Informant: There is a saying in Telugu that goes కుక్క తోక వంకర (kukka tōka vankara), which translates literally to “dog’s crooked tail.” Basically, even if you try to straighten out a dog’s curly tail, it goes right back to the way it was. That’s what I think applies to you when you forget to empty the dishwasher.
Context: The informant is an Indian immigrant who grew up in a Telugu household, which is a Southern Indian ethnic group. The informant said this proverb to me when I failed to do something that I promised I would. She likes to use this saying often, and whenever she says it, it is usually make the recipient feel shameful about their own actions.
Analysis: The informant had learned this proverb from her family whenever she failed to kick a habit. The proverb is a reflection of Indian culture surrounding bad habits along with its tendency to use animal metaphors, especially those that include dogs. Stray dogs are very common in the country, so the animal is often equated with immoral or flawed people. This proverb is a reflection of human nature, and our tendency to go back to the way that we actually are despite our best efforts to change ourselves. The simple 3-word proverb is easy to remember due to its accurate representation of people and its applicability to everyday life. However, the proverb is only ever used to remind people of their bad habits, rather than their good ones. This is a reflection of the fact that stray dogs are usually seen as immoral or flawed.
The simple 3-word proverb is easy to remember due to its accurate representation of people and its applicability to everyday life. In order for a proverb to be easily remembered, repeated, and used on a regular basis, it needs to be “catchy,” or rather, witty so that it can stick with those that hear it. Whenever I slip into poor habits, I recall this proverb–with or without someone saying it to me. If the proverb was not easily remembered, then it would have no cultural significance any more.