Text: It’s easier to shear a sheep than raise a lamb to sheep-hood
Minor Genre: Proverb
Context: AH is a junior at USC. He is from Santa Monica, California, and is well-known for his creativity: he has his own religion for which he has created an entire alphabet. He told me this new proverb that he had come up with himself while writing an essay. He told me, “It’s about writing essays, but it could be about editing a film, it could be about a lot of things that you’re creating…” He told me that the process of creation is much easier if you begin by creating a lot, because after that it’s just about “shear[ing] it off and collect[ing] the wool and mak[ing] something out of it.’” He recounted his new saying to a friend who now uses it often. This friend then told it to her screenwriting professor who has apparently since used it while teaching his students.
Analysis: AH did not clearly delineate which type of speech his saying was, but I assert that this is a proverb. It gives advice, it is metaphorical and short, and though AH is young, his soul is old and wise. While there is so much to be learned from old proverbs whose origins are now indefinite, it is also important to understand how pieces of folklore are created in the first place. For many proverbs, one might assume that the literal situation which creates metaphorical meaning was probably experienced by the person who first spoke the proverb. However, I know that AH did not grow up shearing sheep nor raising lambs, and thus it makes me consider how self-reflexive folk speech can be. He is someone who values old sayings and has a wealth of them memorized, and so it is more the inspiration of other proverbs rather than lived experience that seems to have brought him to create his own. It is wonderful to see how this proverb has already begun to spread throughout the USC community, and it will be interesting to see if it catches on elsewhere.