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


b wl ara n n ba k j.
The knife is destroying its own home, it says it is ruining the sheath.
(Said of people whose actions will hurt them more than they will hurt other people.)
This is a variant of Id wl ara-a . . .

b t bal k j, yl il k s .
The sort of stew the man of the house will not eat, the woman of the house should not cook.
(One should not do what one knows one's comrades hate.)

d m fi d er.
An idiot child that plays with d flowers.
(A simpleton does not know the value of anything.)

dd gba r, fi ab dn.
The porch does not accommodate standing people; only the shade of the (dn) banyan tree does.
(An invitation to repair to another place outside other people's earshot to discuss confidential matters.)

ff fohn akin.
The tree-bear wins renown with its voice.
(The loud person wins attention.)

gbn a-dk-kr t ti a-yw-m-r.
The cunning of the person who skimps on the measure of her corn meal is not as great as that of the would-be purchaser who refuses to buy.
(One does not have to patronize a dishonest trader.)

gbn dn-n gbn; m dn-n m.
Wisdom is a good thing to have; knowledge is a good thing to have.
(Always seek wisdom and knowledge.)

gbn ju agbra.
Wisdom is greater than strength.
(Always prefer wisdom to strength.)

gbn k tn.
Wisdom is never used up.
(There will always be a place and some use for wisdom.)

gbn la fi gb ay.
One needs wisdom to live in this world.
(Wisdom is indispensable.)

gbn laj fi pa kok b If.
It is cunning that the dog employs in order to sacrifice a wolf to If.
(A cunning person can get the better of people far more powerful than he.)

gbn n gun; mrn n t.
Cunning wins battles; knowledge defeats plots.
(Cunning and knowledge will help one prevail.)

gbn lgbn la fi gbn, mrn nkan t br.
One learns wisdom from other people's wisdom one person's knowledge does not amount to anything.

gbn lgbn j k pe gb n wr.
Other people's wisdom saves the elder from being called a lunatic.
(The person who can learn from others will avoid a lot of embarrassment.)

gbn t ahn gbn, hn ni y ma t ti gbn.
The cunning that the tortoise has will always rank behind that of the snail.
(Some people cannot hope to be more cunning than some others.)

gbn t pl fi pa fn l fi j .
The same cunning with which the toad killed the buffalo will show it how to eat the prey.
(If a person has proved himself capable of doing the impossible, one should not doubt that he can accomplish another.)

gbgbn lgblagb- fi s fn ranl.
It is with cunning that a grown man runs away from a bull.
(A grown person should know how to avoid disaster without losing face.)

j er l jiyn ohun.
It is on a playful occasion that one argues about matters.
(Arguments conducted in jest conceal some serious import.)

j tl- b lu onl, i mrn-n y.
The day the drum begins to beat the drummer is the day he should seek another employment.
(One should know when to abandon an unprofitable proposition.)

j t olw b ni -w-j-w-mu wf.
The day the person who did the hiring makes a sacrifice is the day the hired hand eats and drinks.
(The poor will eat when the rich provide a feast.)

kr sunkn agbd; y t j- d l k l fi e?eb igi l fi ngn.
The squirrel weeps for want of a stately garment; the garment the j bird made last year, what did it do with it? Was it not tree climbing it used the garment for?
(It is silly to hanker for something one cannot use anyway.)

k lk la fi gbn kt.
It is other people's hoe that one uses to clear a mound of rubbish.
(One is usually more respectful of one's own property than of others'.)

kkan l y s lbt.
One at a time is how one extricates one's feet from a mire.
(The best way to approach a problem is systematically.)
Compare kkan l y s lbt. The following entry is a variant.

kkan l y s lk.
One at a time is how one removes one's legs from a masquerade costume.
(The best way to approach a problem is systematically.)
Compare kkan l y s lbt.

knrin jj a-bw-kunkun.
An easy-going man's gentle mien hides a strong disposition.
(The quiet type is often a tough customer.)

l l l d bar?bar a ma e il l?
If the grindstone did not move, how did it get to bar? Is bar the home of grindstones?
People do not travel from home without some reason.) [105]

lgbn dor ja m; mg dr-u m.
The wise person grabs a fish by the head; the fool grabs it by the tail fin.
(The wise person knows better than a fool the best way to handle a situation.)

lgbn jni b mrn; aiwr jni b gbngbn.
The wise person bites one like a mosquito; the mad person bites one like a gadfly.
(Cautiousness will get one to one's goal far more successfully than brashness.)

lgbn l l m dt d.
Only a wise person can decipher the meaning of speech.
(The deep meanings and nuances of an utterance are for the wise only to understand.)

