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David J. Wishart, Editor


The proverbial language of the Great Plains is as varied as the landscape and culture of this vast area of North America that stretches from Canada to Mexico. With English being the dominant language, traditional proverbs and their wisdom, as well as proverbial sayings with their colorful metaphors, were brought to this continent by British settlers and abound throughout the United States and Canada. In fact, such standard texts as "The early bird catches the worm," "First come, first served," and "Honesty is the best policy," as well as such common proverbial sayings as "A feather in your cap," "Hit the nail on the head," and "On the tip of my tongue" are known and used in oral and written communication in all parts of the world where English is spoken. They belong to the basic stock of proverbial utterances in the English language, and they certainly appear frequently in the verbal communication of people living in the Great Plains.

Naturally, not all proverbial texts can be traced back to British sources. Every region, state, province, or country also develops its own homegrown metaphors, which through repeated use develop into new proverbs and sayings. This is also true for the Great Plains, of course, but it must be noted that it is usually extremely difficult to ascertain the specific regional origin and distribution of proverbial texts. Fortunately, the American Dialect Society undertook a major proverb collection exercise between 1945 and 1985 that resulted in 250,000 references, which have now been registered and annotated in (1992). This massive collection identifies whether a particular text is known generally throughout the United States and/ or Canada, and if it is not, locates the state or province where it was collected and registered. Impressive as this information might be, it is nevertheless of limited value since only English- language texts were collected. Foreign-language proverbs and sayings from the various immigrant groups and Native Americans are lacking, and the same is true for many texts from ethnic groups such as African Americans, Mexican Americans, Volga Germans, and Ukrainians in Canada.

For some states, small special proverb collections have been assembled, notably for Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, and Texas. As expected, they contain primarily standard English proverbs, but there are at least some truly regional texts among them that reflect the life and mores of the inhabitants of the Plains, with its ranches, prairies, wheat fields, horses, and cattle. A few examples from Colorado are: "Money greases the axle," "Keep your feet in the stirrups," "To not have sense enough to pound sand into a rat hole," "As cold as yesterday's pancakes," "Only fools and tenderfeet predict the weather in Colorado," "As big as a horse and almost as smart," and "Lower than a snake's belly in a wagon track." Among the texts collected in Kansas are: "You can build a house but you have to make a home," "Mud thrown is ground lost," and "A dry well pumps no water." From Nebraska stem such proverbs and sayings as "Where there's room in the heart, there's room in the house," "Don't holler before you're hurt," and "As safe as a cow in the stockyards." And the large state of Texas might have originated such proverbial utterances as "Don't waste your ammunition on a dead duck," "To have about as much use for (something) as a hog has for a sidesaddle," "So lazy that grass grows under your feet," and "Don't kick until you're spurred." Of course, there are also such stereotypical sayings as "Rich as a Texan and as full of hot air," "Cold as a well-digger's lunch in Nebraska," and "Hot as corn in Kansas in August." As can be seen, such regional sayings often contain their dose of humor and ridicule, and they can quickly be changed by substituting one state's name for another. Furthermore, it must be kept in mind that the geographical borders of states or provinces do not hinder proverbs and sayings from spreading beyond them. It is extremely difficult to pinpoint the precise origin of any given saying, and it is better to speak of proverbs that are current in a particular region rather than claiming too quickly that they are indigenous to it.

The situation is just as vexing when one considers the proverbs and sayings that the various immigrant groups brought to the Great Plains. Books have been assembled of Mexican and Spanish proverbs in current use in Spanish in New Mexico, Texas, and southern Colorado. Among this rich verbal lore are proverbs (in English translation) like "Don't look for three feet on a cat," "Whoever is burnt by milk is even afraid of cottage cheese," and "Faces we see, hearts we don't know." The Germans brought along proverbs like "The morning hour has gold in its mouth," "Old love does not rust," and "You can't make good hay from poor grass," and the Swedish settlers still say "Dust is always dust, however near to heaven it may be blown," "A tall house is empty under the rafters," and "No one thinks of the snow that fell last year." Czech immigrants employ proverbs like "Custom is rust that mocks at every file," "The farmer's footprints make the field fertile," and "Young people and dogs take many useless steps in an hour." Among Chinese railroad laborers were such proverbs as "Even dust, if accumulated enough, will form a mountain," "Through old things we learn new things," and "Ten fingers cannot be all the same size." Jewish traders and merchants brought along such Yiddish proverbs as "Dumplings in a dream are not dumplings but a dream," "Words should be weighed and not counted," and "One cannot live by another's wits." And the Ukrainians in Canada still use proverbs like "The plowman has no time for mischief," "The farmer's hands are muddy and black, but his loaves are sweet and white," and "Another's fur coat does not warm you as your own." While most of these proverbs are cited in their original language, some of them have been translated into English over time and have gained a more general currency. This is especially true for the German proverb and the proverbial saying , which have become quite well known throughout North America as "The apple does not fall far from the tree" and "To throw the baby out with the bath water."

