Contents | Display Settings | Font Settings | About

Part 2: On perspicaciousness (good judgment, perceptiveness), reasonableness, sagacity, savoir-faire, wisdom, and worldly wisdom


A bm k gbn, a n k m k; k n pa m b gbn?
A child lacks wisdom, and some say that what is important is that the child does not die; what kills more surely than lack of wisdom?
(A foolish child is not much better than a dead child.)

A db fn ignnugn, n un k r; a db fn kl, n un k r; a db fn yl, yl gbb, rb.
A sacrifice was prescribed for the vulture, but it refused to sacrifice; a sacrifice was prescribed for the ground-hornbill, but it declined to sacrifice; a sacrifice was prescribed for the pigeon, and it gathered the prescribed materials and made the sacrifice.
(The vulture and the ground-hornbill are unfortunate in comparison with the pigeon, because they did not carry out the prescribed sacrifice.) [1]

A fw m aj o l, a fi ka mj p .
We grab a dog with the hands and it escapes; thereafter we beckon it with two fingers.
(If both hands cannot detain a dog, two fingers from a distance will not bring it to where it escaped from.)

A fn lb o tami si; o gbn ju lb l.
You are given some stew and you add water; you must be wiser than the cook.
(Adding water is a means of stretching stew. A person who thus stretches the stew he or she is given would seem to know better than the person who served it how much would suffice for the meal.)

A k b sn omi tn k ma s fn tt.
One does not enter into the water and then run from the cold.
(Precautions are useful only before the event.)

A k d ar nok l l l.
One does not engage in a dyeing trade in ok people there wear only white.
(Wherever one might be, one should respect the manners and habits of the place.)

A k d r ikn pa or.
One does not weigh the head down with a load that belongs to the belly.
(Responsibilities should rest where they belong.)

A k du or olr k wd gb tni l.
One does not fight to save another person's head only to have a kite carry one's own away.
(One should not save other's at the cost of one's own safety.)

A k duni ly k fn il-e Bal hanni.
One does not compete with another for a chieftaincy title and also show the way to the king's house to the competitor.
(A person should be treated either as an adversary or as an ally, not as both.)

A k f or lhn olr.
One does not shave a head in the absence of the owner.
(One does not settle a matter in the absence of the person most concerned.)

A k fi gb sl sin gb.
One does not leave one elder sitting to walk another elder part of his way.
(One should not slight one person in order to humor another.)

A k fi -m-w mkn.
One does not dive under water without knowing how to swim.
(Never engage in a project for which you lack the requisite skills.)

A k fi ara ni e ogun alknn.
One does not use oneself as an ingredient in a medicine requiring that the ingredients be pulverized.
(Self-preservation is a compulsory project for all.)

A k fi a dd yw.
One does not leave cloth in a bundle while bargaining over it.
(It is wise to know what one is negotiating to buy.)

A k fi ej sr rl sn.
One does not go to bed while a snake is on the roof.
(Never let down your guard while danger still lurks.)
Compare A k fi in . . .

A k fi j bl pa tr; alkoto b abo m.
One does not smear blood (from a woman's deflowering) on a Muslim charm; a de-virgined woman does not give birth to a female child.
(One must not do the forbidden if one does not expect trouble.) [2]

A k fi t sl pa lplp.
One does not ignore leprosy to treat a rash.
(More serious problems deserve more immediate attention.)

A k fi ran ikn gbn ti gbnrn n.
One does not brush off antelope meat with squirrel meat.
(Never prefer something of little value to something of great value.)

A k fi id pa gbn.
One does not use a sword to kill a snail.
(Remedies should be commensurate with the problem.)

A k fi gbn sk sr.
One does not throw a snail at a god.
(Service to the worthy should be performed with decorum, not with insult.)

A k fi in sr rl sn.
One does not go to bed while there is a fire on one's roof.
(Better take care of problems before relaxing.)
Compare A k fi ej . . .

A k fi tj krn.
One does not because of shyness expose oneself to a disease.
(Never be too shy to speak out on your own behalf.)

A k fi y n dk er.
One does not as a joke say one's mother has collapsed.
(Never trifle with serious matters.)

A k fi ogun dn w.
One does not tease a warrior by saying there is a war (or an invasion.)
(Do not play with a loaded and primed gun.)

A k fi ohun sw bra.
One does not hide something in one's hand and yet swear [that one knows nothing about it].
(It is foolish to tempt fate; the dishonest exposes himself/herself to the possibility of discovery.)

A k fi ohun-olhun tr b k e tni.
One does not make a gift of someone else's property when it is not one's own.
(Never be too free with other people's property.)

A k fi oko sin fn wf.
One does not hide the farm from the pawned worker.
(It does not make sense to prevent a servant one has hired from doing what one hired him to do.)

A k fi olr ogun e fagun.
One does not position the commander of the army at the rear of the column.
(The best foot is the one to put forward.)

A k fi onj sl k gbjm alpp.
One does not leave the person one has a quarrel with and face his lackey.
(Focus rather on your main problem, not a side-show.)

A k fi ow du oy-e algbra.
One does not rely on money to contest a chieftaincy reserved for the strong.
(Money won't buy everything.)

A k fi l j iy.
One does not consume salt according to one's greatness.
(Too much of a good thing can be dangerous.)

A k fi n ikn han fun.
One does not show the throat the way to the stomach.
(Do not presume to know better than the expert.)
See the following entry.

A k fi n od han ikn.
One does not show the squirrel the way to the river.
(Telling someone what he or she already knows is silly.)
See the preceding entry.

A k fi r sl gb r.
One does not ignore one matter to attend to another matter.
(Every obligation deserves attention.)

A k gb ni t yb m.
One does not grab hold of a person who has pulled a knife.
(Prudence and caution are imperative in dealing with dangerous people.)

A k gb ran erin lr k ma fs wa ih r.
One does not carry elephant meat on one's head and dig cricket holes with one's big toe.
(If one is blessed with plenty, one should not keep chasing after trifles.)

A k gb od jiyn-an h tb k h.
One does not sit by a river and argue whether the soap will foam or will not foam.
(Where the claim can be put to the test, verbal argument is foolish.)

A k gb pl sn k tn br-e jto.
One does not throw a toad away and inquire after its young.
(Commiseration after injury is hypocritical.)

