Proverb – Tongan

“Koi Kulee oko kalo, oku ekai ke kalo”

This Tongan proverb translates in English to the American proverb that “The dog that barks, doesn’t bite.” Joe is a friend of mine who works in my dad’s office. He is 20-years-old and was born and continues to live in Los Angeles. His mom, who was raised in the Tongan Islands, raised him with many proverbs. Joe first heard this proverb when his mother was trying to teach him to be an ambitious and active member of society. “She had told me that simply talking about my goals wasn’t enough until I tried to reach for them. She would remind me that sitting idly was not utilizing my skills to their full potential.” Proverbs as Professor Mieder explained can be very powerful and motivational. Examining the proverb with Joe mom’s intended meaning is evidence for how proverbial speech can be used to accentuate a point and educate.

“The dog that barks, doesn’t bite” can also be interpreted to mean a person who threatens is not going to act on it. Both meanings deal with talking and not acting like the proverb “talk the talk but don’t walk the walk.” The origin of the proverb is uncertain, but it is probably not from the Tongan Islands even though it is used there quite frequently according to Joe. The meaning is the same in America, in Tonga, in Spain etc which shows a general agreement between countries about particular proverbial speech.