There are also, of course, the proverbs of African Americans who moved north from Texas all the way to Canada trying to escape prejudice and looking for jobs. Some of their proverbs go back to slavery, such as "Every bell you hear is not the dinner bell" (there was also the "rising bell" in the morning that called the slaves to work) and "The quicker death, the quicker heaven." Other proverbial wisdom from the black experience is shown in such texts as "Scraping on the bottom of the meal bin is mighty poor music," "A robin's song is not pretty to the worm," and "When bugs give a party they never ask the chickens."

But while there are at least some collections of African American proverbs and proverbial sayings from the Plains (primarily Texas), very little is known about the proverbial language of Native Americans. Anthropologists, folklorists, and linguists have hitherto registered only very few proverbs of Native Americans. It is even argued that their tribal languages are basically void of any proverbial language. This is proven false by at least the few texts that have been collected and annotated. From the Crow Indians of Montana are such texts as "When pine needles turn yellow" (a proverbial phrase characterizing an impossibility), "To be like the one who wanted to catch the porcupine" (referring to a person who persists in a hopeless enterprise), and "To be like the turtle that was thrown into the water" (applied to people feigning dislike for what they really crave). The entire stock of Native American proverbs collected thus far does not even number 300, and much work remains to be done to register this treasure trove of folk wisdom among Native Americans of the Great Plains and elsewhere.

The proverbial language of the Great Plains is thus a "mixed bag," to use a folk metaphor. While many texts can be traced back to Anglo- American traditions, the various immigrant groups, as well as Native Americans and African Americans, have also added much linguistic, cultural, and ethnic diversity to this basic stock of proverbs and proverbial sayings. Field research among the inhabitants of the Great Plains would uncover many more hitherto unrecorded proverbs and proverbial sayings that bear witness to the rich and diverse cultural traditions of the heartland of North America.

Glazer, Mark, ed. . Westport CT: Greenwood Press, 1987.

Mieder, Wolfgang. . Bern Switzerland: Peter Lang, 1989.

Mieder, Wolfgang, Stewart A. Kingsbury, and Kelsie B. Harder, eds. . New York: Oxford University Press, 1992.

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From perspiration to world domination – the extraordinary science ofsweat
Vybarr Cregan-Reid


Reader in English and Environmental Humanities and Author of Footnotes: How Running Makes us Human (Ebury, 2016), University of Kent

Vybarr Cregan-Reid receives funding from Arts Council England. He is the author of 'Footnotes: how running makes us human' published by Ebury.

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I’m writing this on the UK’s hottest day of the year. There is a light breeze, but everyone I have seen today has beads of sweat on their forehead. Seeing someone wiping their brow is a fairly common sight in midsummer, but it reveals a simple and fascinating truth about our species: without sweat, we would not still be here. Without this absolutely amazing technology we would not have climbed our way to the top of the evolutionary pile. Many animals perspire, but no others use it as such an efficient and refined cooling technology. So how does it work and why do we owe it so much?

We often assume that it is our brain power that differentiates us from other animals. It is obvious that we are able to process more intellectual stimuli than other mammals, but any PC owner knows that computational power is completely useless if the cooling system fails. And this is what really sets us apart. It is our ability to maintain an effective working temperature, not just so that we can keep moving, but so that we can keep thinking while in motion, efficiently chasing down the quarry.

As a species, over short distances, we are hopeless runners. We might be able to go a long way but what use is that if we can’t catch anything? The truth is that we never could if it weren’t for several factors that make us identifiably human. And it is our ability to perspire which renders them all effective. So we may have perfect bodies for distance running, but those features that enable us to move so effectively are useless without correct temperature control.

Two legs are better than four

There are distinct thermoregulatory advantages to being a two-legged human. Being merely upright, for example, means that less of the sun hits you when it’s at its hottest. The bipedal human exposes only about 7% of their surface area to sunlight; it is triple this for a quadruped . This fact alone means that being on two legs enables you to move with greater heat efficiency.

Also, by being upright, we can take advantage of the fact that our brains are further away from the harsher micro-climate at ground level. It is hotter there because it is heated by the sun and because there is less air movement. And with air movement comes evaporation, which is the real miracle technology. Evaporation is such an effective way to lose heat that if a litre of sweat is able to evaporate on the surface of your skin, you can lose about half a million calories of heat in the process.

While most quadrupeds sweat, they do so to maintain skin health and create scent (we do this, too), and even to create ear wax ( which, amazingly, is a sort of sweat ). But for thermoregulation, most animals use interior air movement (panting) to cool down – where their bodies have to actively work to lose heat . So that means, on a hot day, we could chase down a quadruped, and when it stopped to shed some heat, we humans could keep going and close the gap a little. Eventually, the distance between predator and prey would close as their technology failed, and ours kept functioning. Sweat meant that we were much better hunters than we appeared .

