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Part 3: On cageyness, caution, moderation, patience, and prudence


Kk k sn lra y j, fi gbogbo m b obnrin; ye gor y.
Instead of mother-witch's affairs improving, all the children she bears turn out to be female; birds climb upon birds.
(Despite all efforts the fortunes of a person continue to be bad.) [52]

Kk k m bb rn, mrn ni k n- e m.
Instead of apologizing for past misbehavior, a child should rather guard against a repetition.
(One should look to the future and not dwell on past mistakes.)

Knk ttor okan kngb.
Knk set fire to the forest on account of a single cowry shell.
(It makes no sense to lose control of oneself over trifling matters.) [53]

Kker ej, m foore e .
However small the snake, show it no mercy.
(Better be safe than sorry.)

Kker la ti pa kn rk; b b dgb w k k a m.
One kills the roots of the rk tree while it is still a sapling; when it matures it is out of control.
(One should take care of problems before they become unmanageable.)

Kker nmle- ti k m- l.
The muslim teaches his children how to squat from their youth.
(One should do things in a timely manner.) [54]

Krgb t k lrn ni y jwe b gb ti so un k.
The neckless gourd will itself indicate to the farmer how to tie it up.
(A difficult person prompts others as to the best way to handle him/her.)

Krgb t f a pad lhn od.
The broken gourd ceases plying the river.
(One should know when to stop pursuing an adversary.)

K a ba l m p Wr pa aw, wn n Kb; n Knkn lp.
Just so that people might know that Woru killed a partridge, he was greeted Welcome, and he responded, My hunting-bag is full!
(Said of people gratuitously proclaiming their accomplishments when no one is interested.)
Compare the next entry.

K a ba l m p jp e gbni, wn n Kb; n Awo b gbr?
Just so that people might know that jp (the tortoise) has joined the secret society, he was greeted Welcome, and he responded, Initiate or a novice?
(Said of those who unnecessarily flaunt their accomplishments.) [55]
Compare the preceding entry.

K a ma re tb k ma wk, kj t kanr k wo oye ka t y k.
Let us keep on cutting tobacco leaves to pieces while looking up, and let us see at day's end how many fingers will be left.
(One should pay close attention when one is engaged in dangerous work.)

K fn fr, k jm s-i, kan y gbl.
Between blowing a flute and wriggling one's nose, one will have to go.
(One cannot hope to perform two conflicting activities at the same time.)

K jnn sj t a b lr; ik t y panni a jnn sni.
One should stand far back from a snake that has not been beheaded; the death that would kill one deserves a wide berth.
(One should recognize dangerous situations and keep away from them.)

K l akt jnn k t b ad w.
One should first chase the jackal away before reprimanding the chicken.
(One should get rid of the immediate danger before reprimanding those who caused it.)

K si k lw lw db-i k m- n.
To work and make a great deal of money is nothing like knowing how to spend it.
(Riches are nothing if one does not know how to use the wealth.)

K ta sl k ta snu, k m j k til p ju ti in igb l.
Let us place some on the ground and put some in the mouth, but let what is placed on the ground be more than what is left in the calabash.
(One should do one's duty by others, but not at the expense of one's provision for the future.) [56]

K tan in pa agbnrn, k fp gbr pej, k dtf k fi gbw lw- ng; n oj-u Mdiyn lagara- e dni.
Let us light a lamp to kill the wasp; let us use a long stick to kill the snake; let us light a torch to secure the help of ang when one is face-to-face with Mdiyn enter into no dispute one runs out of patience.
(One should adopt the appropriate solution for every problem instead of entering into long disputes.)

K t m p kjp k e aw, di dn mta.
Before one realizes that tough hand-woven cloth is not leather, three years will have passed.
(It might take time, but one will eventually realize that one is not invulnerable to misfortune.)

K b lw yn k b sl; w lmrn n b s.
It never slips out of a person's hand and fall to the ground; it always drops into someone else's hand.
(Other people always stand ready to appropriate whatever one carelessly lets slip through one's fingers.) [57]

K e oj-u klkl lad ti j.
It is not in the presence of the fox that the chicken forages nonchalantly.
(One would be foolish to let down one's guard when one knows that danger is nearby.)

