Nationality: U.S. American, Italian and Irish Heritage
Date of Performance/Collection: 3/18/15
Primary Language: English
The informant and I were having a conversation in my apartment, and the topic of our families was brought up. I asked him if his parents or relatives had shared any interesting stories or sayings with him, and he shared this proverb with me.
Informant: I mean, this is just… uh, like a saying, so it’s quite short. Um, but one Irish uh… okay, one Irish saying that I really like is: “The mouth often is what breaks the nose.” Should I maybe explain some of it?
Informant: The idea is that, uh, the reason why someone might get into a fight and then have their nose broken is because of running their mouth. Um, actually, it’s kind of interesting that a lot of Irish proverbs have to do with this kind of loose speaking, like, maybe from drinking. Uh… being careful about that.
Me: So who did you hear this from?
Informant: I think from my… Well… My mother is less aware of these things than my grandmother. Yeah, um… She often… Um… We’d see her during different holidays. Things like that. She would also have like, you know, writing cards for us and write some poetry, and she would have like a little thing that she would say. And it would be just a little funny thing.
This proverb espouses the idea that one should think carefully before speaking, so as to avoid saying something regrettable or angering somebody. The informant’s explanation of the proverb’s meaning plays off of the stereotype that Irish people drink a lot of alcohol and therefore need to be cautioned against behaving recklessly while drunk.