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Both the Bible (including, but not limited to the Book of Proverbs) and medieval Latin (aided by the work of Erasmus) have played a considerable role in distributing proverbs across Europe.

Mieder has concluded that cultures that treat the Bible as their "major spiritual book contain between three hundred and five hundred proverbs that stem from the Bible". Proverb scholars often quote Archer Taylor's classic "The definition of a proverb is too difficult to repay the undertaking...

More constructively, Mieder has proposed the following definition, "A proverb is a short, generally known sentence of the folk which contains wisdom, truth, morals, and traditional views in a metaphorical, fixed, and memorizable form and which is handed down from generation to generation".

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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.Alan Dundes, however, rejects including such sayings among truly proverbs: "Are weather proverbs proverbs? '" The definition of "proverb" has also changed over the years.For example, the following was labeled "A Yorkshire proverb" in 1883, but would not be categorized as a proverb by most today, "as throng as Throp's wife when she hanged herself with a dish-cloth".) 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 and form a folklore genre.Proverbs are often borrowed from similar languages and cultures, and sometimes come down to the present through more than one language.This process of creating proverbs is always ongoing, so that possible new proverbs are being created constantly.

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