A k gb wrn ggr k m fi w ti nkan.
One does not carve a tall statue without resting its hand on something.
(Everybody needs some support.)

A k gbj-u ff l ad gg; a k gbj-u yyan l algm.
One should not expect flight from the flightless chicken; one should not expect striding from a chameleon.
(To expect the impossible is to delude oneself.)

A k gb jnkan dj.
One does not deliver a verdict after hearing only one side.
(Justice requires impartiality and a full hearing.)

A k j Mo fr- lb.
One does not eat I almost in a stew.
(What one missed narrowly, one cannot enjoy at all.) [3]

A k ka ign m ran jj.
One does not list vultures among edible meats.
(Certain things one does not stoop to do.)

A k ka il r kn l.
One does not count a god's grove as part of the town.
(Do not list questionable items as part of your wealth.)

A k ka oyn in kn m il.
One does not count a fetus among living children.
(Never count your chickens before they are hatched.)

A k ka m fn b.
One does not enumerate children for the parents.
(Do not presume to know better than those most intimately involved.)

A k k m- b k s n wold?
One does not so resent having a child that one names it What-is-this-that-has-happened?
(Childbirth is always a happy event.)

A k lku mj k m pfo.
One does not chase two rats and avoid coming up with nothing.
(Never try to go in two directions at once.)
Also n b lku mj pfo.

A k lm lhin k onj.
One does not have children at one's rear and yet refuse food.
(No amount of anger or distress should keep one from looking after one's dependents.)

A k m k m k tn ml-e r.
One does not acknowledge the husband for one's child and also acknowledge her illicit lover.
(Never betray trust or connive at betraying it.)

A k m bn tetere.
One does not hold a gun carelessly.
(Always be careful in handling dangerous matters.)

A k m oko m j k kan m y.
One does not opt to work on the farm and also opt to go argue one's case and avoid neglecting one or the other.
(One cannot do two mind-absorbing tasks at once.)
Compare A k ml mko . . . and A k w mj kran m j kan.

A k m m odp d.
One does not chain the child of a person who offers too low a price for one's wares.
(It is not a crime to make an offer that might be unacceptable.)

A k m m l s lr.
One does not take a child destined for poverty to lr.
(A person cannot transcend his/her destiny.) [4]

A k ml mko kkan m y.
One does not devote oneself to the home and devote oneself to the farm and not wind up neglecting one of them.
(One cannot go in two opposite directions at once.)
Compare A k m oko m j..., And A k w mj kran m j kan.

A k n gb nl w gb rde.
One does not have a thousand cowries (or six pence) at home and go chasing abroad for a thousand cowries.
(Only the promise of a greater fortune should tempt one to neglect what one already has.)

A k pa asnwn il, ntor j t tde y b w sl.
One does not kill the imbecile within one's home, because of the day when the one from outside might visit one.
(One should cultivate one's own madness; one might need it to combat others' madness.)

A k pa ign, a k j ign, a k fi ign br.
One does not kill the vulture; one does not eat the vulture; one does not offer the vulture as a sacrifice to one's head.
(Certain behaviors are beyond the pale.)

A k p k k e k w .
One does not dare a wicked person to do his worst.
(Never tempt evil people to do their evil.)

A k peni ll k ma gb m ran j.
One does not suffer the reputation of being a thief and yet go seeking to dance with kids (baby goats).
(It is foolish to behave in ways that will confirm people's evil opinion of one.)

A k rn l wo oj j r.
One does not send a shirker to go see what the morning looks like outside.
(Never rely on the advice of people who have a vested interest in the matter being considered.)

A k re nsun l d sb.
One does not collect water from a spring to dump in the deep.
(Do not rob the poor to further enrich the wealthy.

A k r ad nl k da gbdo fn aj.
One does not see chickens about and throw one's corn to the dog.
(Always direct help where it will be appreciated and where it will do some good.)

A k r jk or.
No one ever sees the leavings of the god Or.
(What must be consumed must be completely consumed.)

A k r bt nl k fnu sn in j.
One does not see a bt drum on the ground and use one's mouth to mimic its sound.
(Too much talk about a problem is useless when a practical solution has presented itself. One should not make a person's case for him or her when the person is present.)

A k r ew nl k fw fm.
One does not see leaves lying about and scoop up feces with one's bare hand.
(Take advantage of whatever aids are available to you.)

A k r ni ranni lr k yk.
One does not find helpers willing to help with one's load and yet sprout a hump on one's back from carrying too heavy a load.
(Always avail yourself of offered help.)

A k r oj kn k t kn.
One does not see the look on a leopard's face and then taunt the leopard.
(It is foolish to needlessly invite disaster on one's own head.

A k s fn j k dgb lu egn.
One does not run from the herald of the masquerader and collide with the masquerader himself.
(Never court a greater disaster in an attempt to avert a minor one.)

A k sin l kj od; ohun t e t kan.
One does not walk one's secret lover across a river; the causes of huge disasters are usually insignificant in themselves.
(If one is engaged in a dangerous venture, one should not also cast discretion to the wind.)

A k s p ab y m; ngb n ni y s p b ni un t pn.
One does not tell an y person that his knife is sharp, for only then will he say he has not even honed it yet.
(Offer no braggart any opportunity to resume his bragging.)
Compare A k yin ar jm p m as- hun . . .

A k sr kk lj olff.
One does not discuss secret matters in the presence of a tattler.
(Be careful with your secrets.)

A k sn jr d.
One cannot be asleep and also be able to vouch for one's anus.
(Assert only those things you know for certain.) [5]

A k e fr dd sm adt.
One does not flaunt one's ability to make a fist in the face of a leper's child.
(Never make fun of people because of their affliction.)
See also the following entry.

A k e fr it dd sm a-k-wrp.
One does not drool in jest in the presence of the child of an epileptic.
(Never make fun of afflicted people by mimicking their affliction.)
Compare the preceding entry.

A k oore tn k l t .
One does not do a favor and then camp by it.
(Having done some good, do not hang around to compel gratitude.)

A k w mj kran m j kan.
One does not engage in two trades without having one consumed by goats.
(One cannot effectively manage two enterprises at once.)
Compare A k m oko m j k kan m y, and A k ml mko kkan m y.

