“The neighbor’s chicken is a goose.”
MB is a 19 year old currently studying at the University of California, Berkley. She grew up in Southern California, but both of her parents are from Iran. Her grandmother, also from Iran, has taught her a lot of interesting Persian proverbs. She does not remember them in the native Farsi, but she knows the English translations. When I asked her if she knew any proverbs and she said, “I remember this one especially because it was so weird to me.”
This proverb speaks to a few interesting features of Iranian culture. My informant shared that she was told that this proverb means that people usually want what they do not have or, similarly, that things they do have, do not measure up to what others have. This proverb also speaks on what was traditionally seen as important in the culture and what values were held. The goose is the thing to be coveted rather than a chicken. This would imply that goose was more rare, worth more, or held a more significant meaning when this proverb came into existence. It also shows that coveting what others have is generally not seen as a good practice. This proverb speaks to deter people from this kind of behavior, which is still its function today. The neighbor’s “duck” is in fact a chicken, just like everybody else. This proverb is likely spoken to share wisdom to younger children or to remind someone if they are coveting something they do not have.