“Money is like Manure…”

“Money is like manure: it’s no good unless you spread it around.”

My informant learned this proverb from his uncle, who would often repeat this phrase to his family. My informant explains, “it was used as a means to communicate the family value and religious value of altruism, and of spreading money and karma. In giving to others, you will in turn receive good fortune, both in a literal and figurative sense”. My informant remembers hearing this proverb being spoken since he was very young, “probably since [he] was six years old, maybe even younger”.



There’s an interesting contrast found here between the diction of the proverb and my informant’s explanation behind where his family found value in the saying: my informant discusses heavy religious ideals such as karma, and specifically ties the value of altruism to his own religious values, but then the proverb itself sounds almost dirty comparing money to manure. The proverb even goes as far to plant the image of one spreading manure too, which can inspire many sensory memories in the listener – the sight, the sounds, the unpleasant smells of spread manure. It seems dirty and perhaps a bit humorous, which makes the saying stand out in one’s memory. Often proverbs of such religious and moral value carry a gravity to them, even in their diction, but this proverb subverts that with its choice of language. I can understand how my informant would have remembered this proverb even though he learned it many years ago; as a child, can one resist the opportunity to talk with adults about “manure”? It acts as a break from social stigma while also carrying a message of high ethical significance, a unique combination for a proverb.