Folk narratives and legends as sources of widespread idioms: Toward a Lexicon of Common Figurative Units

Folk narratives and legends as sources of widespread idioms: Toward a Lexicon of Common Figurative Units

Piirainen, Elisabeth

Folklore. Electronic Journal of Folklore, Vol.48 (2011)


The subject matter of this article is widespread idioms originating from folk tales and old legends that once were elements of the folklore of various European language communities but later fell into oblivion. The motifs of these tales survived in currently known idioms of many languages of Europe and beyond and thus contribute to constituting a part of the Lexicon of Common Figurative Units.

It is a well-known fact in folklore and paremiology that various genres of verbal folklore like fairy tales, legends, riddles etc., on the one hand, and figurative units of the lexicon (i.e. proverbs and proverbial phrases, the latter also known as idioms) on the other, are often inextricably interrelated with each other. Several studies have been devoted to the interrelation between narratives and their “zerograde” truncated forms (German Schwundstufe) in pro- verbs and idioms (e.g. Röhrich 1960; Mieder 1986), and the mutual relation- ship between proverbial expressions and narratives, especially fables, has been a matter of intensive semiotic and inter-textual research (cf. Perry 1959; Permiakov 1979, Grzybek 1989; Carnes 1988, 1991, among others). A tale in its simplest form can be identical with a proverb, with the relationship going in both directions.

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