been closely integrated with the society and its cul⁃ ture. Proverbs reflect many aspects of the nation such as geography, history, religious faith and values. Meanwhile, Christianity which generally influences the west through the Bible played an important role in the course of formation and development of western society. It can be proved by numerous English proverbs which reflect the re⁃ lation between culture and language. When foreigners travel or live in English-speaking countries or even deal with English studying, they can not avoid experiencing cultural gap. Learning English prov⁃ erbs is absolutely a good way to bridge it.

However, there are still many people who can not use some
proverbs properly, especially those which are bound up with Chris⁃ tian doctrines and Bible. So when it comes to some certain occa⁃ sions, just like interpreting or explanation should be given, we may find that it is difficult to use our native language to convey their meanings or guess out their background information because of our ignorance of proverbs’

cultural importance.
Strictly speaking, any kind of religion represents a concept of ethic which is regarded as the foundation of the existence of society. Having existed for many generations, the religion becomes an impor⁃ tant part of culture and has even greater influence on deep aspects of people’ life, especially the concept of value, traditional notions, s

way of thinking, etc. On most occasions, the surface layer cultural exchange is easy to carry on. For example, it is easy for us to under⁃ stand English words“running water”and“mobile phone”and find the corresponding expression in Chinese. But when it comes to the deeper part of culture, there will be problems. People like to use

some proverbs to make their language livelier both in communica⁃ tion and writing. The lack of understanding of these lively words would be an obstacle to the understanding. If a native mentions “raise Cain” you would be unable to make head or tail of it without ,

adequate knowledge of the allusion Raise Cain. It comes from Bi⁃ ble. Later, people use the allusion raise Cain to mean cause trouble, make a fuss. If we know the source, we would have no difficulty un⁃ derstanding it.

Accordingly, proverbs with biblical allusions are very difficult to master in English language. Even if you know the meaning of ev⁃ ery single word and are good at the grammar, you just cannot under⁃ stand it when combining them into a whole. In modern English, many idioms and proverbs come from the allusions to the Bible. An adequate knowledge of the Bible would be of great value to the un⁃ derstanding of the proverbs. To the language student, a sound knowledge of the...
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