Conflicting sweat signals

It is decidedly odd that sweat is taboo in our society. Do it in the wrong place or from the wrong part of your body and the people around you will become uncomfortable, or at the very least make you feel so … and that will probably make you sweat.

Sweat in a gym and it’s aesthetic: it’s a badge of honour. It’s part of the training montage of any sports movie you might think of. But get it wrong – sweat in a job interview, a presentation, or in a social situation – and people will think you’ve lost control, or that it’s a stress response because you are deceiving them. But without it we would never have become who we are, have survived to the point when we could invent things, create art, make music, or surf the net.

So as you struggle through the next few days of hot weather, think of those beads of sweat on your forehead, and the fact that the exposed skin there, and its ability to perspire, is what keeps your brain functioning in the heat. In the past, it made you a lethal weapon out on the savanna, now it might allow you to reflect on what it has allowed you to achieve in the past, and that without those 2.5m sweat glands on your skin working to maintain the correct temperature for thought, you would not be here, reading this.

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Sci-fi and fantasy that takes you places
Sci-fi and fantasy that takes you places
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These terrifyingly realistic books will make you want to live in a bubble, permanently.


30 Mar 2017
by Stephen Lovely

The end of the world seems bound to be a big event, and it’s tempting to assume that the cause will be appropriately large—perhaps a nuclear exchange, maybe, or a giant asteroid. But some of science fiction’s most terrifying and fascinating apocalypse stories take things in just the opposite direction. What if the end of the world, they ask, was caused by the smallest possible thing: An alien bacteria, or a strange new type of virus?

There’s no shortage of books like this, but the best ones bring something new to the table. In this list, we highlight some of the best of the apocalyptic disease genre.

By Alan Gold

The deadly virus in is a modern Black Plague. Spread by bats just as the Black Plague was spread by rats, Gold’s fictional illness sparks a frenzied debate among his characters. Should bats be hunted to extinction to save humanity? Are animal lives too precious to waste? Or is there another solution–like the cure that his characters are racing against time to find?

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By Brian W. Aldiss

Deadly illness figures prominently in Aldiss’ popular trilogy , particularly in this middle volume. In the heat of the planet Helliconia’s centuries-long summer, Brian W. Aldiss’ twin fictional diseases–“bone fever” and “the fat death”–run rampant. And while some humans live in safety above the Earth-like planet in a space station, Aldiss cleverly imagines them growing so bored in confinement that they often volunteer to head to the planet’s surface and risk exposure to the deadly diseases.

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CREDIT: Cartoon Network

The “ Steven Universe ” universe is reeling, hopeful and excited from the season five story arc, with Ruby proposing to Sapphire on the July 4 episode. The Cartoon Network series has always set out to embrace underrepresented communities, albeit in cartoon form, and issues that children (and adults) find hard to talk about.

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, the creator of “Steven Universe,” says, “I trust children very much. I always feel that children will understand, because children are still learning,” adding that “the whole thing [“Steven Universe”] is a catalyst for conversation.”

Animation lover Sugar notes that she had never seen cartoon characters that “looked like me,” a non-binary person.

And with season five’s “The Question,” Ruby and Sapphire not only explore their relationship and who they as individuals but also, Sugar notes, the goal was to go beyond the classic cartoon couples in which one is a male version of, say, a rabbit and the female half of the couple just has eyelashes. “I wanted to really create an image of a queer couple that makes sense together,” Sugar says. “Usually the couple is a man and a woman. But you don’t show that love can exist between two men or two women. I wanted to create equal-opportunity love stories for children,” says Sugar.

“It’s very important to me that all the characters are gender expansive and that ‘Steven Universe’ is a gender-expansive show,” Sugar adds.

Audiences of all ages and the LGBTQ community have embraced the hit show since its debut in 2015.

Rebecca Sugar and ‘Steven Universe’ have always been on the cutting-edge of teaching young people about the importance of representation. The show has created a safe space in the television landscape for young LGBTQ people who see themselves reflected in these diverse characters whose lives they’ve followed through the show’s five seasons. Love and acceptance is taught at an early age and ‘Steven Universe’ has been at the forefront of teaching everyone — kids and adults alike — that love truly is what makes the universe operate,” says Jeremy Blacklow, GLAAD director of entertainment media.

As for the inclusive “Steven” universe: “The intent from the very beginning was always be very honest.

“[The show’s crew] all wanted to tell stories from our own childhoods that we hadn’t seen reflected onscreen before. And we didn’t want to hold back showing things that were very specific to us. … I’m fascinated by animation as a medium because it give this illusion of simplicity but that gives an illusion of simplicity but it’s very difficult to create. It allows us to create iconography that has an amazing power to normalize things.”



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