Yemeni Proverbs for All Occasions [Archives:2002/06/Culture]

February 4 2002

Saad Sharif Taher
Yemeni proverbs are an essential part of Yemeni culture because they are the spoken expression used by Yemenis during their daily public activities. They are the mirror that reflects simple thinking by which the people are expressing their daily life, habits and customs. They are the living records of politics, agriculture and wisdom throughout history. One can grasp by them minute details of the simple Yemeni society and have an actual picture of what is on their mind. From the large number of such proverbs, I have chosen the following glittering gems:

Sitti kesleh, zadet hiblet. Tul ilmunkhil matet bileki
Meaning: in addition to her laziness, my wife got pregnant then she died of eating
Comment: A lazy woman becomes lazier if she gets pregnant. As a result she does nothing but eating which leads to death.
Situation: Blaming lazy pregnant women.

Ala geder frashek mid rijliek
Meaning: release your legs as long as your cot
Comment: you shouldnt ask more than you deserve and never look forward to what you are incapable of doing or beyond your capacity.
Situation: advising others not to dream extravagantly. It is similar to the English proverb Dont bite off more than you can chew.

Lek Alla min selat il izzab. Ein bil tageh wein bil bab.
Meaning: unmarried young mens prayers are worthless because they keep eyes on the door and window peeping for girls.
Comment: when a single performs prayers he doesnt concentrate on it because his heart is busy thinking of girls. So he keeps an aye on doors and windows waiting for girls to appear.
Situation: describing singles work which is inaccurate or commenting on happy-go-lucky young men.

Ya weil nashid il leben bil khes la redooh
Meaning: woe to the one who asks for sour milk specially so when he is rejected.
Comment: it is a shock for those who are ambitious to do something but fail to do it after much trying.
Situation: warning others not to be over ambitious.

Beiti melan jin, wzadu shegeru bjinee
Meaning: my house is full of jinines, they add another one to them.
Comment: jinies here is a metaphor which symbolizes naughty children. If a troublesome kid visits a family with such children, it will be hell.
Situation: it is said by an annoyed father when receiving a devilish boy visitor.

Ma min dkheel faideh lau jaa bzadeh wmah wshirkiteh
Meaning: a stranger is useless (worthless) even if he bring his food, water and successful partnership.
Comment: natives suspect strangers or foreigners specially in trade because they may leave unexpectedly.

Itha kithreen bithreen
Meaning: if something increases too much it will spoil.
Comment: the more in number and amount, the more you neglect, e.g. you cant control or teach your kids well if they are many compared with a one. Or in market if there is too much of goods it will be very cheap.
Situation: too much of anything is good for nothing.

Min ein li gheni wazideh wil ahraf aksr iydeh
Meaning: if I see a rich man , I hope the riches will increase and if I see a poor man, I wish Icould break his arm.
Comment: people think that poverty is like plague which should be fought because it will bring problems. Imam Ali bin abi Talib, the fourth guiding Caliph after prophet Mohammed p.b.u.f once said, If poverty were a man I would kill him.
Situation: scorning poverty.

Irjim bil khelba, in siftet willa allemet
Meaning: fight (at least) with a wet mud stone. It will attach or leave a mark.
Comment: people should use any kind of weapon in fighting the enemies even if it is a stone because it will bring good results, e.g. in Palestine the Mujagihdeen use stone to fight Israeli tanks and gun. This brings horror to the Israelis.
Situation: Uerging others to fight aggressors with any kind of weapons.