The present study focuses on a single Russian proverb от сумы да тюрьмы не зарекайся (its equivalent in English: no fence against a flail). Its literal meaning is ‘No one is insured from prison and impoverishment’. This proverb is deeply rooted in the Russian history, and it belongs to the paremiological minimum of Russian language. The use of this proverb has rapidly increased recently. One can easily understand the reason for this fact since one of the richest men in the world, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, was sentenced to a number of years in prison and was released just a few months ago. It is not surprising that approximately half of Russian entrepreneurs have come into collision with justice. The analysis of the history and modern use of the proverb has been done with the help of Russian National Corpus, examples come from 19th- and 20th-century texts. Our analysis has shown that this proverb still preserves a very tight relationship with the history of language and society. The dynamics of the development of its new meaning is very fast. It turns out that in case of synchronic paremiology both the base of linguistic data as well as the theoretical and methodological base of research are changing. Old meanings (paremiological minimum/optimum, norm) and methods of psycholinguistic experiments demand constant correction.
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