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Part 5: On consistency; honesty, openness, plain speaking, reliability


g k; n b b sb- r, a pa k pt-pt.
The g trap never misses; whatever passes beneath it it strikes dead.
(A certain person, or thing, can be relied upon to do what is expected of him, her, or it.) [14]

gbtl: b a b l , k yni.
gbtl: if one does not explain it, no one understands what it means.
(Ambiguous statements result in confusion.) [15]

-k-f-mi-k, t ta aj-a r lk.
You-have-not-seen-the-last-of-me, who sold his dog for twenty cowries.
(A person duped without his or her knowledge will be back for redress once the fact dawns on him or her.)

l lr; b a b l rr n r.
Statements must be clarified; if they are not, they become muddy.
Compare the following entry.

l lr; bbnrn b jk a la bb.
Statements must always be clarified; when a woman sits she covers her genitals with her wrapper.
(One must always be clear in one's speeches or intentions.) [16]
(This is a variant of the preceding entry.)

lr n yanj j; lr k e elgb.
It is a witness that clears up a case; a witness is not a partisan.
(People called to bear witness in a case should be impartial.)

mej let lj gbr.
The ears of the king hear everything twice.
(Whoever will judge a case must hear it twice from both sides of the dispute.)

ni a k f nil-e r jnna lj ni.
It is a person one does not love whose house is distant in one's estimation.
(One can always find an excuse for not doing what one does not wish to do.)

n b sn l j, a k j apirr.
One wakes only those that sleep; one does not wake those pretending to sleep.
(One should deal with people who are in earnest, not with gamesters.)

n gb rn pam kj ore ongn.
Whoever conceals a disease is beyond help from a doctor.
(People in need of help should not conceal the fact.)

ni t a n n km mf, t n kan oo l ba un, nbo nyk sn s?
A person who is hit six times with a club and says only one blow landed; where did the other blows disappear to?
(A person who tries to minimize his or her obvious misfortune deceives no one.)

ni t s l l.
People chase only those who flee.
(Those who act as though they are guilty are the ones presumed to be guilty.)

ni t b ma j kl a j kl; ni t b ma j okolo a j okolo; wo ni kl-okolo?
Whoever wants to be known as kl should be known as kl; whoever wants to be known as okolo should be known as okolo; what is the meaning of kl-okolo?
(One should make up one's mind to be one way or the other, and not keep straddling fences.)

ni t b m e knkn, k m d p lr; ohun a e n mni- rnde ru; knkn y m yn.
Whoever knows what darkness can do must not antagonize the moon; one's actions sometimes send one abroad at night; roaming around in the dark is not a becoming habit.
(It is best to cultivate those forces that might serve one well in the future.)

ni t e oj k da b ni t e hn.
The person who honors one in one's presence is nothing like the person who honors one in one's absence.
(It is what people say of one, or what they do on one's behalf, in one's absence that matters.)

ni t f kure, k hw rere.
Whoever wishes to die a decent death, let him or her live decently.
(As one lives, so one dies, and so one is remembered.)

ni t sn t n n k, t b j, ta ni y w fn?
The person who is asleep but spreads the word that he or she is dead, when he or she awakens whom will he or she tell?
(If one paints oneself into a corner one is truly stuck.)

ni t gbn t pur; ni t mrn t k; ni t m p nkan s t tr; wo l sn nn wn mtta?
The person who is wise and yet lies, the person who knows the truth and yet dissembles, the person who knows one has nothing and yet asks something of one, which is any good among the three?
(The liar, the dissembler, and the one who would embarrass one, are all equally evil.)

ni t gbpo lj jal b ni t gb sl fn un.
The person who removes oil from the rafter is less a thief than the person who helps him set it on the floor.
(The abettor is more a culprit than the perpetrator.)

nkan k y k il s.
When a person slips, the earth may not deny responsibility or knowledge.
(For whatever one does, one should be willing to accept responsibility.)

nu pr k j.
The liar's mouth does not bleed.
(Lies have no tell-tale labels attached to them.)

nu-u r n d igba, t d dnrn.
His or her mouth is the same one that proposes two hundred and proposes three hundred.
(An unreliable person's mouth is ever running, and what comes out of it is not to be trusted.)

ran t a k j, a k fi ehn pn in.
Meat that one does not eat, one does not bite into allotments with one's teeth.
(One should be unequivocal in one's commitments or avoidances.)

tn k e gbn.
Deceit is no wisdom.
(Deceit is not a reliable strategy to count on.)

w y k dn, w y k dn, pk m tt.
These beans are not delicious, these beans are not delicious, yet the coiffure at the occiput is shaking vigorously.
(A person's actions towards a person or thing belie his or her detracting comments; if one claims to dislike something or someone, one's actions should not say the opposite.)

yl n un l b olwa un j, k un b a mu, k di j ik-u r k un yr.
The pigeon says it cannot share its owner's food and drink, and then, when the day of his death arrives, duck its head.
(If one shares the good times with a person, one should be prepared to share the bad times also.)


14. g is a trap made of sharp spikes, designed to impale from above whatever trips it.  [Back to text]


15. The word gbtl could be a contraction of either igba mtl (2,600) or gb mtl (26,000).  [Back to text]


16. The second part about a woman's genitals is gratuitous flippancy; it takes advantage of the syllable l (in l), which means clarify, and also denotes the action of passing one's loincloth between one's split thighs so as to cover one's genitalia.  [Back to text]