“Closed mouths don’t get fed”

1. Text (proverb)

“Closed mouths don’t get fed”

2. Context 

The informant heard this from his father numerous times growing up. He and his father use and interpret this proverb as a way of saying you need to speak up for what you want because if you don’t ask, nobody knows that you want or need anything. My informant heard this proverb from his father. He characterized his father as assertive and outspoken. Growing up, it was encouraged in the informant’s household for them to speak up to be heard and use their voice, don’t be passive. He came from a large, loud family where it was uncommon for people to engage passively with one another. Almost everyone had a voice and wanted to use it, because after all, “closed mouths don’t get fed.”

3. Analysis/YOUR interpretation

I have heard this saying numerous times growing up from my grandfather and from adults in my family in general, though I’ve never heard the saying outside of the south. This is an example of a proverb, it’s a piece of metaphorical advice often given to more stereotypically soft-spoken or passive. While I’ve heard of the proverb and understand the meaning behind it, I recognize I don’t usually appreciate it when this is said to me as I feel as though it can sometimes come off as disingenuous and has a more negative connotation to me. In saying “closed mouths don’t get fed”, I interpreted it as if you don’t speak up for yourself and voice your opinion on what you want, how will anyone else know what you want or need? While this piece of advice does have some truth to it, the saying itself doesn’t seem like it would be taken as exceedingly positive when told to a more passive person. For people who are more extroverted and who thrive in social situations or gain energy/confidence from social interactions, speaking may be as necessary as eating for them, hence the comparison of closed mouths not getting food. In line with Alan Dundes’ definition, this proverb, like many others, is concise and expressive of my informant’s worldview. This proverb in particular is expressive of an assertive, outspoken view where speaking up, gets your voice heard.