Part 5: On consistency; honesty, openness, plain speaking, reliability
A kì í pè é lẹ́rú, ká pè é lóbí.
One does not call it a slave and call it a child of the house.
(One must be clear about one's attitude to a thing or person; ambivalence causes trouble.)
A kì í pè é lẹ́rù ká pè é lọ́ṣọ̀ọ́.
One does not call it a burden and also call it an adornment.
(An event is either a boon or a disaster; never both.)
A kì í rí ẹṣin ní ìso.
One does not find a horse on tether.
(Too easy and too convenient a find suggests stealing.)
A kì í rí i ká tún sọ pé a ò ri mọ́.
One does not see a thing and then say one does not see it.
(Always stand by your word.)
A kì í ró aṣọ ajé sídìí ká dájọ́ òdodo lẹ́bi.
One does not wear the ritual loincloth for presiding over a trial-by-ordeal and judge the righteous guilty.
(One must not violate the oath one is sworn to observe.)
A kì í so ẹran mẹ́ran kó kàn án pa.
One does not tie a goat with another goat and keep one from butting the other to death.
(One must not injure a person committed to one's protection.)
A kì í sọ̀rọ̀ ìkọ̀kọ̀ kó má diyàn ní gba-n-gba.
One does not conspire in secret without the matter eventually causing a public argument.
(Whatever is done in secret soon becomes exposed.)
A kì í ṣe ẹlẹ́jọ́ ní “Ngbọ́?”
One does not ask the main litigant, “How about it?”
(Do not expect impartial witnessing from an interested party.)
Àbàtá pani; àbàtá pani; ká ṣá sọ pé odò-ó gbéni lọ.
He died in the mire; he died in the mire; let us simply say that the person drowned.
(One should prefer plain talk to euphemisms.)
Àbẹ̀tẹ́lẹ̀ ní ńfọ́jú onídàájọ́.
It is bribery that blinds a judge.
(Bribery beclouds judgement.)
Adánu tí ńjẹ ilá: ó ní “Ẹ ò rí ilẹ̀ báyìí?”
Cleft-lipped person eating okro; he complains, “Can you believe what a mess the floor is?”
(The culprit complains about a condition as though he or she had nothing to do with it.)
Àdàpè olè ní ńjẹ́ àfọwọ́rá.
It is simply a euphemism for theft to say àfọwọ́rá (literally, causing to disappear through the operations of the hand).
(The use of a euphemism does not change the nature of a thing.)
See the following entry.
Àdàpè olè ní ńjẹ́ “ọmọ-ọ̀ mi ńfẹ́wọ́.”
It is a euphemistic description of stealing to say, “My child's hands are uncontrollably nimble.”
(One should face facts and not skirt them.)
Compare the preceding entry.
Àdàpè ọ̀rọ̀ ò jẹ́ ká mọ ìtumọ̀ orúkọ.
Riddling makes it impossible for one to know the meanings of names.
(Circuitous talk is liable to lead to confusion.)
Adẹ́tẹ̀ẹ́ sọ̀rọ̀ méjì, o fìkan purọ́; ó ní nígbàtí òún lu ọmọ òun lábàrá, òún ja léèékánná pàtì.
The leper said two things, one of them being a lie; he said after he had struck his child with his palm, he also pinched him severely with his fingernails.
(One fools only oneself when one claims to have done the impossible.)
A-dọ́gbọ́n-pàgùntàn-jẹ Ìlárá, ó ní ojú ẹ̀ ḿba òun lẹ́rù.
Person-who-schemes-to-kill-a-sheep-to-eat, native of Ìlárá, he says that he is afraid of its eyes.
(One should avoid dissembling.)
Afasẹ́gbèjò ńtan ara-a rẹ̀ jẹ.
He who would collect rain water in a sieve deceives himself.
(The shiftless person hurts himself more than others.)
Afatarẹ́nilójú, alè-e baále.
