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The wellerism--so called in English because it is a form of expression typical or reminiscent of Sam Weller or his father, two celebrated characters in Dickens's Pickwick Papers--is a major subtype of the proverb. Known since Sumerian times, it has been popular in most European languages and some African languages. As defined by folklorists and proverb scholars, a wellerism consists of three parts: a speech or statement (often a proverb), identification of the speaker, and identification of the situation, which gives the expression an ironic or humorous twist, often in the form of a pun.
"Prevention is better than cure," said the pig when it ran away from the butcher.
"We'll have to rehearse that," said the undertaker as the coffin fell out of the car.
A Dictionary of Wellerisms is the first work to collect all of the wellerisms recorded in the English language. Drawing on periodical literature and other scholarly sources, Mieder and Kingsbury have assembled, edited, and annotated a collection of wellerisms including over 1500 texts found in British, American, Canadian, and other English-language literatures and oral collections. Mieder's preface, bibliography, and extensive introduction explaining the history, meaning, and function of wellerisms, are supplemented by an index of speakers and an index of situations.
Containing a wealth of wit and humor, A Dictionary of Wellerisms is both entertaining and informative, appealing to the casual browser as well as to students and scholars of literature, psychology, folklore, linguistics, anthropology, and cultural history.