lgbn d ih, mrnn dr t ; lgbn n H, jde!mrn n H, mo k !lgbn n K lo k? mrn n K nw n- l jde?
The cunning man is watching a hole, and the knowledgeable person is standing by him; the cunning man exclaims, Ha, it has sprung out! The knowledgeable person responds, Ha, I have grabbed it! The cunning person asks, What did you grab? The knowledgeable person asks in turn, What did you say sprang out?
(Two matched wits are in contest.)

lgbn ni y jogn go; aiwr ni y ru tj wl.
The wise child will inherit glory; the idiot child will bring shame home with him.
(A wise child is to be preferred to an idiot.)

lgbn m n m in-u bb dn; aiwr m n ba in y j.
A wise child gladdens the heart of his father; an imbecile of a child saddens the heart of his mother.
(Every parent would prefer a wise child to an idiot.)

lj k wp kj t.
The owner of the market never wishes the market to be disrupted.
(People always want the best outcome for their ventures.)

lt k m m ll
The wine seller never realizes that his child is a thief.
(One is always blind to the flaws of those one loves.) [106]

lt n tun t; y - k nl, o gb e l sin sko.
lt says his ways are different; his mother dies at home and he takes her to the farm for burial.
(The unconventional person will always do things differently.) [107]

m atiro t ra bt fn bb , r l f gb.
The child of a cripple who bought shoes for his father is asking for a stern lecture.
(One must not be thoughtless in one's actions.)

m n dra, b-i k fi aya k.
One's child may be beautiful, but one cannot make her one's wife.
(Not all attractive propositions can be pursued.)

m ni lni j m ni; m eni -b jiyn, m ni lni a jk.
Other people's children are not like one's own; when one's child eats pounded yams, other people's children will eat corn meal loaf.
(One always favors one's own children over those of others.) [108]

m ni k gbns k fi esn n nd.
One does not, after one's child defecates, wipe the child's anus with the abrasive elephant grass.
(One does not deliberately injure those who look to one for protection.)

m in l rn sn.
It is the child of fire that one sends on an errand to fire.
(It is best to match the remedy to the problem.)

m- mi y la m; m- m y, gbn k r sr f, a m yn.
My child did not have enough to eat, we understand; My child had enough to eat but had no snuff to snort, that we do not understand.
(People should care for their children, not spoil them with over-indulgence.)

m t n baba k jj bi.
A fatherless child should not engage in an unjust fight.
(Never provoke trouble unless you have strong backers.)
Compare m t ny k dgb hn.

md kker m ogun, n kgun w, n bgn b d un a k syr y un.
A small child does not know what war is like, hence, he says that war should break out, for when it does he will go hide in his mother's room.
(Ignorance often leads people to bite off much more than they can chew.)

md k m kk t kr-kr fi kr.
A small child never knows when krkr takes its leave.
(Youth is a stranger to etiquette or protocol.) [109]

mde k m tn, k m -gb-w, k m j t a e d un.
A child does not know so much history and know so much hearsay that it knows the day of its creation.
(However knowledgeable a youth might be, some deep knowledge would be beyond him.)

md k m ori- j k m r a lnu.
A child is never so careful about eating corn meal that it does not smear the meal on its mouth.
(A youth may be clever, but he will inevitably make some mistakes.)

md k n ina nle k tde m j o.
A child does not have fire at home and therefore escape being burned by the fire abroad.
(Being secure and well respected in one's home does not save one from vicissitudes outside the home.)

md m sr, gbn k m ly.
A child knows snuff, but does not know how to grind and turn the tobacco.
(A child is good at consuming, but not at procuring.)

md n wn j ign, bb - n wn k j ; n nkn j r lj un; bb - n ta ni? n ni n s.
A child says that people do eat vultures, and its father says people do not; the child says someone did eat a vulture in its presence; its father asks, who? The child says the person is dead.
(The youth who attempts to challenge the wisdom of the elders will find himself tripped by his own mouth.) [110]

md mf, p lgbgi.
A child does not recognize a vegetable and calls it medicine.
(An uninformed person will inevitably make a fool of him/herself.)
Compare the following two entries.

md m ogn, p lfo?; k m p ik t pa baba un ni.
A child does not know medicine and he therefore calls it vegetables; it does not recognize it as what killed its father.
(People may call disasters on their own heads out of ignorance.)
Compare the previous and the following entries.

md mogn p lgn-n.
A child does not know medicine and says it is a thorn.
(The ignorant person knows not the value of anything.) [111]
Compare the previous two entries.

md y, ma w m lj, ni (t) a b l sde l w lj.
Child, keep your eyes on me; one keeps one's eyes on the person who takes one visiting.
(Always pay attention to what your guide and instructor does and tells you to do.)

mrn n m oyn gbn.
Only a sage knows the pregnancy of a snail.
(Deep wisdom is the gift of only a select few.)

p gbgb n nwj agbni.
It is a small walking-stick that goes before the person who walks a path overhung with foliage that is wet with morning dew.
(One uses the tools or weapons at one's disposal to tackle the challenges that confront one.)

