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Proverbs are often handed down through generations.Therefore, "many proverbs refer to old measurements, obscure professions, outdated weapons, unknown plants, animals, names, and various other traditional matters." Proverbs are often and easily translated and transferred from one language into another.) is a simple and concrete saying, popularly known and repeated, that expresses a truth based on common sense or experience. Proverbs fall into the category of formulaic language.Proverbs are often borrowed from similar languages and cultures, and sometimes come down to the present through more than one language.Interpreting proverbs from other cultures is much more difficult than interpreting proverbs in one's own culture.Even within English-speaking cultures, there is difference of opinion on how to interpret the proverb "A rolling stone gathers no moss." Some see it as condemning a person that keeps moving, seeing moss as a positive thing, such as profit; others see the proverb as praising people that keep moving and developing, seeing moss as a negative thing, such as negative habits.Similarly, among Tajik speakers, the proverb "One hand cannot clap" has two significantly different interpretations. Others understand it to mean that an argument requires two people.Children will sometimes interpret proverbs in a literal sense, not yet knowing how to understand the conventionalized metaphor.
However, though it has gone through multiple languages and millennia, the proverb can be traced back to an ancient Babylonian proverb (Pritchard 196).This process of creating proverbs is always ongoing, so that possible new proverbs are being created constantly.Those sayings that are adopted and used by an adequate number of people become proverbs in that society.Interpretation of proverbs is also affected by injuries and diseases of the brain, "A hallmark of schizophrenia is impaired proverb interpretation." However, people will often quote only a fraction of a proverb to invoke an entire proverb, e.g."All is fair" instead of "All is fair in love and war", and "A rolling stone" for "A rolling stone gathers no moss." The grammar of proverbs is not always the typical grammar of the spoken language, often elements are moved around, to achieve rhyme or focus.
Though many proverbs are ancient, they were all newly created at some point by somebody.