One-who-smears-one's-eyes-with-pepper, one's husband's concubine.
(The illicit lover of a woman's husband is no friend of hers.)
Afẹ́nilóbìnrin ò ro ire síni.
He-who-has-an-affair-with-one's-wife harbors no good will towards one.
(One knows one's friends by their behavior.)
Afìkọ̀kọ̀jalè, bí ọba ayé ò rí ọ, tọ̀rún rí ọ.
You-who-steal-in-secret, if an earthly king does not see you, the heavenly king sees you.
(Nothing is hidden from God.)
Afọ́jú àjànàkú, kò mọ igi, kò mọ èèyàn.
A blind elephant does not know a man from a tree.
(Fate is no respecter of persons.)
Àfọwọ́rá ní ńjẹ́ olè.
Employing-the-hands-to-make-things-disappear is called stealing.
(Euphemistic circumlocution does not relieve a crime of its true nature.)
Agada ò morí alágbẹ̀dẹ.
The sword cannot tell the smith's head from others.
(Natural justice does not play favorites.)
Àgbàdo kì í ṣe èèyàn; ta ní ńrí ọmọ lẹ́hìn eèsún.
The maize plant is not human; who ever saw children on the back of elephant grass?
(One should not overestimate the value of things.)
Àgbàká lodi ńgba ìlú.
It is completely that a fortification wall encircles a town.
(Brook no half measures.)
Àgbàká nigbà ńgba ọ̀pẹ.
It is completely that the climbing rope encircles the palm-tree.
(What is worth doing at all is worth doing well; there will be no obstacle in the way of one's ventures.)
Àgbẹ̀ gbóko róṣù.
A farmer stays on the farm and sees the moon.
(The conscientious farmer spends long periods on the farm; persistence is the key to success.)
A-gbẹ́jọ́-ẹnìkan-dájọ́, òṣìkà èèyàn.
He-who-decides-a-case-after-hearing-only-one-side, (is) the dean of wicked persons.
(Justice requires considering both sides of a case.)
Àgbọ́ìgbọ́tán Ègùn, ìjà ní ńdá sílẹ̀.
Imperfect understanding of Ègùn (a language to the west of Yoruba) brings nothing but dissension.
(Half-knowledge is a bad thing.)
Àì-fẹ́-àlejòó-ṣe là ńwí pé “Ọ̀rẹ́ ọ̀rẹ́-ẹ̀ mí dé”; ká ṣáà ti wí pé, “Ọ̀rẹ́-ẹ̀ mí dé.”
Reluctance-to-extend-hospitality makes one say, “My friend's friend has arrived”; one should simply say, “My friend has arrived.”
(If one believes that one's friend's friend is one's friend, then one should not stress that the friend is once removed; one should avoid doubletalk.)
Àìfẹ̀sọ̀ké ìbòsí ni kò ṣéé gbè.
It is an alarm that is raised without moderation that finds no helpers.
(If the person who raises an alarm puts people off by his or her methods, they will not come to his or her aid.)
Ajá ní òun ìba má dèé oko rí òun ìbá sọ pé ọ̀run ni wọ́n ti ńkálá wá.
The dog says that if it had never been to a farm it would have thought that okra came from heaven.
(People are apt to hoodwink the innocent or the ignorant.)
Ajá tí ò létí ò ṣéé dẹ̀gbẹ́.
A dog without ears is no good for stalking prey.
(A person who cannot be instructed is useless.)
Ajá ti erée rẹ̀ẹ́ bá dánilójú là ńdẹ sí 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 Ajá to lè sáré . . .
Àjàlá, ta ní nà ọ́? Ìwọ náà kọ́ un?
Ajala, who whipped you? It is none other than you, isn't it?
(An evil does is often also a dissembler.)
Àjànàkú kúro ni “A rí ǹkan fìrí”; bí a bá rérin ká wí.
The elephant is more than something of which one says, “I caught a fleeting glimpse of something”; if one saw an elephant, one should say so.
