Proverb – Boston, Massachusetts

Bostonian Proverb (spoken by Sam):

“Ayyy…wise guys don’t last long.”

This proverb was delivered to me by my friend Sam Nardella in response to me poking fun at him. Although I cannot remember what I said to prompt it, I remember Sam’s reply because I found it not only amusing and fairly accurate, but it seemed to be exactly something a person from Boston would say. Bostonians are often known, and stereotyped, for being tough guys who don’t handle impudence well and seriously dislike other people’s attitudes or sarcasm. Although Sam is a nice, gentle kid who is not threatening at all, it is obvious that he grew up around gruff men who would not hesitate to put a “wise guy” in his place. Sam said this proverb acts as a caution to anyone who feels their cleverness is above another’s, for they may mistakenly insult the wrong person. According to Sam, “wise guys” should be careful with their remarks, otherwise they might not last long enough to make any other witty statements.

I believe this proverb is simple, yet it clearly and concisely gets its point across. In Chapter 8 of Folk Groups and Folklore Genres, F.A. Caro says a proverb acts as a “ready-made statement, a proverb conveys a culturally agreed-upon idea which can be used to make a point that may only be made less succinctly and perhaps less clearly and effectively in a speaker’s own words,” (Caro, 185-186). If Sam had actually been too upset or angered to make a proper threat, he could use this proverb for lack of better words and produce his intended meaning. Caro also mentions proverbs are “value-laden statements…used to call somebody to account for misbehavior,” (Caro, 190).  Again, Sam’s proverb functions in this way, for if a “wise guy” says the wrong thing, he will be held accountable for his words.

This proverb has a good point to it, because nobody likes being insulted or made to feel inferior. Not only does it serve as a caution to those who feel they can say whatever they wish and get away with it, but it also makes oneself stop and consider the things one might say and to whom.


F.A. Caro. “Riddles and Proverbs.” Folk Groups and Folklore Genres. Utah State University

Press. Logan: Utah, 1986. 186-190.