USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘proverb’
Folk speech
general
Proverbs

Syrian Proverb

اتدخل بجنازة و لا تدخل بجوازة

Transliteration: Atdkhal bejnazeh wa la tadakhal bejwazeh.

Translation: Better to be involved in arranging a funeral, than arranging a marriage.

Background information: Well-known Syrian proverb.

Context: The informant told me about this proverb in a Skype video call conversation about folklore.

Thoughts: The idea here is that, when one arranges a marriage and it goes south, they are typically blamed for the couple’s woes, since it all started with the person arranging them to be together. The future of a marriage is not concrete – there is still room for it to go south and for the arranger to be blamed. The future of a funeral, however, is more concrete – there is no future. The person is dead, and you know they are dead, so there is no further business to be done and nothing to be blamed for. This is an interesting way to see both situations.

Folk speech
Proverbs

Arabic Proverb

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.

Folk speech
Proverbs

Syrian Proverb

Folk speech
general
Proverbs

Uyghur Proverb

خېرىداردا كۆز بولسا، قاسساپ ئاچتىن ئۆلەر

Translation: If the customer had eyes, then the butchers would die from hunger. (i.e., if customers found out about how a business practices entirely, then the customers would stop buying and instead make the items themselves or demand the business to change, since not all businesses are honest or efficient).

Background information: “I heard this proverb while walking through Urumqi, the capital city of Xinjiang Autonomous Uyghur Province. It introduced me to the shrewd business and customer relationships that the Uyghurs treasure. I found a lot of treasures in Urumqi, a city that far too many people don’t know about. It is larger than Chicago.”

Context: The informant told me this proverb in a conversation about folklore.

Thoughts:  To me, this is an interesting proverb, and one that holds a viewpoint that is definitely held by a large amount of people. In this capitalistic society, we have corporations mass-producing items in ways that are not ethical, or even in ways we do not know – this creates mistrust toward these producers in the consumers. These corporations also want you to think you are a part of the family, even though you will never be; they do not care about you like they suggest, and want your money, a dishonesty a lot of people realize.

Folk speech
Proverbs

Arabic Proverb

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.

Folk speech
Proverbs

“En Casa de herrero”-Blacksmith Proverb

“En casa de herrero, cuchillo de palo” or “sartén de palo” or “cuchara de palo” translates to “in the house of the blacksmith his knives/spoons/pans are made of wood. An example of an English version, “In the shoe makers house, the children go barefoot” share the same point to be made. This is one of my Grandmother’s most commonly used proverbs. The second part of the saying, changes depending how strong the feeling you want the statement to convey. Obviously, if the hypocrisy/irony is so great, like a teacher’s child dropping out of high school, because the teacher spent so much time with their students, to the detriment of their own child, then you would say “Sartén de palo”, because having a frying pan made out of wood shows the greatest negligence in terms of an item a blacksmith could have in his home. If the harm were less, then you would say spoon, because a wooden spoon is not that bad. Wooden knife would be worse but not as bas as the wooden frying pan, because a frying pan would eventually catch on fire rendering it useless much like the teacher’s kid who drops out of high school.

Analysis: This is a Colombian proverb I hear often growing up about various family members and friends. Favorite Colombian past time is to tell stories about the misadventure of their friends and family. This kind of story telling is meant to be “teachable moments” so you do not repeat the mistakes of others. It is often told during dinner, which makes dinnertime a two-hour storytelling session because others would feel compelled to contribute similar examples relating to the proverb.

Folk speech
Proverbs

“Que come solo, se muere solo”- Those who eat alone, die alone

My mom told me about the Colombian Proverb; “Que come solo, se muere solo”- Those who eat alone, will die alone.

My mom maternal Grandmother, Maria, who had diabetes, mostly raised my mom. So when my mom was eating a cupcake or a pastry as a child, her grandmother Maria, would tell her “those who eat alone, will die alone” as a way to guilt trip her into sharing the forbidden treat with her. She felt guilty giving her grandmother something she knew she wasn’t supposed to have but certainly did not want to risk dying alone. In her young mind, she says, that sounded awful. It worked too well, to this day my highly logical mom intensely dislikes eating alone and would rather skip a meal to wait to eat with anyone but especially enjoys eating with everyone. If she has to eat alone, she says the food is distasteful and makes her feel sad. She says dying alone is not something she fears anymore, she simply does not like eating alone.

Analysis: I found this proverb interesting that even the most logical and rational person can be scared at an early age and have a proverb turn into folk belief that lingers into adulthood. I found the proverb slightly similar to the American expression “You are born alone, you die alone and everything else in between is an illusion.” However the American version denotes nihilism while the Colombian version demonstrates a strong desire to be included even if it’s just a bite.

Proverbs

“Hitting your foot with an axe”

Main piece:

Apne aap pe kulhadi maarna

“Hitting your foot with an axe”

 

Background information (Why does the informant know or like this piece? Where or who did they learn it from? What does it mean to them?):

Informant is an international student from India. Her grandmother first taught her but everyone uses it in their day to day talk.

Context (When or where would this be performed? Under what circumstance?):

It means that when you put yourself in trouble. You planned everything but in the end there was trouble. For example, Person A is manipulative and tells everyone that Person B is cheating in school to ruin his/her reputation. In the end, it turns out that Person B never cheated and everyone finds out. Person A’s plan backfires and is now known as a bad person. This is when you would say, “Apne aap pe kulhadi maarna”.

Personal Analysis:

This is really similar to the American saying “shoot oneself in the foot”. The meaning is universal because the situation is a common occurrence in any society. The indian equivalent of a gun is an axe. It shows how different cultures are familiar with different weapons and might hint at what time period these proverbs started.

 

Proverbs

ko nema u glavi ima u nogama

Ko ne radi glavom radi nogama (ko nema u glavi ima u nogama)

Informant: MK was born in New York, but raised in Dubrovnik, Croatia. He is a senior in high school. He has an older brother, and a younger sister. While growing up our grandparents would teach us valuable life lessons and most of the time they would use a proverb in doing so. Proverbs are a huge part of our family’s culture. MK heard this proverb multiple times weather it was from family members and schoolteachers.

 

What does this proverb mean?

 

“Roughly translated it means one who doesn’t have it in his head has it in his feet. Another version of it is one who doesn’t work with his head, works with his feet.”

 

Does this proverb have any meaning to you?

 

“Yes, it does. My grandmother tells me this almost on a daily basis haha. I got so use to hearing it that it became almost like a joke between me and my grandma.”

 

The proverb explains how if you don’t think, you will have to go back to where you started and do the same thing you should’ve done already. For an example my wallet is in my room and I already left the house to go for lunch, I have to go back home (work my legs) because I forgot it (didn’t think). All in all the proverb is clever and like most of them it teaches a lesson.

Folk speech
Proverbs

The Cat that Got Burned

Do you have any sayings that you would like to share?

“Oh my god, my… my father-in-law always… one time told us that, uhh… something, when something bad happens to you, you get so scared, when you see anything, and then he told us whole… uhh… saying, that when the little cat got burned, just to see anywhere some ashes, he’s run away. He gets all scared. [laughs] Is one of them.”

 

Analysis: This is a short and straightforward proverb that’s supposed to be humorous. It lambasts the tendency of people, in this case represented by a small cat, to be overly cautious and afraid of something that they may have a negative association with, like fire. It seems that the informant’s culture really values wisdom learned through experience and risk-taking, as the proverb would appear to criticize those who are too cautious to the point of paranoia or excessive fear.

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