Open Thinkering


My favourite proverbs from around the world.

Recently, I joined Newcastle City Library. Back in the day you had to live in Newcastle or the surrounding area (or be a student there) but times have changed. It’s everything a public library should be: light, clean, welcoming and easy-to-use.

I only had a short time to browse, but a book entitled As They Say In Zanzibar: Proverbial Wisdom From Around The World caught my eye. I love stuff like this; a country’s sayings reveal a lot about it’s culture and people.

Here’s some of my favourite from the (literally) thousands in the book:

Don’t put each foot on a different boat. (China)

Heroism consists in hanging on one minute longer. (Norway)

When it rains, fill the jar. (Turkey)

Hunger doesn’t say, ‘Stale bread,’ and cold doesn’t say ‘Old coat.’ (Georgia)

What is said over the dead lion’s body could not be said to him alive. (Republic of Congo)

No matter how long a log floats on the river it will never be a crocodile. (Mali)

Grief and joy are a revolving wheel. (India)

People who do what they say are not cowards. (Nigeria)

When you show the moon to a child, it sees only your finger. (Zambia)

A basket-maker who makes one basket makes a hundred. (Brazil)

Another reason why I like proverbs is because they’re a great example of what Steve Higgins, my Ed.D. thesis supervisor, would call productive ambiguity. They can be applied to many situations beyond the obvious!

I’d love to have the time to match up all of the wonderful proverbs to relevant Flickr pictures. I’ll have to make do with the rather handy Phrasr to semi-automate stuff instead… :-p

What are YOUR favourite proverbs?

2 thoughts on “My favourite proverbs from around the world.

  1. I recently bought the book Proverbs from far and Wide by Alex Scheffler (illustrator of the Gruffalo). Interestingly the Chinese boat proverb has a parallel from the Tuscarora tribe in North America
    “Those who have one foot in the canoe and one foot in the boat are going to fall in the river”
    My favourite is “To know the road ahead, ask those coming back” (China)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *