“Them saying ‘coward’ a hundred times is better than them saying ‘God rest his soul.’” – Arabic Proverb

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Palestinian
Age: 78
Occupation: Retired
Residence: Long Beach
Date of Performance/Collection: 5/2/2021
Primary Language: Arabic
Other Language(s): English, French, Italian

Context:

He heard it in Jordan when he was around 15 years old, when he “started volunteering to do risky things.” “If someone wants to do something risky–so that even his life is at risk–his parents would ask him why, to which he would answer ‘they will call me a coward.’ His parents would then tell him this proverb.”

Text:

Original Script: “يقولوا ميت “جبان” ولا يقولوا “الله يرحمو”

Transliteration: Y’oulou meet “jaban” wala y’oulou “Allah yerhamo”

Literal Translation: Them saying hundred “coward” better than them saying “God rest his soul”

Smooth Translation: Them saying “coward” a hundred times is better than them saying “God rest his soul”

Thoughts:

This proverb reminds me of how I was raised, although I heard a similar English proverb (“Better safe than sorry”) much more often than this proverb. Like my informant, I first heard this proverb from my parents when I was a young teenager; they wanted to make sure that my ego would not cause me harm, especially if peer pressure is present. This proverb implies that Arabs generally value well-being over pride.