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'As They Say in Zanzibar' (Excerpt)

1 EXISTENCE

1 God did not create hurry
Finland

2 Do not blame God for having created the tiger, but thank Him for not having given it wings
Ethiopia

3 The face came before the photograph
USA

4 Heroism consists in hanging on one minute longer
Norway

5 Everything comes to those who wait
England

6 There’s a time and a place for everything
England

7 The existence of the sea means the existence of pirates
Malaysia

8 Handsome is as handsome does
England

9 Friendly is as friendly does
USA

10 Everything is possible, except to bite your own nose
Netherlands

11 Fingers were made before forks England

12 The bigger they come, the harder they fall
USA

13 When God made the rabbit He made bushes too
Hungary

14 Let the church stand in the churchyard
England

15 Everything will perish save love and music
Scotland

16 Rules are made to be broken
England

17 If you aren’t what you ain’t, then you ain’t what you are
USA

2 FAMILY

1 If you have no relatives, get married
Egypt

2 Vultures eat with their blood relations
South Africa

3 One family builds the wall; two families enjoy it
China

4 In every family’s cooking-pot is one black spot
China

5 The bazaar knows neither father nor mother
Turkey

6 A hundred aunts is not the same as one mother
Sierra Leone

7 If my aunt had wheels, she might be an omnibus
Netherlands

8 Bed is your brother
Zanzibar

9 Better a neighbour over the wall than a brother over the sea
Albania

10 Two happy days are seldom brothers
Bulgaria

11 Three brothers, three fortresses
Portugal

12 Brotherly love for brotherly love, but cheese for money
Albania

13 Children regard their father’s guest as a slave
Republic of Congo

14 A father is a banker provided by nature
France

15 It’s a wise child that knows its own father
England

16 The house with an old grandparent harbours a jewel
China

17 Those whose mother is naked are not likely to clothe their aunt
Sudan

18 Love and blindness are twin sisters
Ukraine

19 When you are chased by a wolf you call the boar your uncle
Slovenia

20 The spear of kinship soon pierces the eye
Cameroon

21 Many kiss the child for the nurse’s sake
England

22 Those who gossip about their relatives have no luck and no blessing
Netherlands

3 SAMENESS

1 It is not the one way everyone goes mad
Ireland

2 The cry of the hyena and the loss of the goat are one
Nigeria

3 Both legs in the stocks or only one is all the same
Germany

4 Luck and bad luck are driving in the same sledge
Russia

5 Ability and necessity dwell in the same cabin
Netherlands

6 Lovers have much to relate – but it is always the same thing
Germany

7 Those who stumble twice over the same stone are fools
Latin

8 It is the hyenas of the same den that hate one another
Kenya

9 Straps come from the same leather
Argentina

10 A bad thing that does no harm is the same as a good one that does no good
Germany

11 There are many paths to the top of the mountain – but the view is always the same
China

12 A hole here and there is not the same as a window
Kenya

13 You cannot jump over two ditches at the same time
Netherlands

14 If you climb up a tree, you must climb down the same tree
Sierra Leone

15 Thin ice and thick ice look the same from a distance
USA

16 No one can blow and swallow at the same time
Germany

17 No one can paddle two canoes at the same time
South Africa

18 You can never get all the possums up the same tree
USA

19 Lightning never strikes twice in the same place
England

20 Love and blindness are twin sisters
Ukraine

21 Crows everywhere are equally black
China

22 The water is the same on both sides of the boat
Finland

23 Not even a bell always rings the same way
Serbia

24 When it rains, the roof always drips the same way
Liberia

25 Great minds think alike
England

26 One beetle knows another
Ireland

27 Before God and the bus-conductor we are all equal
Germany

28 The nail suffers as much as the hole
Netherlands

29 Don’t run too far; you will have to come back the same distance
France

30 Your fingers can’t be of the same length
China

31 A hundred aunts is not the same as one mother