A k ti oj ogun wfn.
One does not wait until the heat of the battle to start looking for palm-leaf midrib.
(Always make your preparations well ahead of the event.) [6]

A k ti oj on-ka-msn-n k .
One does not count the fingers of a person who has only nine in his/her presence.
(One must be discreet in speaking about other people's flaws and deformities.)

A k tij b bal il j akt; b b m, w n a m t.
One should not be too embarrassed to eat a jackal with one's host; as he helps himself, one also helps oneself.
(Never be too bashful to adopt the ways of the people among whom you find yourself.) [7]

A k w al-l ns elpo.
One should not look for a white-clad person in the stall of palm-oil sellers.
(One should know the likely places to look for whatever one seeks.)

A k w nn k perin tr.
One does not wallow in poverty and yet kill an elephant for public distribution.
(Always live according to your circumstances.)

A k wj ww k jre.
One does not complain about being looked at and be vindicated.
(One should not complain that other people are doing what one is also doing.)

A k yin md lj ara ; fshn n kngun .
One does not praise a child in his presence; only backsliding results.
(Children should not be praised too highly; they should always be made aware that they can be even better.)

A knl a pgb, alubt n oj frak; o f b wn p ni?
We kneel and sacrifice a ram, and the bt drummer shows reluctance to take his leave. Does he wish to inherit a wife?
(One should always know when to take one's leave.) [8]
See A snk tn . . .

A l tblkun jnn b nip k b j sgb.
One chases conspiracy away, as though one would have it disappear into the bush.
(No one should want anything to do with conspiracy.)

nftn tn, fs t kt, obnrn n a k b un gb tm.
One spreads a mat with the right hand while removing one's pants with the left hand; yet the woman complains that one is not helping her quest for a child.
(Some people are incapable of recognizing and acknowledging favors.) [9]

gba rm ad lw ik, n wn j k un j ltn.
One struggles to save the chick from certain death, and it complains that one is preventing it from foraging at the dump.
(Chicks foraging at the dump are easy prey for kites.)

gbj j, j n ta n j lhnkl un?
We fight in defence of j, and j asks who is fighting in his backyard.
(Some people do not acknowledge or appreciate favors.) [10]

A n rk ni y pa md, boj-whn; j n j?
One curses a child that rk will kill him, and he glances at his rear; does the curse take effect immediately?
(The child obviously does not know that the fact that he does not die immediately in no way invalidates the curse.)

A n k olknrn e t, n un l e t, t, t.
The invalid is asked to say, T, and he complains that he cannot keep saying, T, t, t.
(He has expended more effort in his refusal than he would have in complying.) [11]

A n km m k, o n k j bb k j y.
We strive to keep a child from dying, and you say he resembles neither the father nor the mother.
(The person addressed has his or her priorities reversed.)

jwn w lj; j lara tn br.
We are driven by envy of them is a bad case to make; a quarrel spawned by jealousy is not easy to settle.
(Quarrels whose causes cannot be openly admitted will not readily end.)

k , s , n un m ni t k; a n, Alk gb, a-biu-wr-wr-lko, a-bgbdo-tk-tk-lgn; n, ld l k, tb nj?
We recite someone's praise names, we intone his attributes, and a person says he does not know who died; we say, He of the two hundred granaries, he whose yams are plentiful on the farm, he whose corn is abundant in the fields, and the person asks, Is the dead person a hunter, or a trader?
(A person for whom everything must be spelled out, a person who cannot make deductions from the most obvious hints, is daft indeed.)

k , s , n un m ni t k; gb, Ik mr, pg, a-biu--ta-b-dd, a-lb-k, a-roko-fy-j; n, gb l k, tb nj?
We recite someone's praise names, we intone his attributes, and a person says he does not know who died; he hears, Death takes a renowned man, a titled man, whose yams spread like petals, who possesses barns of corn, whose fields are a bounty for birds, and he asks, Is the dead man a farmer or a trader?
(This is a variant of the preceding entry.)

sr elgd, obnrn br ohun t s, a n r knrin ni; b a b k elgd j, ta ni y s ?
We are discussing pumpkins, a woman asks what we are discussing, and we respond that it is men's talk; after we have gathered the pumpkins, who will cook them?
(The woman, certainly. There is no point in excluding her from a matter that will eventually involve her anyway.)

sr obnrin, a n k s br k l gbin br sd; ta n ma bni pa ?
We speak of women and someone suggests that we hedge our words and go plant water melon by the stream; who will help in harvesting it?
(This is a variant of the preceding entry.) [12]

A r i lj, a m lnu; w o k pn-w-l.
One can tell by looking, and one can tell by taste; a soap seller does not lick her fingers.
(Soap is recognizable as soap, and anyone who has ever tasted it knows that one does not lick fingers caked with soap. Each trade has its don'ts.)
See Aw k pa ow l.

A ta bb, a fow-o bb ra baba.
We sell guinea-corn, and with the copper coins we redeem the old man.
(With what one has one seeks one's goals.) [13]
See the following entry.

A ta bb a fow-o bb ra bb.
We sell guinea-corn, and with the guinea-corn money we buy guinea corn.
(This variant of the previous entry suggests that for all one's efforts and exertions one has not significantly altered one's circumstances.)

b algm lr gb.
The gods heed what chameleon proposes.
(One should heed the advice of trusted friends and advisers.) [14]

b k di tt; ojo ni k j k d a.
Plans do not automatically bear fruit; only the faint-hearted do not make plans.
(While plans may never bear fruit, people should still make them.)
Compare b n di tt . . .

b n di tt; ojo ni k j k da.
Attempts result in achievement; it is faint-heartedness that keeps one from making an effort.
(Without striving, one accomplishes nothing.)
Compare: b k di tt . . .

bt lp; a b t, a b a r.
Unfinished abandoned wall: unable to master it, one befriends it.
(One reconciles oneself to matters one cannot control.)

A-bay-j k fd rn hn.
A treacherous person is not someone to tell profound matters to.
(One should keep one's secrets from treacherous people.)

Abr gnyn.
A needle cannot be used to make pounded yams.
(Some tools are inadequate for some tasks.)

Abr t wn kun w.
A needle that drops into the ocean defies finding.
(Some tasks are hopelessly impossible to accomplish.)

Abiyam, kgbo wr; j l.
Nursing mother, make the herbal decoction in good time; the day is waning.
(Attend to duties in time.)

