Archive for December 6, 2008

Kazakh Proverbs and their English Meanings

The following proverbs are from a little gem of a book titled “Kazakh Traditions and Ways” compiled by Tleuberdi Nusipbai and published in 2002.  Most of these Kazakh proverbs require meanings for better understanding in English.  In fact, I may have gotten some explanations wrong from what I pulled out of the context of the paragraph in which these jewels were nested.  If you are a Kazakh reader and know a better meaning, please do correct them in the comments section.  Or better yet, add your own proverbs with meanings.


“If sister-in-laws were friendly, there would be much food.”


“A mountain eagle shares his food, but an owl would hide the food under his backs.”  Something about having someone who is skilled at slaughtering sheep and cattle, they must be treated generously because in the older times Kazakhs respected those who did manual labor or craftsmanship.


“First of all you need health, then a white shawl (a wife) and five sheep.”  It was assumed that if you did not sell 12 sheep and if you kept them safe from wolves and thieves, in five or ten years a herdsman might have five hundred of his own.  So being a herdsman was considered an honorable trade which could lead to prosperity.


“Trade occurs while you are stroking your beard.”  Brokerage is a very profitable trade and to be successful at it you must be a vivacious and eloquent orator as well.


“Uishi would walk among the woods in the same fashion that a critic would walk among countries.” A uishi is a house builder or in early Kazakh times, the frame of the yurts.  He would always keep his eyes open for trees he could use for the next project.


“Do not consider a sorcerer a husband, nor a male bull a cattle.”  Neither is likely to ever be found at home.


“Cattle are found by cattle, not by man.”  It means that gradually a herdsman would improve his financial position.  Kazakhs consider a good flock of sheep to number about five hundred.


“Instead of leaving cattle, you should leave a tree.”  During Nauryz the entire aul (village) would go to greet the sunrise.  From early morning men would then dig irrigation ditches and begin to plant.  The women would water the trees.


“Let the ground be soft for him.”  This is what friends would say of someone who had died and was about to be buried.


“Death would waste a wealthy man’s cattle.” Or Kazakhs would say, “People are born to die.”


“A husband for the tokal, the cattle for baibishe.”  Baibishe is the first wife but when the husband takes a second wife (tokal) into the yurt then more than a healthy rivalry happens if the jealousy of the first wife is aroused because of the husband’s attention to the younger, more glamorous new wife.


“If your wife would give birth to a daughter and mine to a son, we would be kinsman.”  This meant that close friends would share almost everything, in fact, their friendship would be passed to the next generation.


“My mother’s and my husband’s brothers are all wealthy people, how can I be poor?”  In Kazakh tradition, the youngest son would inherit all of the property and cattle.


“Snow rises from Frost.”  Babies required “lubricating” in order to grow and so the baby’s parents would use melted fat from the sheep’s tail on the baby’s body and while rubbing the grandmother would stretch his legs and hands to grow.







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