Background: The informant was born and raised in Western North Carolina. He has lived in North Carolina his whole life. He wanted to share some Western North Carolina expressions and proverbs because he uses them frequently, liking their “local” nature.
“Sometimes you just have to poke the frog to get him to move.”
The informant said this proverb comes from a very literal place. When he was younger, he and his friends would go around poking frogs in the swamps with sticks to make them jump, saying: “It’s like, if you can imagine, when you’re growing up that’s what you do, you take the stick and poke the frog and it’ll jump.” Frogs are unique because just being around them or getting close to them doesn’t phase them or disturb them, only by actually touching them will they move. He explained that you would use this when it seems like you can’t get someone to do something, and it just means you have to take action to get others to act, especially if they’re being lazy.
Context of the performance: This was explained to me over FaceTime.
Thoughts: While the meaning can be inferred, the practice behind its meaning was a local thing for him. It’s a short, fixed phrase that provides an easy way to understand the world, given that the person hearing the proverb understands the meaning. In this example region comes into play, as this a widely understood sentiment, but its form as a proverb would perhaps not make complete sense to those outside the region of Western North Carolina, and perhaps some other areas of the south. I did not understand the context behind it, but got the gist of it. It made sense in terms of his life experience and that of people who grow up in rural, swampy areas after he explained.