Archive for November 14, 2008

Meanings behind Kazakh Names and Proverbs

Good to be home to warmer Almaty after two days away in Karaganda, the northern part of Kazakhstan.  The university people treated me so well, part of Kazakh hospitality.  I had three minders that helped me get around from start to finish.  Irina met me at the train station upon my arrival, Aigul sat with me during the conference sessions and translated. Finally, Aigerim brought me back to the fast Spanish train last night.  I gave a workshop yesterday morning for about 90 minutes concerning my paper “Kazakhstan’s Orality vs. InfoLiteracy” and it was well received by 50-55 Kazakhstani teachers.  I asked them to answer several questions for me and one of them was what their names mean:


Aigerim = beautiful moon

Aigul = moon flower

Aizhana = moon spirit or beautiful moon

Akmaral = female deer with very beautiful eyes

Albina = white deer

Damira = stone

Dinara = Arab coin, money

Gulmira = flower of the world

Khalida = long living or eternal

Safura = wisdom

Saule = a ray

Umit = hope

Zamzagul = vivid flower

Zarina = gold ring

Zhanargul = shining flower


As you can see, anything name with “gul” in it means flower.  Now the following are what I asked of my eager teachers what some of the Russian or Kazakh proverbs are that they know.


From Aigerim:  “Fall Down in the Fire for your Motherland, You won’t be burned; Get into the water and you will not drown.”

Means:  Do the best for the sake of your country.


Three great proverbs from Akmaral:

Stupid head disturbs the legs (Kazakh proverb means worrying too much is a waste)

While a bald man combs his hair, the party is ended. (Kazakh-Russian – means vanity to go to party is useless)

The dog asks dog, that dog asks the tail (Kazakh – means too much bureaucracy which puts off the one who questions something to the next level of authority, passing the buck)


Yana wrote:  “Don’t open your mouth at somebody’s cake.”  Means that you should not eat the bread that someone else has baked, don’t use someone else’s effort and claim as your own.


Another Aigerim wrote:  “A girl has got 40 souls or lives.”  Kazakh proverb [my thoughts on this which puts the women’s lib mantra to shame.  Kazakh women know who they are and their place in society, it is highly exalted]


Irina wrote:  “A cat in gloves cannot catch a mouse.”  [no explanation but I think it means that you are ineffective if you are hesitant to do something]


Aizhana wrote: “Meet with clothes but pass by mind.”  When you meet a person you didn’t see his clothes but you see whether his spirit is beautiful or not.


Another Irina wrote:  “To live with wolves, to talk as a wolf.”  Means if you are to succeed in the society of wolves, you have to be like them – [negative connotation, if you are with aggressive people, you must also become aggressive and pushy]


Gulmira wrote:  If the girl grows, it will be the beauty of the nation; If the flower grows, it will be the beauty of the earth.


After the workshop, I then went with Damira to Dolinka, the karlag museum about 50 kilometers away.  The roads could have been icy but they were not, just slushy and the weather was foggy.  Leaving Karaganda it was warmer than upon my arrival but I was glad to be on my fast train home.  My wonderful husband was there to greet me.

Tomorrow I will show photos of the conference and of my excursion outside of Karaganda.

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