Sierra Leone

32 A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush
England

33 A dollar in the bank is worth two in the hand
USA

34 The game is not worth the candle
England

35 Beans are not equal to meat
Namibia

36 A child is more than a chip
Estonia

37 Two wrongs do not make a right
England

38 The more things change the more they remain the same
France

4 DIFFERENCE

1 Do not put each foot on a different boat
China

2 What makes one abbot glad makes another abbot sad
Scotland

3 Many people are like clocks, they show one hour and strike another
Denmark

4 When it rains on one it only drips on another
Netherlands

5 The broad-minded see the truth in different religions; the narrow-minded see only the differences
China

6 Different holes have different fish
Malaysia

7 You cannot take one part of a fowl for cooking and leave the other part to lay eggs
India

8 Look the other way when the girl in the tea-house smiles
Japan

9 The exception proves the rule
England

10 A frog beneath a coconut shell believes there is no other world
Malaysia

11 Other people’s books are difficult to read
Netherlands

12 The toughest broncs is always them you’ve rode some other place
USA

13 Fools seldom differ
England

14 Raindrops can’t tell broadcloth from jeans
USA

15 One generation plants the trees; another gets the shade
China

16 Other trees, other woodcutters
Lithuania

17 Variety is the spice of life
England

18 When one door shuts, another opens
Scotland

5 SMALL AMOUNT

1 To the ant, a few drops of rain is a flood
Japan

2 The sea is made bigger even by one drop
Russia

3 Better a handful of bees than a basketful of flies
Morocco

4 Every little helps
England

5 Those who want the last drop out of the can get the lid on their nose
Netherlands

6 Even a small star shines in the darkness
Finland

7 A bit of fragrance always clings to the hand that gives you roses
China

8 A little wood will heat a little oven
England

9 A sip at a time empties the cask
Norway

10 The biggest help is help, and even the smallest help is help
Ireland

11 Those who do not wish little things do not deserve big things
Belgium

12 An indispensable thing never has much value
Georgia

13 Be always a little afraid so that you never have need of being much afraid
Finland

14 Cabbage is the best invalid, it needs only a little water
Serbia

15 A good driver turns in a small space
France

16 Errands are small on a spring day
Iceland

17 Every blade of grass gets its own drop of dew
Scotland

18 Falling hurts least those who fly low
China

19 Generally one loses less by being known too little than by being known too much
Latin

20 If you haven’t much to do, start cleaning your own backyard
USA

21 It takes little effort to watch someone carry a load
China

22 To part is to die a little
France

23 It’s a small world
England

24 A little drop of water silences a boiling pot
Germany

25 Small cares make many words, great ones are mute
Germany

26 When the bed is small lie in the centre
Spain

27 A small bed will not hold two persons
Nigeria

28 A tree with ripe fruit needs little shaking
Switzerland

29 Least said, soonest mended
England

30 Little said is easy mended; nothing said needs no mending
Ireland

31 Great consolation may grow out of the smallest saying
Switzerland

6 LARGE AMOUNT

1 Much treasure, many moths
Estonia

2 A big crop is best, but a little crop will do
Scotland

3 The bird can drink much, but the elephant drinks more
Senegal

4 The peace-maker gets two-thirds of the blows
Montenegro

5 They that love most speak least
Scotland

6 Discretion is the better part of valour
England

7 A fox knows much; a hedgehog one great thing
Greece

8 Lovers have much to relate – but it is always the same thing
Germany

9 Many donkeys need much straw
Spain: Basque

10 Many drops make a puddle
Netherlands

11 Too much courtesy is discourtesy
Japan

12 Too much discussion will lead to a row
Coˆ te d’Ivoire

13 What is inflated too much will burst into fragments
Ethiopia

14 Where there is most mind there is least money
Latin

15 Who sieves too much, keeps the rubbish
Belgium

16 Think much, say little, write less
France