K tn ngb osn k m ba l j.
The calabash of camwood is never so empty that it can not soil white cloth.
(Some people or conditions are so unredeemable that no matter what one does they persist in being evil.)

K tt y onbrd; dgb t b di mta kb.
The bread seller never learns in time, not until his ware has become three a penny.
(People hardly learn to mend their ways until they have suffered some reverses.)

K tt yni: we l ni.
One never learns in good time: that is a profound proverb.
(People tend always to learn wisdom too late.)

K ni y apr lr t mkn ld?
What got into the bald person that made him/her swim under water?
(One should not unnecessarily endanger oneself.) [58]

K ni olgn w t fi jna mle? kt l f m ni, tb r n d?
What was the cat doing that caused it to be burnt in a house fire? Was it looking for its trousers or gathering its property?
(One should not put oneself in the path of avoidable dangers.)

K onklk rra e ; fj b l fa a ya.
Let everybody take matters easy; the vagina cannot tear a cloth by gaping at it.
(Over-excitement accomplished little; it is far better to take life easy.)

Kt ml; k si b r da nkan.
Sudden pouncing does not capture greatness; working like a slave does not ensure anything.
(One does not guarantee greatness for oneself by slaving.)

K s aj t k gb; gbj aj l p n dgblugi.
There is no dog that does not bark; excessive barking by a dog is what makes people say it is rabid.
(No person is without a flaw; unbounded flaws is what gives people a bad reputation.)
Compare Gbogbo aj l j im . . .

K s gb t a d a t a rl fi w.
There is no time one makes a dress that one lacks opportunities to wear it casually.
(There will always be time for one to enjoy what one has worked for; one should not be unduly impatient.)

K s ohun t le t k r.
There is nothing that gets hard that does not eventually become soft.
(Every problem eventually becomes solved somehow.)
Compare K s ohun t l sk t k n pad w sl.

K s ohun t sr- s t k jinn.
There is nothing that patience cooks that is not well cooked.
(Forbearance overcomes all things.)

K s ohun t l sk t k n pad w sl.
There is nothing that goes up that will not eventually come down.
(One should not be too impatient in anticipating the inevitable.)
Compare K s ohun t le t k r.

K s ohun t yra pa ni b r sj.
There is nothing that kills faster than talking too much.
(One should govern one's mouth.)

Kkr t jf jre f; wn lewko dra m.
The insect that eats the vegetable wins the case against the vegetable; leaves should observe moderation in their attractiveness.
(A person enticed to a crime is not as guilty as the person who did the enticing.)

Kkr ej, ilkn t la fi .
The key of excess is usually good only to open the door of disgrace.
(Excess brings disgrace.)

Kk-kk j k m ni t rn dn.
The woman who divorces husbands at the least provocation does not allow one to know when a matter really hurts.
(Habitual overreaction defuses real alarms.)

Kkt kan k fni lpo lmej.
No one stump can break one's oil-pot twice.
(The same disaster should not befall a person twice; one usually learns from experience.)

Kn yn, kn w b ik er.
Hurry forth and hurry back like a messenger ant.
(Said of people who are too restless to stay still.)


52. Witches are believed to change into birds for the trips to their nocturnal covens and also when they go on any errand.  [Back to text]


53. One cowry shell was the very smallest amount in traditional Yoruba currency.  [Back to text]


54. The reference is to the squatting posture muslims adopt during their ablutions.  [Back to text]


55. The point is that one does not have to be an initiate to offer ordinary greetings to a person, and initiates are not debarred from responding to greetings from non-initiates.  [Back to text]


56. It is customary when one eats to place a little of the food on the ground for the ancestors.  [Back to text]


57. The expression b lw (It has slipped out of the hands of . . .) expresses the sentiment that the person is no longer worth bothering about.  [Back to text]


58. The proverb is based on the proposition that a bald person under water could be mistaken for some aquatic animal.  [Back to text]