Abiyam k rn k nw ah.
A nursing mother does not venture away from home without a cup.
(She must be prepared to nurse the baby.) [15]

Abiyam pur mm- r jun.
The nursing mother lies against her child to secure food.
(One uses every ruse available to one in the interest of one's well-being.)

Abiyam w kt lu m- r.
A nursing mother cups her palm to strike her child.
(Discretion is the better part of discipline.)

b k e i j; i- baba ni n gbani lj gan-an.
Spare-time work is no profession; it is an assignment from one's father that takes all of one's day.
(One does not waste one's time on trifles or hobbies.)

bkn lay gb.
The world accepts only adding on.
(Supplement rather than deplete.)

Adnilr fagbra kni.
He who disappoints one teaches one to be more resourceful.
(Once disappointed or injured, one learns to be self-reliant.)

Adt gbd dr de elpn.
A leper must not wait for a bearer of abrasive leaves (epn [16] ).
(Know your weaknesses.)

Adt- n n s rn kan de wn ar il un; n b n b l sdl, wn j fi kn-n-kn-n un w.
The leper says that he trusts his relatives on a certain matter; he says when he goes on a journey, they would not dare use his sponge to wash themselves.
(People have a knack for skirting dangerous or distasteful situations.)

Ad rn n wj k.
It is the votive herald-chicken that precedes a dead person.
(Matters must be attended to in their proper sequence.) [17]

Ad l ti wy sunkn ehn.
Chicken cannot at this late date bemoan its lack of teeth.
(Everything at its proper time.)

Ad lrnkn j.
A chicken has no knees for cases.
(One should steer clear of actionable behavior.) [18]

Ad r als, pa y m.
The chicken sees the snuff seller and enfolds its wings.
(When one sees potential danger approaching, one should take precautions.) [19]

Ad-od b pnr.
Water fowl is no good as a sacrifice to pnr.
(One should use only tools proper to the task in hand.) [20]

d gba ara tl, k t fi ogn s?
Could the small gourd save itself, before we put charms into it?
(Do not seek protection from a helpless person.) [21]

A-ftlw-fann k dr.
He-who-carries-live-coals-in-his-palm does not tarry.
(A person who has a pressing problem has no time for socializing.) [22]

A-fas-gbj tan ara-a r j.
He-who-would-collect-rain-water-in-a-sieve deceives himself.
(The shiftless person hurts himself more than others.)

Aff da olg lm; onyfun rra.
The wind is making life difficult for the seller of liquid corn starch; corn flour seller, you had better watch out!
(When those better situated than one are defeated, one must be prepared for tough times.)

fr kan ju k r igb l b s l; b kan ju p yn l; r gb mi l tte kan ju or in l.
There is no disappearing trick better than the availability of a dense forest to disappear into; there is no sacrifice more efficacious than having many people on one's side; there is no The gods have elevated me that is higher than the back of a horse.
(Practical and realistic moves are more reliable than mysterious expectations.)

A-fi-ti-sl-gb-tni-lni, gnj ni wn snk-u r.
He-who-neglects-his-own-affairs-to-care-for-others'-affairs, it is in the middle of the night that his burial is carried out.
(Do not sacrifice your self-interest to take care of others.)

fm e ara-a r, n n e igi.
The creeper is destroying itself, but it thinks it is destroying its host.
(The host's death will be the parasite's death.)

gdgodo fin han ara-a wn.
Padlocks do not share their secrets with one another.
(Some secrets one should not divulge to others.)

gntn j n ktky e nu bb.
A sheep does not wake in the morning and droop its mouth.
(One should not dawdle in the morning.)

gb k gbin y sl de m r.
A wicked elder sows suffering for his children.
(One's character often affects the fortunes of one's children.)
Compare, gb t gbin b k . . .

gb oore m wo b.
Elder, do a favor and remove your eyes from it.
(Do not advertize your acts of kindness, or pointedly await acknowledgment of them.)

-gb-b di tni.
A foster child does not become one's own child.
(There is nothing like having one's own.)
Compare gbt j ob . . .

gbdo k e yn;ta n r m lhn esn?
The maize plant is not a human being; who ever saw children on the back of elephant grass?
(One should not overestimate the value of things.) [23]

gbk labiyam gbj m m- r.
It is completely and securely that a mother (bearing her child on her back) supports the child with a strip of cloth.
(One must be thorough in discharging one's responsibility.) [24]

337. gblagb en krndn; y t ma e b nkn-un r.
An elder shows a smooth belly to the world; but what he will do is known to him.
(Be a person of thought and action, not of words.) [25]

A-gb-d b f, a-m-ara--r b od;a db fn f, f r, agnrn gbb, rb; shnw shnb f di ar y, agnrn di ar oko; wn r p f gbn.
f, dweller-in-the-corridor, forward as od a sacrifice was prescribed for f, but he did not offer it; agnrn went ahead and offered the sacrifice; in the end f became a citizen of y, while agnrn became a dweller in the bush; and people thought f was foolish.
(Never second guess people who are better informed than you are.) [26]

gbj kor nl l.
Pumpkin is never bitter in a big household.
(When one is in need, one cannot be too choosy.) [27]

gbgb, rra f, d ti d sko; gbgb t b rra f b sp d.
gbgb, fly warily, for the hunter has arrived in the forest; any gbgb that does not fly warily will wind up in the hunter's bag.
(Conditions are hazardous; it behooves everyone to take care.)

gb dd kj od di funfun.
The black ram crosses the river and becomes white.
(Propitious events can drastically change a person's fortunes for the better.) [28]

gbkan l r If adit.
It is with full voice volume that one recites divination verses for the deaf.
(One cannot be too subtle with the daft.)

gbn k e onj y.
Coconut is no food for birds.
(Some things and some people are immune to some types of danger; one should not attempt the impossible.)

Ahn dn;k t j fnni.
Tortoise meat is delicious, but there is not enough of it to make a meal.
(One should husband one's resources wisely.)

Ahn re j, gb il-e r dn.
Tortoise embarks on a journey and takes his house with it.
(One's dearest possessions deserve one's closest attention.) [29]

Ahun-n wn or, ku tiy.
Tortoise has entered into a narrow-necked pot; now, getting out is a problem.
(One should consider the possible consequences of one's actions before one acts.)

gbn ni y pa Iikan; a n ya r- k, n ngbt n gb, e ni n dr; by n b k r l d?
Foolishness will be the death of Iika he is told that his mother has died, and he says that when he heard the news he sorely lamented the tragedy; if one's mother dies is it lamentation that is called for?
(The well bred person is always mindful of his/her obligations.)

