Peculiar Proverbs

Weird Words of Wisdom from Around the World

Stephen Arnott

St. Martin's Press

 
A NICE TURN OF PHRASE
A mixed bag of deft, colourful and evocative sayings on a variety of subjects.
Never bolt your door with a boiled carrot.
IRISH



The quiet duck puts his foot on the unobservant worm.
CHINESE



Only a pumpkin is a head without cares.
ITALIAN



Better be the beak of a chicken than the rump of an ox.
CHINESE



Poets and pigs are only appreciated after their death.
ITALIAN



Worlds are mere bubbles of water, but deeds are drops of gold.
TIBETAN



It is better to suffer the satiated mosquito to stay than to admit the hungry one.
SERBIAN



One sprinkles the most sugar where the tart is burnt.
DUTCH



You cannot prevent the birds of sadness from flying over your head, but you can prevent them from nesting in your hair.
CHINESE



He sits full still that has riven trousers.
SCOTTISH



Other people’s goats always have the biggest udders.
LATIN



It’s a hard job to make old monkeys pull new faces.
FLEMISH



Hope is the dream of waking.
DANISH



Do not stab yourself because you have a golden knife.
MARATHI (INDIA)



The man who spends the night in a marsh wakes a cousin to the frogs.
TUNISIAN



To carry a light when the moon shines makes tigers laugh.
MALAYAN



After being struck on the head by an axe, it is a positive pleasure to be beaten about the body with a wooden club.
CHINESE



The shrimp that sleeps is carried away by the current.
CHILEAN



It is easy to cut whangs off other folks’ leather.
SCOTTISH



Don’t be after breaking your shin on a stool that isn’t there.
IRISH



The beetle in its hole is a sultan.
EGYPTIAN



A centipede doesn’t stop for a game leg.
BURMESE



Mistakes ain’t haystacks or there’d be more fat ponies than there is.
NORTH AMERICAN



With patience and saliva the ant swallows an elephant.
COLOMBIAN



It is nobler to be taken by a big crocodile than to be nibbled to pieces by little fishes.
MALAYAN



Fowl scratch up too much dirt, him run risk of finding him grandma’s skeleton.
JAMAICAN



Many shrimps, many flavours; many men, many whims.
MALAYAN



Alms once given are as phlegm which has been expectorated – not worth taking back.
KUMAONI (INDIA)



A spur in the head is worth two in the heel.
SCOTTISH



Nothing to bother you, eh? Then go and buy a goat.
INDIAN



Sycophants scratch pimples for a livelihood.
TELEGU (INDIA)



A lame cat is better than a swift horse when rats infest the palace.
CHINESE



Dogs and rude people have no hands.
ITALIAN



A naked man can be seen from afar, a rude one, close at hand.
LATVIAN



He who does evil to a benefactor is like a dog which eats up the piece of leather on which he sleeps.
INDIAN



Farming, letter writing, worship and the tightening of your horse’s girth; these things should be done by yourself, though you have a hundred thousand attendants.
PUNJABI



It is a sick duck that is worried by the weasel.
CHINESE



A man that pets a live catfish ain’t crowded with brains.
NORTH AMERICAN



Death is a black camel that kneels at every man’s gate.
TURKISH



The tongue is soft and constantly remains in; the teeth are hard and fall out.
CHINESE



If you do what people tell you, you will be fishing hares in the sea and hunting fish in the woods.
BULGARIAN



The dragon in shallow water becomes the butt of shrimps.
CHINESE



Mind your pullets, my cocks are abroad!
JERSEY



Our Lady of Pity and Mister Saint Peter gave bad cows short horns.
BRETON



Although there exist many thousands of subjects for elegant conversation, there are persons who cannot meet a cripple without talking about feet.
CHINESE



He that denies the cat skimmed milk must give the mouse cream.
RUSSIAN



Who does not feed the dog, feeds the thief.
ESTONIAN



One should not peer into the mouth of a presentation cow and look at its teeth.
BURMESE



Do not examine the reindeer given by the rich man lest you find it to be without horns.
FINNISH



Better a sausage in the hand, than a ham in the butchers.
POLISH



A slice of ham is better than a fat pig in a dream.
GERMAN



A bird in the soup is better than an eagle’s nest in the desert.
CHINESE
PECULIAR PROVERBS. Copyright © 2007 by Stephen Arnott. All rights reserved. For information, address St. Martin’s Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010.