Yemeni Proverbs for All Occasions [Archives:2001/28/Culture]
Saad Shareef Taher
Iraqi Teacher of English
Yemeni proverbs, are the vital facet of the Yemeni culture because they are the spoken tongue of their daily public activities. They are the mirror that reflects simple people’s thinking by which their daily life, habits and customs are truly expressed. They are the live records of politics, agriculture and wisdom throughout history. One can grasp through them minute details of the simple Yemeni society and have an actual picture of whatever is in their mind. From the large number of such proverbs extant I’ve chosen some glittering gems:
(Ya’iz al gebeeli bladah walau tjarra’ wabha)
Meaning: A true villager likes his country in spite of its pestilence.
Comment: It is wise to love ones country even if there is a cruel ruler, famine or a horrible disease. He should also support his family even if they are cruel to him.
Implication: One should be faithful to his country in spite of all difficulties and not to think of migrating abroad.
(Ma ma’a al hanesh illa rasah)
Meaning: A snake has no other weapon than its fangs.
Comment: Cowards and evil people dare not stand face to face, but sting indirectly like snakes which have no hands to attack except poison in their fangs.
Implication: Warning people about the wicked and coward persons.
(Gharrab wgamat tiharrad)
Meaning: After sunset she puts harrad on her face.
Harrad: It is a yellow paint put on the face as make up or to protect the face from sunlight.
Comment: Stupid women use such paint during unsuitable periods.
Implication: One doing something at the wrong time.
(Riga’a shimita wala shott badi)
Meaning: A ragged patch is better than an obvious tear.
Comment: A torn dress may bare the body. So a patch is preferable to cover it.
Implication: Th necessity to cover trifle things.
(Dhummi iydish ya nasam wi kul shi’ ad yslem)
Meaning: If a cat does not interfere, everything will be alright.
Comment: A cat, here, is used to refer to an evil woman.
Implication: Avoiding harm apprehended from an evil person.
(La kanna tihib kanna walau kanat min il janna)
Meaning: No daughter-in-law loves another even if they were angels of paradise.
Comment: It focuses on the eternal enmity between daughters-in-law.
Implication: Relationship between/among fellow wives and advice never to be annoyed because of their continual quarrels.
(Men tafren thaker dein abooh)
Meaning: He who becomes bankrupt remembers other’s debts to his father.
Comment: When a merchant becomes bankrupt, he goes back to his old papers to find if others have debts to return to his father.
Implication: Someone losing something and accusing another to get it back to him.
(Ibdi bthobuk wala tibdi bajadduk)
Meaning: Mention your name and never depend on your grand father’s.
Comment: Weak people are always proud of their ancestors.
Implication: Hiding one’s weakness or failure.
(Irjim il nisam wizhed el dhief)
Meaning: Throw ( a stone) at the cat and avoid the guest.
Comment: Sometimes a man talks to another but actually refers to the third one.
Implication: Talking about someone indirectly.
(Itha tishti tgawoum aldheif gaddim il gahwa)
Meaning: If you want the guest to leave serve coffee.
Comment: In yemeni traditions coffee is served to a guest twice, at his arrival once, and before his departure. So serving coffee after meal and long rest is a signal for the guest to leave.
Implication: Getting rid of undesirable guests politely.
(Habbati weilla il deek)
Meaning: I want the seed that the cock picked or (if impossible) give me the cock itself instead.
Comment: Some people care much about their belongings. If one of them is spoiled or ruined, the owners charge more than its cost.
Implication: Advice to others to take care of their belongings (or) describing violent people.
(Ma tihrig ilnar illa rijil watteeha)
Meaning: Fire never burns others unless one’s foot comes nearer to it or presses on it.
Comment: One won’t be hurt unless he awakes the lion, namely, challenges powerful people.
Implication: Warning someone who commits mistakes deliberately and invites troubles.