-gbn-lwe ni -dgb-di-wr.
Lack-of-wisdom-in-youth is imbecility in adulthood.
(The man turns out just as the child was; the grown person acquires his traits in childhood.)

-m--gb-kal legn fi gba t.
It is ineptitude-in-setting-it-down that makes the wine a spoil for the egn (i.e., that causes the wine to be spilled).
(Ineptitude makes an impossible job of the easiest tasks.) [30]

-mw--w ni -bgb-j; m t mw- w bgb j.
Not-knowing-how-to-wash-one's-hands is not-eating-with-elders; a person who knows how to wash his hands will eat with elders.
(To qualify to live in society, one must learn the social graces.) [31]

p, Tr ny n b ay nn.
Neglect to say, Here is your's is what incites the earth's anger.
(Failure to take account of people's possible influence on one's affairs incites their anger. As long as one assumes humility, people will let one be.) [32]

-roko, -rod t p fn egn j.
Not-going-to-the-farm, not-going-to-the-river that claps for masqueraders to dance.
(It is an idler who makes music for masqueraders to dance.)

-sr n m nu rn.
It is abstention from speaking that makes the mouth smell.
(One should always say one's piece in a discussion.)

Aj n md.
A dog born a year ago does not know how to hunt.
(One learns from experience and maturity.)

Aj l b k; se pran fnni j.
One should rather commend the dog; the cat does not kill meat for one to eat.
(Assign commensurate values to your assets.)

Aj t lt - dgb.
A dog without ears is no good for stalking prey.
(A person who cannot be instructed is useless.)

Aj ti er-e r b dnilj l d s ehoro.
It is a dog in whose speed one has faith that one sics at a hare.
(One entrusts important tasks only to those one can trust.)
This is a variant of Aj to l sr . . .

Aj t gb iy, k ni y fi e?
A dog that swipes salt, what will it do with it?
(Do not expend your effort on senseless ventures.)

Aj t l sr l d s egbin.
It is a swift dog that one sends after a Kobe antelope.
(This is a variant of Aj ti ere r b dnilj . . . )

Ajk m b yn-n m.
The person who eats large helpings does not care that there is a famine.
(Greed knows no thrift.)

A-j-m-bj, t fi oj n wran.
A-person-who-rises-in-the-morning-without-washing-his-face, one who sees things with yesterday's eyes.
(A person who does not keep his eyes peeled for developments is ever behind times.)

jnk kr lran g d.
The elephant is not among the ranks of animals one lies in ambush for.
(The wise person puts some distance between himself and an elephant, or a formidable adversary.)

jnk r.
The elephant is impossible to carry.
(Some tasks are impossible to accomplish.)

jp n k s oun t d b oun t a m e; n b n b rn lko p, kkan a ma b sun lnu.
Tortoise says there is nothing quite like what one knows how to do; it says when it walks through a peanut farm, peanuts keep popping one by one into its mouth.
(When one does what one is a true expert at doing, it seems like performing magic.) [33]

jp n j t n ti jgbn-n o lrn ti w un m.
Tortoise says that since the day it learned the trick of saying yes its neck has ceased to shrink.
(One who says yes to every request avoids a great many arguments.) [34]
See ld n j t n ti jgbnn hn . . ., and ru o k wni lrn.

jp yan lko, allye- n j ppy.
The tortoise struts on the farm, the senseless person says it resembles a duck.
(It is indeed a fool that cannot discern the obvious.)

jgb ni ti kk.
Croaking-in-relays is the mark of frogs.
(It is in the nature of sheep to follow and to lack initiative.)

jk l mayo.
Leaving-remnants is the indicator of satiation.
(How one lives will show how well off one is.)

jk lgb t.
It is the leavings from his table that the farmer sells.
(One takes care of one's needs before one disposes of the excess.)
See, jklko gb . . .

jsl- gbs t j k gbf t n.
Long-standing debt, that makes twelve hundred cowries insufficient to spend.
(Existing debts eat new fortunes away.)

jm k t.
The task one takes on waking in the morning does not flounder.
(The task to which one gives the highest priority does not suffer.)

j k dn kdd m rW.
The journey is never so pleasant that the parrot does not return to w.
(The sojourner should never allow the pleasantness of his/her sojourn to obliterate thoughts of returning home.) [35]
See the following entry.

j k dn knl m rel.
The journey is never so pleasant that the traveler does not return home.
(The traveler should never forget his or her home.)
See the previous entry.

jj lj, gbn k fi rran.
A stranger has eyes, but they do not see.
(A stranger's eyes are blind to the intricacies of his new surroundings.)

-jk--fhnt, b n nr ni.
Sitting-without-leaning-the-back-against-something is like standing.
(Never do things by half measures.)

km kn-n nynu.
A cornered leopard poses problems.
(One should be wary of what prey to stalk.)

ks a la fi e k.
A rag is what one uses as a carrying pad.
(One's most valuable possessions are not for careless use.)

k bal, fi gbogbo ara kgbe.
ko hit the ground and cried out with its whole body.
(A person who needs help should not be coy in asking.) [36]

A-k-gb-t- nw ik.
He-who-plucks-the-African-locustbean-tree-seeds-to-sell spends death's money.
(Whoever engages in a dangerous venture more than earns his/her pay.)

Akp jy gb ti, n ogn k Agboroode.
The palm-wine tapper of Ijaye: instead of looking to his own affairs says Agboroode has been destroyed by invaders.
(The wise person learns from others' misfortunes instead of gawking at them.)

Alj gb e sk, o n, K !; o m b ibi lw tb ire?
The wielder of the incantation rattle lifts it, and you respond, May it be so!; do you know if he has invoked good or evil?
(One should be certain about what is happening before one intervenes or becomes involved.)

Algbf k b od t.
A washerman does enter harbor a grudge with the river.
(One does not turn one's back on one's means of livelihood.)

Alkatap e b b gbn; b gbn; tin b lb e.
The person with the cross-bow thinks that the monkey is not clever; the monkey is clever, but it is following its own strategy.
(It matters nothing if one is derided, as long as one knows what one is doing and why.)