17 The fish said, ‘I have much to say, but my mouth is full of water.’
Georgia

18 Those who speak much must either know a lot or lie a lot
Germany

19 Drinking a little too much is drinking a great deal too much
Germany

20 Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration
USA

21 The roughest stone becomes smooth when it is much rolled
Switzerland

22 Too much tying loosens
Syria

23 Who knows much, mistakes much
Armenia

24 If you engrave it too much it will become a hole
India

25 A reasonable amount of fleas is good for a dog; they keep him from broodin’ on being a dog
USA

7 INCREASE – DECREASE

1 Little by little grow the bananas
Republic of Congo

2 The first stage of folly is to consider oneself wise
Belgium

3 Friendship is steps
Kenya

4 Add caution to caution
Japan

5 Is it necessary to add acid to the lemon?
India

6 Quick work – double work
Montenegro

7 Be not afraid of growing slowly, be afraid only of standing still
China

8 No matter how full the river, it still wants to grow
Republic of Congo

9 One good turn deserves another
England

10 The sea is made bigger even by one drop
Russia

11 Two things make one either greater or smaller, praise and shadows
Germany

12 The more one sleeps the less one lives
Portugal

13 More haste, less speed
England

14 Another day, another dollar
USA

15 A bald-headed man cannot grow hair by getting excited about it
Republic of Congo

16 The more you stroke a cat, the more it lifts its tail
Estonia

17 A rolling stone gathers no moss
England

18 A stationary stone gathers moss
Russia

8 ONE ALONE

1 One dog can’t fight
Ireland

2 Once is no custom
Netherlands

3 The wise person is cheated only once
Finland

4 No stone ever falls alone
Belgium

5 In every family’s cooking-pot is one black spot
China

6 We boil our rice only once
India

7 Who hears but one bell hears but one sound
France

8 Who hears music feels his solitude
France

9 Solitude is full of God
Serbia

10 Hit one ring and the whole chain will resound
South Africa

11 One link broken, the whole chain is broken
Germany

12 One spot spots the whole dress
Belgium

13 One bad pipe ruins the entire organ
Netherlands

14 One rotten egg spoils the whole pudding
Germany

15 One rotten apple spoils the whole barrel
England

16 The eyes have one language everywhere
England

17 Heroism consists in hanging on one minute longer
Norway

18 Rather once cry your heart out than always sigh
China

19 The person who steals once is always a thief
Spain

20 Between two points one cannot draw more than one straight line
Denmark

21 Empty gossip jumps with one leg
Estonia

22 It is better to be once in the church sleigh than always in the back runners
Finland

23 Those who have only one bow should be content with one fiddle
Germany

24 One bell serves a parish
Italy

25 A single bracelet doesn’t jingle
Guinea

26 Those who have once had luck cannot always call themselves unlucky
Belgium

27 A hundred aunts is not the same as one mother
Sierra Leone

28 One thread for the needle, one love for the heart
Sudan

29 Once a crook, always a crook
USA

30 Beware the man with only one gun
USA

31 When a single hair has fallen from your head, you are not yet bald
Sierra Leone

32 A fox knows much; a hedgehog one great thing
Greece

33 Never less alone than when alone
Latin

34 If you play alone, you will win
Syria

9 ONE OF TWO

1 One hand washes the other; both hands wash the face
Albania

2 If a string has one end, then it has another end
China

3 If you have two loaves of bread, sell one and buy a lily
China

4 Never try to catch two frogs with one hand
China

5 You cannot hold two water melons in one hand
Iran

6 The story is only half told when one side tells it
Iceland

7 When two ride on one horse, one must sit behind
England

8 Too many affairs are like pumpkins in water; one pops up while you try to hold down the other
China

9 One family builds the wall; two families enjoy it
China

10 One generation plants the trees; another gets the shade
China

11 One foot is better than two stilts
France

12 Both legs in the stocks or only one is all the same
Germany

13 In one stable there may be a steed and an ass
Belgium

14 A lie stands upon one leg, but truth upon two