p l y r.
Gratitude is what befits the slave.
(People should be grateful for whatever charity they receive.)

pl yn, b a b gb e lul, k n l fhn ire.
A person who is like the divining string: unless you throw him down he will not talk sense.
(Some people respond only to force.) [112]

pl n kj ma kl; j n di oj n.
The toad tells the snake to follow it, for it does not fight except by the roadside.
(Weaklings always make sure that saviors are around before they get into a fight.)

pl n n l sn lk; ta n j fi lk pl sd m- ?
The toad boasts that it knows how to string beads; who, though, would put a toad's beads around his child's waist?
(Not just anything will do for discriminating people.)

pl yan kd-kd-kd lju lgs; lgs gbd y i lata.
The toad struts nonchalantly before the person cooking gs stew; the person cooking the gs stew will never add it to the ingredients.
(A person outside one's jurisdiction may well taunt one.)

pl mn od, d s wd.
The toad does not know the way to the stream and turns matters into a jest.
(When one is stumped, one covers one's embarrassment with laughter.)

plp j n l egn wl kri-kri.
It is a deluge that chases the egn masquerader indoors indefinitely.
(When problems become overwhelming one has no choice but to succumb to them.)

rn kan la fi fin kan.
One problem serves as the basis for a law that will apply to another case.
(Experience serves as a precedence for future occurrences.)

rn lrn la fi kgbn.
From other people's problems one learns wisdom.
(One should learn from other people's vicissitudes.)

rn t sunwn, konko oj.
A matter that is unpalatable hardens the eyes.
(When one is in the wrong one hides behind braggadocio.)

r k gbrn k fi b b , nu la fi w i.
A problem is not so formidable that one attacks it with a knife; one tackles it with the mouth.
(The weightiest problem is resolvable through discussion and negotiation.)

r la fi j omitooro r.
Words are the things with which to savor the delicious broth of words.
(It is with words that one resolves all problems.)

r- ni un nl; ibi t wn b r ni wn ti s un.
Discourse says it has no home; people engage in it wherever they please.
(Any place is a good place for an exchange of views.)

r rere n y ob lp; r bbur n y f lp.
Good talk brings the kola-nut out of the pouch; provocative talk draws the arrow out of th quiver.
(Judicious language defuses problems, while thoughtless talk aggravates them.)

r t lgbn b s, nu aiwr la ti gb .
Whatever a wiseman says will be heard repeated by the nitwit.
(Romour mongers always distort the news they hear from reliable sources.)

r t doj r di ti lr, ay dhn.
A problem that is too complicated to resolve becomes the sole responsibility of the person concerned; the world leaves him/her to his/her devices.
(People will help one only so far; in the end each person must confront his/her problems alone.)

sn gb oj run le kk; b b w od, a di -r-pj-pj.
The bow-string is taut while it remains on the bow; dipped into the river it becomes very soft indeed.
(One thrives on one's home ground where conditions are ideal; in hostile territory one becomes helpless.)

sn run pn; ni t b y k ma b ti l.
It is not yet noon time in heaven; whoever is anxious to get there may go ahead by himself/herself.
(One is not eager to join others in deadly adventures.) [113]

w aiwr ni a gb b ap yya.
It is in the hands of an imbecile that one finds a severed arm.
(Simple-minded people do not know how to cover their tracks or get rid of the evidence.)

w- kk la fi w igi; w r la fi w fn.
The regard one has for the knob is the one with which one clothes the tree; the regard one has for the gods is the same that one invests the albino with.
(One extends the same regard one has for certain people to those associated with them.) [114]


105. The play is on the syllable l (which means to go) in the word l, grindstone.  [Back to text]


106. The wine seller leaves his child in charge, and does not realize that he has been cutting it with water.  [Back to text]


107. lt means One who is different.  [Back to text]


108. The assumption, of course, is that the mother has charge of her own children and others'.  [Back to text]


109. Kr means leave, or depart. Kr-kr, in accordance with Yorb word formation would thus mean one who departs. The idea here is that the child does not know the right time to leave a place.  [Back to text]


110. The phrase k s in Yoruba means there is none or there is not . . ., and when attached predicatively to a person it is a euphemism that the person is dead. In this case the statement that the person died does double duty in that it also literally supports the father's assertion.  [Back to text]


111. Ogun may refer to medicine or to charms. Much of Yoruba medicine is herbal; one can imagine a child who sees only thorns where a person knowledgeable about herbs would see a potent source of medicine.  [Back to text]


112. pl is the string the If priest (babalwo) divines with; it is cast on the ground, and the pattern of the nuts strung on it read.  [Back to text]


113. Noon time is considered the proper time after which one may pay a visit.  [Back to text]


114. The knob is the toughest part of any tree. The albino, like other so-called afflicted people, is a special ward of the gods.  [Back to text]