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Life-affirming motto on a death board on the way between Brennes and Mooshütte, near Großer Arber , Bavarian Forest

A motto is a catchy formulation that relates to the meaning of life, the path of life and its stages (e.g. marriage) such as the right behavior in life, passes on life experiences or gives advice for life practice, a blessing (e.g. marriage). B. 'House blessing') or keeps a memory alive (e.g. remembrance of the dead). Sayings belong as proverbs of popular tradition and are taken from the Bible or popular poetry ( winged word ). They play a major role in literature as well as in everyday culture .

Everyday culture

In the everyday culture sayings are omnipresent. They were used as wall decorations in taverns and in the house ( house blessings , wall sayings , sayings for the way of life or rules of life), as ornaments on household items ( collection cups , glasses, ceramics, pewter dishes), linen (pillow cases, overhand towels ) and ribbons (e.g. Vivat ribbons ) as well as to commemorate the dead and are still part of tear-off calendars today. Sayings were also widespread in school (on industrious pictures ) and in church life (on inset pictures in the hymnbook or catechism ). "The mass production of sayings arose parallel to a general sudden increase in wall decorations in the years before and after 1850, due to improvements in printing techniques in the context of advancing industrialization." (Belief Daheim, p. 54) From this rich saying culture developed the Spruchkarten in postcard format that has been collected and also found use as a wall decoration.

Literary term

The motto in the literary field, usually taken from the Bible or well-known authors, is known as the winged word . The epitome belongs to a special, very brief genre of literature that was cultivated by German poets , especially in the 17th and 18th centuries .

Masters of this genre of so-called epigrams were among others Friedrich Logau , Friedrich von Hagedorn , Gotthold Ephraim Lessing and Abraham Gotthelf Kästner . They dealt with the most varied of thoughts in a very concise, spiritually pointed form.

Lessing defined these short, compact works as poems in which "according to the actual inscription, our attention and curiosity about any single object are aroused and more or less held out in order to satisfy them with one". Here the explanation seems to be almost longer than many of the epithets.

Two well-known sayings are:

  • What you don't want people to do to you - don't do that to anyone else (the golden rule , put in verse)
  • Enjoy your life you are constantly more dead than alive! (Author unknown)

In a more humorous way, some later poets, such as B. Wilhelm Busch or Eugen Roth . In abbreviations sayings may be hidden - see for example the interpretations of AEIOU

See also


  • Christa Pieske , Konrad Vanja u. a .: The ABC of luxury paper. Production, distribution and use from 1860 to 1930. Reimer, Berlin 1984, ISBN 3-496-01023-1 (exhibition Das ABC des Luxuspapiers, production, processing and use 1860 - 1930 , Berlin 1983–1984)
  • Ulrike Lange, Holger Heine: Faith at home: testimonies to evangelical piety / As a reminder: room monuments in the curriculum vitae. Published by the Central Institute and Museum for Sepulchral Culture. Arbeitsgemeinschaft Friedhof und Denkmal, Kassel 1994, ISBN 3-924447-09-8 (exhibition by the Fränkische-Schweiz-Museum Tüchersfeld, July 22 to September 13, 1994 and the Museum for Sepulchral Culture Kassel, October 21, 1994 to March 31, 1995 ).

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