Alks n tj abr tun tw.
It is the owner of rags who makes sure that needle and thread are available.
(Each person looks after his/her own interests.)

Altakn, b y b j, a ta k lra.
When the spider wants to engage an enemy, it spins its web around it.
(The attentive person can detect signs of hostility before it occurs. Also, one makes good preparations before embarking on a venture.)

Altaknn takn s asn, b gblud.
The spider has woven its web in the sauce-pan; the spoon takes a holiday.
(In the absence of the proper tools, one cannot fault the laborer for being idle.)

Alr k ru in.
The porter cannot carry a horse.
(Certain tasks are impossible of accomplishment.)

Aledn t faj d ja.
A wastrel who uses a dog to stalk fish.
(It is folly to employ an impossible tool for a given task.)

lej b kt l fi kr l.
It is a visitor like a giant rat to whom one offers palm-nuts.
(One should approach other people as their stations dictate.)

lej t br n k n sn.
A stranger who asks the way will not get lost.
(One should be willing to admit one's ignorance and seek direction.)
Compare: Abr k n.

lk n ohn mj; dil lagbe k.
The woodcock has but one statement: dil (meaning Time to head for home) is the cry of the touraco.
(One should know when the time is ripe to head for home.)

ls s t fa korko wl.
Disaster-causing legs that drag weeds into town.
(It is a person who will bring disaster on others who behaves like the wayward foot that drags weeds into town.)

Amn k e amn dnn.
The person who knew the way last year does not necessarily know the way this year.
(The person whose knowledge does not grow with the times soon becomes ignorant.)

Amrnbini y, b o b gb kete lr, wn a n oko l l tb od.
People who-know-the-answer-yet-ask-the-question, natives of y, if they see you carrying a water-pot they ask whether you are on your way to the farm or the stream.
(If the answer is plain to see, one does not ask the question.)

Am gb t gbin kk.
A wastrel farmer that plants cocoyams.
(It is a wastrel farmer that plants cocoyams.) [37]

p yn m p ohun t p- l tn.
A wastrel does not know that what is plentiful can be used up.
(A wastrel knows no thrift.)

p- fi w mww b nu; p, a-bjun-wm-wm.
The wastrel puts all ten fingers into his mouth; wastrel, a-person-who-eats-with-abandon.
(A wastrel is immoderate in his feeding.)

Apajj n r ad ba un.
The-person-who-kills-and-eats-dogs claims to be afraid of chickens.
(A hardened criminal pretends to have scruples about mere peccadillos.)

pkmr, t gin lr pta.
A-shiftless-person-who-knows-not-what-things-cost rides a horse on rocks.
(A person who has no part in paying for a thing is seldom careful in using it.)
Compare: ni b m p ynn m.

A-p--j k j bj.
A person who waits patiently for a long time before eating will not eat unwholesome food.
(Those who are patient will have the best of things.)

pmra l pe Tmdire.
It is in furtherance of one's own fortune that one calls the name Temidire.
(Each person must advance his or her own interests.) [38]

pn dg r.
When a bachelor becomes old, he makes his own cooking fire.
(One should make provisions for the future in one's youth.)

Ara lara : kt lp.
A little bit of it is a little bit of it: the policeman's short pants.
(Leave nothing to waste, for one can always find some use for the smallest remnant.) [39]

Ara k rni k gi ta.
If one has the wherewithal to live a life of ease, one does not gather firewood for sale.
(When one has found success, one does not persist in grubbing.)

Ara k tu ni kk, k ara roni koko, k m le jkk df.
One cannot be so much at ease, or so much in pain, that one cannot wake early to consult the oracle.
(Whatever one's condition, one does what one must do.) [40]

Ar run t a.
Natives of heaven do not sew their hems.
(The uninitiated do not know the customs of a place.) [41]

r p df; bf b fre t r fbi k?
The r summons you and you consult the oracle; what if the oracle says all will be well and the r decrees otherwise?
(There is no point in attempting to restrict the action of an absolute authority.) [42]

A-rn-f-lj-akgn, a-yan-k-loj-abni, abni lw nl ju nu-u r l.
One-who-saunters-in-front-of-detractors, one-who-struts-before-abusers, those who abuse one have no money at home, only their mouths.
(One's best course is to ignore detractors and insulters; all they have is their mouths.)

Arngbr ni y m oy dl; asrtete ry j.
The person who walks casually is the one who will bear a title home; the person who runs fast has no title to show for his efforts.
(The spoils do not necessarily go to those who exert themselves most.)
Compare: Asrtete n kj il . . .

-r-kanl la ayaba; -w-kanl ni ti yr.
Wrapping-from-waist-to-the-floor is the style of the queen's wrapper; digging-down-to-the-deepest-bottom is the requirement of the dry moat, yr.
(Whatever one has to do, one must be thorough, and not be satisfied with halfmeasures.)

Argb odgbs, n ml ni un dr san nb?
The old person who incurs debt, he says how much of it will he be around to pay?
(A person whose days are numbered can afford to freely take on long-term obligations.)

A-sr-lw b ln ogun; A-p b ln r; B-p-tt-ng--l b lb, j sun iu.
He-who-hurries-after-riches is on his way to battle; He-who-has-in-abundance is off on his travels; Sooner-or-later-I-will-be-rich is back in his hut, eating roasted yams.
(Wealth comes to those who exert themselves, not to those who wait for it to find them.)

-snk--jogn, n tani.
Burying-the-dead-without-sharing-in-the-inheritance leads one to poverty.
(One should have something to show for one's efforts.)

Asnwn n un ti in bl; wn n k m ti in bl; n un s ti in bl; wn n b b tin bl wn s si; n yn k kan.
The imbecile said he would torch the house; he was asked not to torch the house; he said he certainly would torch the house; he was told that if he torched the house he would be thrown in it; he said, That casts the matter in a different light.
(Even an imbecile becomes sane when his life is at stake.)

A-sk-sd-igba, k n s t il- fi .
One-who-throws-stones-at-two-hundred-chickens will be engaged in stone throwing until nightfall.
(Tackling a job with inadequate tools makes the job interminable.)

