A rolling stone gathers no moss


A rolling stone gathers no moss

A rolling stone gathers no moss is a proverb.

History

It is often credited to the Sententiae of Publilius Syrus, and roughly translates as

: "People always moving, with no roots in one place, avoid responsibilities and cares."

Accuracy

The television show "MythBusters" ran an experiment over the course of six months and managed to prove that a rolling stone does, in fact, gather no moss.

Questions as to its provenance

The saying may not be authentic to Syrus; the Latin form usually given, "Saxum volutum non obducitur musco", does not appear in the edited texts of Publilius Syrus, but it "does" appear in the "Adagia" (first published in 1500) of Erasmus. [ [http://www.fh-augsburg.de/~harsch/Chronologia/Lspost16/Erasmus/era_ada3.html "Adagia"] , Erasmus, at Bibliotheca Augustana.]

In English

The conventional English translation appeared in John Heywood's collection of "Proverbs" in 1546. "Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable" also credits Erasmus, and relates it to other Latin proverbs, "Planta quae saepius transfertus non coalescit", or "Saepius plantata arbor fructum profert exiguum", which mean that a frequently replanted plant or tree (respectively) yields little fruit. [ [http://www.bootlegbooks.com/Reference/PhraseAndFable/data/1067.html "Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable"] , "sub. title" "Rolling Stone".] It appears that the original intent of the proverb saw the growth of moss as desirable, and that the intent was to condemn mobility as unprofitable. The contemporary interpretation has turned the traditional understanding on its head.

Erasmus's proverb gave the name "rolling stone" to people who meet this description.

In Music

This allusion has taken root in many types of modern music. The blues musician Muddy Waters wrote a 1948 song called "Rollin' Stone", which contains the lyrics:

:"I got a boy child's comin,
He's gonna be, he's gonna be a rollin stone. . . " [ [http://www.rollingstone.com/artists/muddywaters/articles/story/6596304/rollin_stone Muddy Waters: Rollin' Stone] ] [ [http://blueslyrics.tripod.com/lyrics/muddy_waters/rollin_stone.htm "Rollin' Stone" lyrics] ]

From this reference, Brian Jones called the band he founded with Mick Jagger and Keith Richards "The Rolling Stones". Bob Dylan's 1965 song "Like a Rolling Stone", which appeared on his album "Highway 61 Revisited", may refer to the original proverb. Jimi Hendrix used the full, translated version of the proverb in the lyrics to the song ""Highway Chile" on the album "Are You Experienced". From these references, Jann Wenner and Ralph J. Gleason founded the magazine "Rolling Stone".

Don McLean's "American Pie" claims that "...moss grows fat on a rolling stone, but that's not how it used to be."

The Temptations made the #1 hit Papa Was a Rollin' Stone in 1971.

Joan Osborne's later song "One of Us" compares God to a "Holy Rolling Stone".

In more recent rock music, the Dave Matthews Band alludes to the negative connotation of the phrase in the 2002 song "Busted Stuff": "A rolling stone gathers no moss, but leaves a trail of busted stuff."

Lucky Dube also uses the proverb in his song "Rolling Stone," from the Album "The Way It is" released in 1999: "I' m a rolling stone, 'Cause a rolling stone, Gathers no moss."

In Psychiatry

Because it is so well known, this saying is one of the most common proverbs used in psychological tests for mental illness, particularly schizophrenia, to look for difficulty with abstraction. American research ["Clinical Manual for Proverbs Test", 1956, Dr Gorham, Missoula MT., Psychological Test Specialists] conducted in the 1950’s between Air Force basic airmen and hospitalized Veterans Administration patients with schizophrenia found that the way a person interprets proverbs can be used to determine abstraction ability. The lack of abstraction ability in these studies was statistically significantly higher in the VA patients and it has thus been construed as indicating pathology. As persons with mental illness are generally believed to demonstrate 'concrete' thinking (a tendency to interpret abstract concepts literally) the research results have, in practice, often been improperly generalised to suggest proverbs alone can be a sufficient indicator of mental illness.

