Proverb – Masindi District, Eastern Uganda

Embeeba         Nobwenyeta    Eta       Eyikala            Nyamma         ye        Ekkapa

Rat                  Fatten              How    Remains          Meat                of         Cat

Andrew said that he did not remember when and where he had particularly learned this proverb from. However, he said that it should have been somewhere in Masindi district because it is where he grew up from. He said that this proverb was and still is one of the most commonly used proverbs among the Banyoro (Runyoro speaking people) of Eastern Uganda. Andrew went on to say that the proverb is used by all ages of people and is often used when one attempts to deviate from social order or hierarchy. A good situation to use this proverb, Andrew stressed, is when adolescent kids attempt to get of control of their parents guidance. To remind them that their parents are still elders who deserve their respect, one can use this proverb.  Andrew also said that the proverb is often playfully used to stress that certain things are meant to be a certain way. An example, he said, is when one football team (A) remains bogey to the other (B) no matter how good team (B) improves its play and team.  In that situation, Andrew said, team A supporters can use the proverb to exasperate those of team (B).  When I asked him whether the Banyoro only used this proverb, Andrew said he had heard it in among other ethnic groups. He gave Baganda as an example. He said Baganda used the same proverb in the same situations as the Banyoro even though there was a language difference. Andrew concluded by saying that even though he heard it among other ethnic groups, he believed that it was Runyoro proverb belonging to the Banyoro people.


I like Andrew’s analysis of this proverb because he makes it easy to relate to. I think this proverb is used to maintain social order. In essence, it reminds those deviating from order that they really cannot succeed. It reminds me of the rappers. Today’s rappers like Snoop Dogg, 50 cent, and Eminem often brag in their songs about doing all kinds of illegal actions. They brag about using and dealing drugs, killing people and gangbanging. A person listening to their music would wrongly assume that these men are outlaws. However, all that changes when they are caught engaging in any of the activities they brag about. Like any other person, they get to be prosecuted.  In essence, no matter how big they become, they still remain under the law or “no matter how fat a rat becomes, it remains cat’s meat.” In this particular scenario, the constitution represents the cat and the rappers represent the rat.

I think this proverb is either monogenesis or polygenesis. As Andrew said, he heard it being used in other languages. In one way, there might be a possibility that different cultural groups came up with the same proverb. This would mean that the proverb has multiple beginnings. However, a more realistic way to look at this would be to assume that these different cultures were once one and just broke up. With such an assumption, then the proverb would be monogenesis.