(One should not hedge when one discusses the obvious.)
(The deceitful person deceives himself.)
Àjò àìwuniíyún là ńdÍfá sí.
It is a journey one does not want to make that one consults the oracle about.
(Where there is no desire, excuses are easy to find.)
A-kápò-má-ṣọdẹ, ọ̀tá ẹranko, ọ̀tá èèyàn.
He-who-carries-a-hunting-bag-but-does-not-hunt, enemy alike of man and beast.
(Be not a dog in the manger.)
Àkàsọ̀ faratilẹ̀ faratilé; bí ẹni tí a fẹ̀hìntì óò bá yẹni a wí fúnni.
A ladder rests on the ground and leans on the house; if the person one leans on must remove his support he should warn one.
(A person one trusts should be completely trustworthy.)
Akíni ńjẹ́ akíni; afinihàn ńjẹ́ afinihàn; èwo ni “Ọ kú, ará Ìjàyè!” lójúde Ògúnmọ́lá?
A person that will greet one should greet one, and a person that will betray one should do so; what is the meaning of “Hello, Ìjàyè person!” before Ògúnmọ́lá's house?
(One should not do evil to others in the guise of being good to them.)
Akọ asín kì í gbọ́ ohùn ọmọ-ọ rẹ̀ kó dúró; abiyamọ kì í gbọ́ ẹkún ọmọ-ọ rẹ̀ kó má tara ṣàṣà.
A male asín rat does not hear the cry of its young and remain still; a nursing mother does not hear the cry of her baby without responding anxiously.
(One must take one's chief responsibilities seriously.)
Alákatam̀pò ò mọ irú ẹran.
The user of a cross-bow does not know what type of game he shoots at.
(Some people lack a sense of discrimination.)
See Alápatà ò mọ irú ẹran.
Alápatà ò mọ irú ẹran.
The butcher does not know what type the animal is.
(A butcher is indifferent to the type of animal he butchers.)
See Alákatam̀pò ò mọ irú ẹran.
Amọ̀rànbini Ọ̀yọ́, bí o bá gbé kete lérí, wọn a ní oko lò ńlọ tàbí odò.
People-who-know-the-answer-yet-ask-the-question, natives of Ọyọ, 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.)
Apajájẹ-ẹ́ ní ẹ̀rù adìẹ ḿba òun.
The-person-who-kills-and-eats-dogs claims to be afraid of chickens.
(A hardened criminal pretends to have scruples about mere peccadillos.)
Apani kì í jẹ́ ká mú idà kọjá nípàkọ́ òun.
A murderer never permits the passage of a sword behind his skull.
(The criminal is ever suspicious of other people's intentions.)
Àpèjúwe lalágbẹ̀dẹ ńrọ̀.
The blacksmith manufactures from a description.
(Unless a person speaks his or her mind, others cannot know what the person has in it.)
Ará Ìbàdàn kì í ságun; à ó rìn sẹ́hìn ni wọ́n ńwí.
Ibadan people do not run from war; what they say is, “We will fall back a little.”
(There are ways of avoiding battle without seeming to do so.)
Arítẹnimọ̀ọ́wí, ó fi àpáàdì ràbàtà bo tirẹ̀ mọ́lẹ̀.
He-who-eagerly-speaks-of-one's-problems, he covers his own with a huge potsherd.
(People will talk about others' problems, while carefully hiding theirs.)
Àrókanlẹ̀ laṣọ ayaba; àwàkanlẹ̀ ni ti yàrà.
Wrapping-from-waist-to-the-floor is the style of the queen's wrapper; digging-down-to-the-deepest-bottom is the requirement of yàrà, the dry moat.
(Whatever one has to do, one must be thorough, and not be satisfied with half measures.)
Arúgbó oǹdágbèsè, ó ní mélòó ni òun ó dùúró san níbẹ̀?
The old person who incurs debt, he says how much of it will he be around to repay?