A-s-ar-dj n jbi j.
One-who-turns-play-into-a-fight is always guilty.
(One should take a jest in the spirit of jest.)

y k j k m y gbn.
Roughhousing keeps the young of the cane rat from learning wisdom.
(A person who takes life as a jest does not learn to be wary.)

A-e-k-sni, r-u Sgb; f akrgb tn l sde y l gba ons w; bni gb low ons.
He-who-frustrates-one, Segba's slave; he broke a gourd and went to ytown to hire a calabash stitcher; and a stitcher's fee is six pence.
(There is nothing one can do in the face of ingrained folly.) [43]

-e-sl lbwb; ni t u sl b w b einin.
What-is-put-aside is what-is-there-to-find; he who puts excrement aside will return to find flies.
(One reaps what one sows.)

--t-t-w okn-un bt j; b a b mu muy k?
One taste of wine and the belt snaps; what would happen in the event of drunkenness?
(One should match the response to the stimulus.)

Aiwr yn lj gboro pa.
It is an imbecile who is soaked in the rain in the middle of a town.
(Only an imbecile ignores a refuge when one is available.)

Aiwr yn n gbj l-u r.
Only an imbecile gets into a fight in defence of his town.
(A town's cause is no business of any one individual.)

Aroj b j j; ontj n s; ni t n n n dw dr.
Difficult-to-fight as the fight of the market place; the self-conscious person will not run, and the person beating him up will not stop.
(Too much concern with appearances exposes one to occasional inconveniences.)

A-w- k pa ow la.
A trader in soap does not make big money.
(One's success cannot exceed one's enterprise.)
See A r i lj, . . .

A-oore-jk-t-, b ale ni.
A-person-who-does-a-favor-and-squats-by-it is like a-person-who-has-done-no-favor.
(One should not dwell on what favor one has done.)

A funfun un bwn k r.
White cloth and stains are not friends.
(A person of good breeding does not associate with an ill-bred person.)

A rk fi bora.
Cloth fashioned from the bark of the rk tree cannot be wrapped around one's body.
(Always use the proper material for the job in hand.)

A t a b r lra ign, ti ign ni.
Whatever cloth one finds on the vulture belongs to it.
(The vulture may lack feathers, but it does not borrow from other birds.)

A-s-hnkl ba araa r nn j; ohun t wuni l e nl ni.
He-who-spies-on-others-from-behind-their-walls upsets himself; one does as one pleases in one's home.
(What one does in the privacy of one's home is nobody's business.)

tr b e kk k gb e fn t yw; a n ti f ynyn.
If one's head was a pot and one gave it to an enemy to inspect, he would say it was irretrievably broken.
(An enemy is not one to trust with one's destiny.)

Atgn gb.
The wind is impossible to carry.
(Certain propositions are unrealizable.)

tlw fi rn.
The palm of the hand is not good for stoking fires.
(One should not attempt difficult tasks without the proper resources.)

Atipo m er; n, Bb, mo rw funfun lko.
Atipo does not recognize beans, he says, Father, I saw white leaves on the farm.
(Ignorance is a curse.)

tnmn t tnmn.
All-day-long is no match for since-yesterday.
(The person who has endured since yesterday takes precedence over the person who has endured all day.)

A-tr-ohun-gbogbo-lw-lrun k knj.
The-seeker-of-all-things-from-God does not yield to impatience.
(The supplicant must be patient for an answer.)

A-w-fnni-k-t-dni, gb mj ni.
He-who-alerts-one-before-he-throws-one is a past master of wrestling.
(One would be wise to avoid adversaries confident enough to show their hands beforehand.)

-w-gb, f--gb t fi jj w mumi.
He-who-will-not-listen-to-talk, he-who-will-not-listen-to-counsel, who drinks water with the bare hand.
(The obstinate child drinks with the bare hand.)

wtl n j m gbn; m k gbn lsn.
Previous-instruction enables a child to understand coded speech; a child does not naturally understand codes.
(A clever child reflects the instruction he/she has received.)

Awo alwo la k d lmej.
It is another person's divination that one does not repeat.
(One might not put oneself out for others, but one will for oneself.)

wd k t wo karaun kr, k ni y fgbn e?
The hawk in the sky eyes the snail-shell slyly; what will it do with a snail.
(One should not waste one's time on a task one cannot master.)

Aw erin e gngan.
The elephant's hide cannot be used to fashion a gngan drum.
(Employ the proper material to the task in hand.)

Aw ld e gbdu.
The hide of a pig is no use for making the gbdu drum.
(Certain materials are of no use in some applications.)

Aw nu e l.
The skin of the mouth cannot be used to fashion a drum.
(Employ the proper materials for the task in hand.) [44]

y b sl, b sl.
The Colobus monkey jumps to the ground; it runs for home.
(When danger lurks, the wisest course is to run for safety.)

y gbn, gngb- s gbn; b gngb- ti br ni y tiro.
The Colobus monkey is wily, but so is Ogungb as Ogungb crouches, so the monkey tiptoes.
(They prey that knows its stalker's tricks is safe.)

yn gbdn.
The yn tree does not accept an axe.
(Certain approaches one must reject as improper.) [45]

yangb j dn; gbn k la j kj t yan?
Dry smoked fish is delicious, but what is one to eat before the fish is smoked?
(While one must look to the future, one must also take care of the present.)

Ay l, t .
The world goes forth, and we follow.
(One lives according to what life confronts one with.)

Ay - b lr; wn l eni le.
The world is not a thing to exchange threats with; it can inflict disaster on one.
(Be wary in dealing with the world.) [46]

Ay - fin hn; b o lgbn, fi skn ara- r.
The world does not deserve to be trusted; if you have a store of wisdom, keep it in you.
(People of the world are not reliable; whatever wisdom one wishes to pass on one should reserve for one's own use.)


