إذا ضربت الماء فسيظل الماء.
Transliteration: iidha darabat alma’ fasayazilu alma
Translation: If you hit the water it will still be water
When someone is trying to explain something to someone else and they are not absorbing the information.
Background Information: Common Arabic proverb used in different parts of the middle east such as Lebanon.
Context: The informant had immigrated to the United States from Lebanon when he was in his adolescence. I started interviewing the informant when he visited my house for dinner. I specifically asked him for a common Arabic proverb and this was the first that came into his mind.
Thoughts: I think that this proverb doesn’t explain much about Arabic culture but is just a simple way of explaining that someone is not understanding what you are saying. It reminds me of the American proverb that says that “talking to you is like talking to a wall”. This just means that that there is no productive communication being made.
“Live for today, as if you’re going to live forever. Live for the year after, as if you’re going to die tomorrow morning.”
My informant is from a Lebanese family. She is a college student at the California State University Northridge. She is very close with her father, often helping him run the family store. We sat down at a coffee shop to talk about folklore from her family.
My informant explains that you have to live your life to the fullest. Don’t think of the year after. But when the times come, you must remember the year before. You have to live life to the fullest, while also preparing for the future. She heard this saying from her father.
When first listening to this proverb, it too me some time to understand what it was hinting at. I had to spend some time repeating it to myself to understand its meaning. This is an interesting take on living your life to the fullest. It kind of sound like it is cautioning people to live life to the fullest but at the same time make it meaningful.
اكبر منك بيوم ، اعرف منك بسنة
Transliteration: Akbar minak beyoum, a’araf minak bseneh.
Translation: Older than you by one day, more knowledgeable than you by a year.
Background information: This is a well-known Arabic proverb. The informant heard it from other Arabs, and he likes it because it gives a nod to experience and sums up how valuable it is.
Context: The informant told me about this proverb in a conversation about folklore.
Thoughts: This is the quintessential proverb; it gives a general truth/a piece of advice. Someone has lived a year longer than you, and that year is filled with new knowledge, so it is only natural that they would know a year’s worth of information more than you. It’s a succinctly stated proverb about life experience, and is very applicable.
لما بيكبر ابنك ، خاويه
Transliteration: Lema beeyekbar ibnak, khaweeh.
Translation: When your son grows up, treat him as if he is your brother.
Background information: This is a well-known Arabic proverb.
Context: The informant told me this proverb in a Skype video call conversation about folklore.
Thoughts: The bond between brothers is a strong one, one reason being that they are typically close in age. Brotherhood is something that is revered in the Middle East, so it makes sense that when a father’s son grows up, the most respect the father can show his son, who is now a grown man, is treating him like a brother. It is interesting to see just how valued the concept of brotherhood, even if not blood-related, is in the Middle East.