(A person whose days are numbered can afford to freely take on long-term obligations.)
Asárélówó ḿbẹ lọ́nà ogun; Apọ̀ṣẹ̀ṣẹ̀ ḿbẹ lọ́nà èrò; Bó-pẹ́-títí-ng-ó-là ḿbẹ lábà, ó ńjẹ ẹ̀sun iṣu.
He-who-hurries-after-riches is on his way to battle; He-who-has-in-abundance is off on his travels; By-and-by-“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.)
Àsọ̀rọ̀àìlàdí ló pa Elempe ìṣáájú tó ní igbá wúwo ju àwo.
Speaking-without-explaining killed the first Elempe who said that calabash was heavier than china.
(Excessive economy in speech leads to obscurity.)
Àṣá ò gbádìẹ níkọ̀kọ̀; gbangba làṣá ńgbádìẹ.
The kite does not snatch chicks in secret, it snatches them openly.
(What one dare do, one does openly.)
Compare Àìtóehínká là ńfọwọ́ bò ó . . .
Aṣeburúkú tẹsẹ̀ mọ́nà.
The evil doer makes a brisk exit.
(The evil doer would not wait for his nature to catch up with him.)
A-ṣọ̀tún-ṣòsì-má-ba-ibìkan-jẹ́; irọ́ la ó bàá níbẹ̀.
One-who-is-tight-with-the-right-and-tight-with-left-without-alienating-either; what one will find in that characterization is a lie.
(There is no way to be tight with both sides of a quarrel without betraying one side.)
Àwárí lobìnrin ńwá nǹkan ọbẹ̀.
Seeking-until-finding is how a woman seeks ingredients for stew.
(The dutiful person does not permit difficulties to keep her from accomplishing her duty.)
Àwíyé ní ḿmú ọ̀ràn yéni; ọ̀ọ́dúnrún okùn la fi ńsin ẹgbẹ̀ta; bí a ò bá là á, kì í yeni.
Explicitness makes matters clear; it takes three-hundred strings to string six hundred; unless one explains it, no one understands.
(Too much economy in speech leads to confusion.)
Àwíyé nIfẹ̀ ńfọ̀; gbangba lorò ńpẹran.
Explicitly is the way Ifẹ̀ speaks; it is openly that Orò kills animals.
(Whatever one has to say, one should say without mincing words.)
Àyè kì í há adìẹ kó má dèé ìdí àba-a rẹ̀.
The space is never so tight that a chicken will not be able to reach its incubating nest.
(No obstacle should keep one from one's duty.)
1. Okro, because of its sliminess, is difficult enough for a person with no labial deformity to eat.
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2. People are apt to be cryptic in naming their children. The Yoruba give names that indicate the circumstances of the family at the time of the birth, comment on the hopes of the family, or otherwise express the chief concerns of the people at the time. Usually, of course, only those who are intimate with the family understand the full import of the names, because they are not always explicit.
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3. When the maize plant develops fruits the Yoruba say,“Ó yọ ọmọ”literally, “It is carrying 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.
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4. Igbà is used by palm-wine tappers to climb palm-trees. It works the same way as the ropes lumberjacks use for climbing posts.
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5. A person who says his condition forbids eating, but eats six loaves as a means of expelling worms, is inconsistent, and deceives no one.
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6. During the internecine Yoruba wars of the nineteenth century Ògúnmọ́lá led Ibadan's forces in their war with Ìjàyè.
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7. During the internecine Yoruba wars of the ninetheenth century Ogunmọla led Ibadan's forces in their war with Ijaye.
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8. The reference is to a certain character who came to grief by asserting the point, without explaining that he was comparing a full calabash with an empty china plate.
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9. The message is that it takes a string costing three hundred cowries in the old currency to string six hundred cowries.
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10. The references are to the oracle at Ifẹ̀, and to one of the religious mysteries of the people, which is audacious in claiming its victims.
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