Despite recent calls for establishing a paremiological minimum for the United States, there has been little systematic empirical attention devoted to the issue of proverb familiarity in this country or to the possibility that geographic differences might preclude establishing a single paremiological minimum that would be equally representative of proverb familiarity in diverse regions around the country. This article reviews the call for establishing a paremiological minimum for the United States and the relevant efforts to date. The article then summarizes the results of a study of proverb familiarity among college students in four different regions of the United States, presenting results from both a proverb familiarity rating task and a proverb generation task. These data make it possible to determine the relative familiarity of several hundred proverbs and to assess the possibility that familiarity with these proverbs varies across regions. The success of this approach is evidence that this type of nomothetic and quantitative analysis of folkloric material can be a useful complement to performance-oriented research. For example, the results suggest some limits to the verisimilitude of people’s intuitions as to the currency and familiarity of proverbial texts, as proverbs often listed as "common" were sometimes shown to be relatively unfamiliar (at least to contemporary college students). Further, although statistical analyses of the data did reveal that there may be some difference in absolute levels of familiarity across regions, it was also clear that the relative familiarity of various proverbs nonetheless shows strong stability from one region to another. In general, then, the data presented here provide clear evidence that proverbs familiar in one region of the United States can generally be expected to be familiar in other regions as well; this finding suggests that a truly national paremiological minimum may well be achievable.

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