1. The Yoruba name for pigeon, yl, means 'house bird.' The domestication of the pigeon gives it a higher status than that enjoyed by other birds.  [Back to text]


2. Muslims are understandably squeamish about blood from the deflowering of a woman. Alkoto here refers to a promiscuous woman, whose child one cannot expect to be well behaved. A female child is well behaved, while a male child is not.  [Back to text]


3. The quote is short for I almost hit the prey I was aiming at.  [Back to text]


4. lr is an j township. The name translates as Town of Riches.  [Back to text]


5. A sleeping person cannot be sure whether he farted or did not.  [Back to text]


6. Palm-leaf midrib is the material out of which arrows are made.  [Back to text]


7. A jackal is apparently no enticing food.  [Back to text]


8. The kneeling and sacrificing described here are the final activities in funeral obsequies. Thereafter the immediate survivors of the deceased turn to practical matters, like distributing the dead man's wives among themselves for support. Hired drummers are certainly not welcome in such matters. The greeting, oj frak, meaning, literally, the eyes do not have not missed one another, is spoken on leave taking, but it suggests that the person departing is really still present in spirit.  [Back to text]


9. The woman in question obviously has severe difficulty in reading intentions, and is unappreciative to boot.  [Back to text]


10. Note the play on the syllable, j, which as a word means fight, and which forms the main part of the name j, which can be taken to means a person who fights.  [Back to text]


11. The sound t suggests something that requires minimal effort, especially in diction.  [Back to text]


12. The proverb features a play on the word br, which is both the word for water melon and an adjective describing an evasive course.  [Back to text]


13. The saying is more a play on the syllables ba-ba (both with regard to the different tones it can bear, and taking advantage of its different meanings) than a real proverb. Bb means guinea-corn, and ow-o-baba (literally guinea-corn money) means copper coin, because guinea-corn is copper-colored.  [Back to text]


14. In Yoruba tradition the chameleon is a trusted servant of the gods. In the myth of creation it was the chameleon that was sent down to the newly formed earth to determine if it was firm enough yet for habitation.  [Back to text]


15. Ah is a cup cut out of a small calabash, and it is used in force-feeding babies.  [Back to text]


16. Ficus Asperifolia (See Abraham, 161).  [Back to text]


17. As part of Yoruba funerary rites, a chicken is sacrificed to clear evil forces off the way of the deceased's spirit.  [Back to text]


18. It is customary for litigants in Yoruba courts to state their cases on their knees. The proverb builds on the fact that chickens have no knees, and, therefore, cannot state cases kneeling.  [Back to text]


19. Snuff sellers use chicken feathers to sweep the snuff from the grindstone.  [Back to text]


20. pnr is a god for which the appropriate sacrifice is a chicken.  [Back to text]


21. d is a tiny gourd in which people keep charms, often serving as talismans.  [Back to text]


22. Before the advent of matches, people who wished to start a fire took live coals from an established fire to start their own.  [Back to text]


23. When the maize plant develops fruits the Yoruba say, y m literally, It has sprouted a child. The expression does not, however, mean that the people believe that the plant is human. Elephant grass is almost identical to maize in size and looks, even though it bears no fruit.  [Back to text]


24. After a mother has strapped her child to her back, she prevents the child from sliding down by passing a trip of cloth, j, under the child's buttocks and around to the mother's front, there tying it snuggly.  [Back to text]


25. The proverb derives from the fact that in means both mind and stomach. The expression, m in, means to know (someone's) mind. Thus, to see a person's stomach is not to know the person's mind.  [Back to text]


26. f, od (odd, oddr) and agnrn are all types of parrots. Because agnrn is considered favored by the gods it is usually sacrificed to them, while f, which is not so favored, is spared that fate.  [Back to text]


27. The size of the household, and the need to feed the many mouths, make even the pumpkin with its slightly bitter taste acceptable food.  [Back to text]


28. This is also a riddle whose solution is soap. The traditional soap is blackish in color.  [Back to text]


29. The observation suggests that the animal is so concerned about its possessions that it must carry its house along on every journey.  [Back to text]


30. The Yoruba expression, Egn gb , meaning literally, Egn (the incarnated spirit of the ancestors) has appropriated it, is a way of saying, It is lost to people. Compare, Kl gb e, and Or- gb e.  [Back to text]


31. Washing one's hands before meals is both a health requirement and a mark of social grace. It is a minimum requirement for the privilege of joining the elders at meals.  [Back to text]


32. This belief is reflected in the practice of paying homage to ay (meaning literally the world, but in fact the people of the world) before embarking on any venture; the gesture, people believe, will safeguard their venture from ill will.  [Back to text]


33. The point in this as in the next proverb is that there is really not trick to what Tortoise does, only the expected; what is important is that he knows how to do it.  [Back to text]


34. The explanation is that Tortoise one was in the company of more powerful animals. Whenever those animals had heavy loads to carry they sent for Tortoise, but the animal always refused to oblige, whereupon they gave it powerful blows on the head. At times, in order to avoid such blows Tortoise would carry the loads at the expense of its weak neck. Finally it learned to say Yes to every request but escape when the animals were not looking. The moral is that one may agree to every request, but one does not have to follow through.  [Back to text]


35. Parrots are associated with w, a town to which they faithfully return after their seasonal migrations-a relationship that recalls that of the swallows of Capistrano.  [Back to text]


36. ko is the dry leaf-stem of a palm-like tree, which makes a resonant clatter when it hits the ground.  [Back to text]


37. Cocoyams, Colocasia Esculentum (Araceae), also known as taro, is a variety of yams that the Yoruba eat only for want of something better. Farmers would rather plant the more favored variety of yams.  [Back to text]


38. The name Tmdire means My affairs have prospered. Although the name indicates that the bearer is the fortunate one, the person who calls the name says My . . ., thereby invoking good fortune on him/herself.  [Back to text]


39. Colonial policemen wore notoriously short pants as part of their uniform, giving rise to the suggestion or speculation that they were made out of remnants.  [Back to text]


40. This is a reference to incumbency of daily consultation of If on the priests.  [Back to text]


41. Ar run is the designation for masqueraders who are supposed to be the incarnated spirits of dead ancestors. Their costume is cloth shrouds, usually variegated strips that they do not bother to hem.  [Back to text]


42. The proverb came into being in the days of Kurunm the r (military ruler) of jaye in the 1820s. He was so powerful and so feared that people believed that even oracles could not deflect him from any course he chose to follow. See also, gblagb ti k r . . .  [Back to text]


43. The name Sgb (s igb) here means Calabash stitcher, literally Stitch Calabash.  [Back to text]


44. The reference here is obviously to the cheeks.  [Back to text]


45. The yn tree is used for house-posts and for carving drums, while the yn tree is used for axe and hoe handles.  [Back to text]


46. The world here stands, of course, for people at large.  [Back to text]