Bronx, New York: I would be lying if I said I grew up listening to proverbs. I heard a few of them growing up, of course, but at a young age I found it to be boring adult business. Being a Nigerian of Igbo ethnicity, I did not begin to appreciate this aspect of my culture until many years later in a foreign land. It all began on an uneventful day at the bookstore where I stumbled upon a collection of wise sayings from the East (Asia). I found many of their proverbs to be thought provoking and it got me thinking about my own cultural sayings. As soon as I got home, I went online, researching and reconnecting with this lost part of my upbringing.
According to the famous Nigerian author and writer of the best selling book, Things Fall Apart, “Proverbs are the salt with which words are eaten.” One aspect of proverbs I appreciate is that they require the listener to take the time to decipher its meaning. It is also a great way to express an otherwise long sentence into something concise and insightful. I think it’s unfortunate that our society has become so fast paced that things of this nature do not appeal to the masses anymore. What happened to the days when words were more than just things you said to get a point across?
Anyway, the Igbos, just like many ethnic groups in Nigeria and beyond, are known for using proverbs to express themselves. With that in mind, here are a few common ones and their English equivalent. Enjoy decoding and savoring their meanings!
Agwo noro ibe ya na-enwe odu abuo.
[The snake that swallows another will have two tails.]
Akpataghi aku na-akpata ntukwuba onu.
[Destitution breeds disdain.]
Ike ka e ji-añu ogwu.
[It takes some strength to swallow drugs.]
Udene na egbe anaghi azo nri: udene na-eri ozu; egbe na-ebu na nkike.
[The vulture and the kite do not scramble for food: the vulture is a scavenger; the kite, a predator.]
Kama mmanya ga-esere ogo na ogo okwu, ya waa n'uzo
[Instead a pot of wine will breed animosity among in-laws, let it break on the way.]
Atulu na-acho ipu mpi jee jua ebune ka ekwo di ya.
[A sheep that will grow horns should ask the ram how its neck feels.]
Anaghi eji na aguu na-agu noo ukwara.
[No one swallows phlegm to appease the pangs of hunger]
Anaghi acho ihe na-akpa onye na-acho ihe?
[You don't look for something in the pocket of someone who is looking for something.]
Ura ga-eju onye nwuru anwu afo.
[A dead person shall have all the sleep necessary.]
O bialu be onye abiagbuna ya, mgbe o ga-ala mkpumkpu apukwana ya n'azu.
[May one's visitor not constitute a problem, so that on his departure he will not leave with a hunchback.]
Proverbs courtesy of kwenu.com