A 'concrete' interpretation of the proverb "a rolling stone gathers no moss" would simply restate the proverb in different words, rather than delivering any metaphorical meaning ["Proverb interpretation in forensic evaluations", William H. CampbellMD, MBA and A. Jocelyn RitchieJD, PhD, AAPL Newsletter, American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, Jan 2002 Vol. 27 No. 1, pp. 24-27 ] . For example, a 'concrete' interpretation of the proverb is of the kind "If you roll a stone down a hill, it won't pick up any moss". This kind of answer is considered a failure to abstract and fails the psychological test. An example of an abstract interpretation is when substitution of metaphors occurs. A "rolling stone" is interpreted as (eg) an unsettled person or a busy person and "moss" is interpreted as (eg) something to be avoided or conversely, something to be desired. The important feature of the test is the discernment and substitution of metaphors rather than a particularly 'correct' answer.

Critics of using proverbs this way point out that:
* 'sane' persons who have never heard the proverb will interpret the proverb 'concretely'
* proverbs are neither a necessary, nor sufficient test for mental illness;
* while a negative (concrete) result indicates nothing, there is anecdotal evidence that negative results are incorrectly used to diagnose mental illness;
* while a positive (abstract) result strongly indicates no mental illness, there is anecdotal evidence that positive results are frequently ignored.

References


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Look at other dictionaries:

  • rolling stone gathers no moss — A person who changes jobs or where he lives often will not be able to save money or things of his own. A proverb. * /Uncle Willie was a rolling stone that gathered no moss. He worked in different jobs all over the country./ …   Dictionary of American idioms

  • rolling stone gathers no moss — A person who changes jobs or where he lives often will not be able to save money or things of his own. A proverb. * /Uncle Willie was a rolling stone that gathered no moss. He worked in different jobs all over the country./ …   Dictionary of American idioms

  • rolling\ stone\ gathers\ no\ moss — proverb A person who changes jobs or where he lives often will not be able to save money or things of his own. Uncle Willie was a rolling stone that gathered no moss. He worked in different jobs all over the country …   Словарь американских идиом

  • rolling stone gathers no moss — n. people pay a price for being on the move constantly in that they don t plant any roots in a specific place; people who are always on the go avoid responsibilities and cares …   English contemporary dictionary

  • A rolling stone gathers no moss — „Ein rollender Stein setzt kein Moos an.“ Das englische Sprichwort A rolling stone gathers no moss bedeutet wörtlich übersetzt: „Ein rollender Stein setzt kein Moos an.“[1] Es beschreibt da …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • a rolling stone gathers no moss — People say this to mean that an ambitious person is more successful than a person not trying to achieve anything. Originally it meant the opposite and was critical of people trying to get ahead …   The small dictionary of idiomes

  • a rolling stone gathers no moss — ► a rolling stone gathers no moss proverb a person who does not settle in one place will not accumulate wealth or status, or responsibilities or commitments. Main Entry: ↑roll …   English terms dictionary

  • a rolling stone gathers no moss — A wandering person does not grow rich, but is free from responsibilities and ties • • • Main Entry: ↑roll * * * proverb a person who does not settle in one place will not accumulate wealth, status, responsibilities, or commitments …   Useful english dictionary

  • (a) rolling stone gathers no moss — a rolling ˈstone gathers no ˈmoss idiom (saying) a person who moves from place to place, job to job, etc. does not have a lot of money, possessions or friends but is free from responsibilities Main entry: ↑rollidiom …   Useful english dictionary

  • a rolling stone gathers no moss — Cf. ERASMUS Adages III. iv. λίθος κυλινδόμενος τὸ φῦκος οὐ ποιεῖ, a rolling stone does not gather sea weed; musco lapis volutus haud obducitur, a rolling stone is not covered with moss. 1362 LANGLAND Piers Plowman A. x. 101 Selden Moseth [becomes …   Proverbs new dictionary