Context: My informant, RW, is my mother. She grew up in Texas in the 1970s. I asked her to tell me proverbs she heard during her childhood. This piece was collected during an informal interview at home.
Main Text: “You catch more flies with honey than vinegar”
SW: “When would you say that?”
RW: “When would you say that? When you’re trying to persuade someone or you’re upset with someone. Mostly trying to persuade someone… usually someone you’re upset with and you really wanna tell them to piss off.
SW: “Where did you learn it?”
RW: “My grandmother.”
This proverb shows a general American value of politeness, but how that value can also come from a place of trying to get what you want and not pure altruism. The fact that my mom associates it with when you’re upset with someone is interesting to me, because I’ve usually heard the proverb in reference to business proposals or other things like that, not necessarily when you’re upset with someone. The fact that it was the first proverb my mom thought of shows that she is always more concerned with being polite and winning people over through sweetness, something I’ve noticed in her everyday life.