England

15 When one door shuts, another opens
Scotland

16 To learn costs you one effort, to unlearn, two
Bulgaria

17 One beetle knows another
Ireland

18 If two people tell you you are blind, shut one eye
Georgia

19 You cannot take one part of a fowl for cooking and leave the other part to lay eggs
India

20 One hand can’t tie a bundle
Liberia

21 Justice becomes injustice when it makes two wounds on a head which only deserves one
Republic of Congo

22 Those who have two garments do not wear one only
Zanzibar

23 Two crocodiles don’t live in one pond
Gambia

24 You can’t dance at two weddings with one pair of feet
USA

25 When you pick up a stick at one end, you also pick up the other end
USA

26 Two heads are better than one
England

27 Better ask twice than go wrong once
Germany

28 Once bitten, twice shy
England

29 Measure twice, cut once
Slovakia

30 Those who cheat me once, shame fall them; those who cheat me twice, shame fall me
Scotland

31 Someone with a watch knows what time it is; someone with two watches is never sure
France

10 ONE OF SEVERAL

1 Rain does not fall only on one roof
Cameroon

2 Better one living word than a hundred dead ones
Germany

3 A hat is not made for one shower
England

4 Before going to war say one prayer; before going to sea, two; before getting married, three
Poland

5 The spider does not weave its web for one fly
Slovenia

6 The sea is made bigger even by one drop
Russia

7 One buffalo brings mud and all the herd are smeared
with it
Malaysia

8 If one finger is gashed, all the fingers are covered with
blood
Republic of Congo

9 A basket-maker who makes one basket makes a hundred
Brazil

10 It’s a poor mouse that has but one hole
Netherlands

11 An elephant does not die from one broken rib
Kenya

12 Don’t tell all of your jokes on one program
USA

13 One bird in the dish is better than a hundred in the air
Germany

14 If you want one year of prosperity, grow grain. If you want ten years of prosperity, grow trees. If you want a hundred years of prosperity, grow people
China

15 Life is just one damned thing after another
USA

16 One accident is one too many
Canada

17 One loose pebble can start a landslide
USA

18 One broken rail will wreck a train
USA

19 Don’t keep all your tongs in one fire
Canada

20 Don’t put all your eggs in one basket
England

21 There are more ways than one to kill a cat
England

22 A cloth is not woven from a single thread
China

23 One servant is a servant; two servants are half a servant; three servants are no servant at all
Poland

24 It takes a whole village to raise one child
Nigeria

25 One actor cannot make a play
USA

26 Where water has once flowed it will flow again
Montenegro

27 Troubles never come singly
England

11 ACCOMPANIMENT

1 When you have no companion, consult your walkingstick
Albania

2 Misery loves company
England

3 Two’s company; three’s a crowd
England

4 When a blind person carries the banner, woe to those who follow
France

5 Where the needle goes the thread must follow
Poland

6 Pull the ear, the head follows
Bangladesh

7 When one sheep is over the dam, the rest will follow
Netherlands

8 Every flood will have an ebb
Scotland

9 Who has God for his friend has all the saints in his pocket
Italy

10 The reverse side has its reverse side
Japan

11 Adam must have an Eve, to blame for his own faults
Germany

12 A misty morning may have a fine day
England

13 A pessimist is a person who has lived with an optimist
USA

14 Follow the river and you will reach the sea
France

15 Beware of a person’s shadow and a bee’s sting
Myanmar

16 Nobody can rest in their own shadow
Hungary

17 A shadow is a feeble thing but no sun can drive it away
Sweden

18 A road has no shadow
Senegal

19 Even a hair has a shadow
Czech Republic

20 Two things make one either greater or smaller, praise and shadows
Germany

21 Every Sunday brings a week with it
Scotland

22 The one who has taken the bear into the boat must cross over with him
Sweden

From "As They Say in Zanzibar: Proverbial Wisdom From Around the World," by David Crystal (Oxford University Press USA, 2008)

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