Proverbial reference redirects attention

Communities memorialize avoidable missteps, predicaments, and conflicts, establishing well-known stories about them. By asserting or implying a parallel to the current situation a participant can enable participants to ‘go up a level’ and control the collective variables of the situation in a larger frame or perspective.

The following is from Silver & Miller (1997:134-135):

Fully worded songs can be used as a very powerful form of social control. Although most of them are in the first person, they represent quotes of another … ; consequently, they can be used as an indirect way of expressing opinions or feelings. For instance, there is a rather long and very well-known song about a fight that split the whole community, a fight triggered by a trivial incident that was misinterpreted. When a heated argument broke out at a PTA meeting, a member of the group starated singing this song. She needed only to sing the first verse to get the message across.
In some societies, most notably in Africa, proverbs are widely used for social control, for they allow one to appeal to an outside authority without directly involving the speaker.

English speakers generally do not today cultivate an oral tradition of stories but still can have recourse to a rich supply of terse proverbial references, (e.g. “sour grapes”), which may not (or may no longer) link to a narrative (e.g. “it takes one to know one”). Children’s books may be a renewed source, through young families (“Are you having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day?”).

Silver, Shirley, & Wick Miller (1997). American Indian languages: Cultural and social contexts. Tucson: Univ. of Arizona Press.