A proverb is a simple and concrete saying, popularly known and repeated, that expresses a truth based on common sense or experience. ~ Wikipedia
According to Lord John Russell, a British Prime Minister from the 1800s, “A proverb is the wit of one, and the wisdom of many”. I rather agree with that short and sweet description! One thing is for sure, every culture has proverbs that reflect the wit and wisdom of its people. They tend to be easy to remember and beneficial to heed.
We Americans have many commonly known and repeated proverbs (though some may originate from other countries). Here are just a few:
- A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.
- Good things come to those who wait.
- If the shoe fits, wear it!
- Slow and steady wins the race.
- An apple a day keeps the doctor away.
Interestingly, this last one had a different wording in its first recorded use in 1860s Wales: “Eat an apple on going to bed, and you’ll keep the doctor from earning his bread.”
And speaking of going to bed, there’s America’s own Benjamin Franklin’s bit of advice that “Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise” and “Never leave that till tomorrow which you can do today.” He had many other bits of advice but those are two of my favorites.
Now here’s a selection of sayings from around the world that resonated with me:
- A wise man never knows all, only fools know everything – African proverb
- Every day of your life is a page of your history – Arabian proverb
- Be not afraid of going slowly, be only afraid of standing still – Chinese proverb
- Bad is never good until worse happens – Danish proverb
- However long the day, the evening will come – Irish proverb
- One who smiles rather than rages is always the stronger – Japanese proverb
- Listen, or your tongue will keep you deaf – Native American proverb
- He who pelts another with pebbles asks for stones in return – Nigerian proverb
- He who grasps at too much, loses everything – Portuguese proverb
- Better bread with water than cake with trouble – Russian proverb
- If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there – Ugandan proverb
- A fool says what he knows, and a wise man knows what he says – Yiddish proverb
Researching proverbs enlightened me to how much wisdom exists among people of varying cultures. With some, it was hard to select just one proverb!
Here are just a few more in visual form, just because I liked them so much!
Finally there is a book in the Bible named “Proverbs”, sometimes referred to as the Book of Wisdom. A portion of the book is credited to Solomon, son of David, often called Wise King Solomon. Indeed it contains 31 chapters full of wisdom and advice for a happy life. Chapter 1 verses 2 and 3 state the book’s purpose to be That men may appreciate wisdom and discipline, may understand words of intelligence; may receive training in wise conduct, in what is right, just and honest. Indeed I would say the various proverbs I’ve come across endeavor to satisfy this description.