Posts tagged proverbs

More Kazakh Proverbs (Part II)

Goodness (Jaqsılıq)

*198-5: Arıqsız semiz bolmaidı, jamansız jaqsı bolmaidı.

There is no fat without thin; there is no good without bad.

*305-5: Jaqsınıŋ ashuı – jibek oramal kepkenshe.

The anger of a good person dries up like a silk scarf.

Honor (Ar)

204-5: Atalı sözge arsız ġana talasadı.

Only a person without honor disputes the time-tested words.

*300-4: Jaqsıda kek joq, jamanda tek joq.

The good man has no vengeance; the bad man has no ancestry.

Humanness (Adamgershilik)

169-4: Adam bolıp turan soŋ; adam bolıp ölgen jön.

Since you were born a human being, die a human being.

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Our Guests: Anara and her family

What fun to meet and spend two days with Anara and her family.  We got to know her and her mother Encar better, also there were two daughters under the age of three to add to this mix. (think distractions) I asked both of them to tell me some Kazakh proverbs and what I learned from this is that proverbs don’t just come out at one’s bidding. I know this from prior experience that you have to talk on other subjects for them to erupt into the middle of the conversation. However, one proverb that Anara focused on was: “The daughter is a guest.” This means that whenever girls marry they leave their home, seemingly for good.

Anara explained how there are really two kinds of events when a marriage happens, that is if there is no “kidnapping of the bride” which is cheaper and more like elopement. The first is when the father has asked the courting man for a kind of dowry and the husband-to-be is to come up with that be it money or livestock or whatever is agreed upon. Everyone is sad, there is crying and wailing (I’m not sure if this is put on for drama effect or if in fact the daughter is really going to be missed). Then, the second ceremony is when the bride does all the crying and when she enters into her new family of her husband’s family there is a certain protocol of who says what when and she is to bow to each member of the family and someone is to take her veil away. It seemed fairly complex in the explaining of a Kazakh tradition in English. Encar, Anara’s mother would say things to her in Kazakh, then Anara would translate that to me.

I got some facts wrong about Kunaev in my blog post yesterday (Thanks for pointing that out Otto). Because of this tedious procedure of waiting for the translation and writing it down with wrong spelling, I made a major mistake. Kunaev was NOT a good Kazakh. Also, if I do NOT write something down I hear or think I heard, should not trust in my rusty memory.

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Kazakh Proverbs from Anara, our guest

The following proverbs I got from a Kazakh woman and her family, they are staying with us. Anara couldn’t translate some of the proverbs I used yesterday. Some just do not adequately translate into English to be understandable. These are the ones Anara’s mother often told her.  Encar is staying with us also with two little girls. Full house!

Proverb meant for girls – “If a cow’s eye doesn’t wink, then the bull will not break the chain.” (everything depends on what YOU do as a young woman, she must be careful. Otherwise you can get into trouble.)

“There is no job for lazy people.” (if you want to work, you will always find work because there’s always something to do, but a lazy person will use it for an excuse.)

If you are an intelligent person you can beat 1,000s, but if you are a strong person with muscles, only one.

The good wife will bring her husband to a place of honor but if a bad wife she will put her husband to the threshold of the door.

If you want marry a good wife, look at her mother; if a good man, look at his father.

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Kazakh Proverbs on Shame

The following Kazakh proverbs have to do with shame. I’m ashamed that my place is in such disarray after teaching four weeks of summer school. InTENsive summer school. Some of the proverbs are understandable, a couple I could use some Kazakh readers comments to help explain.

The man is unashamed and satisfied; the woman is dissatisfied and modest. (maybe this means the man doesn’t have shame so he can stop (in an argument) but the woman does have shame and cannot stop (she keeps talking).

Shame is stronger than death.

The ashamed (girl) cannot not just stand still. (if you are ashamed you will not stand up with straight posture.)

The shameless one eats what is not designated for him.

The unashamed (i.e. uninhibited) person should be a singer, the industrious person should be a cobbler (tailor) who makes boots. (if you are not shy you should be a singer, if you are not lazy you should be a shoe maker.)

The unashamed face usually has a tireless jaw.

Three things are without shame: sleep, laughter, food.

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Kazakh Proverbs about Oaths, Vows and Speaking

“If you are guiltless, don’t take a vow.”

“The man who does not keep his word is a dead man.”

“The one who speaks thoughtlessly will die without being sick.”

A precious word is of greater value than a special gift.

“If you speak gentle words, the snake will be drawn out; if you speak harsh words it will drive the Muslim from his faith.”

“Misuse of what was entrusted is a great shame” (Amantqa qiyanat, zor uyat)

All the above Kazakh proverbs are familiar to our culture, similar to “A man’s word is his bond.” I believe there needs to be more of the truth telling and less of the shame of misusing (i.e. telling lies) in our society. I think I understood that last proverb right, correct me if I am wrong. I think this means that we are entrusted with truths and we need to dispense with what is true to others in order to honor what we heard when we speak to others.

I forgot to add the following proverb that Erik had categorized under friendship in my earlier blog. I like this one particularly because I know some perfectionist type people who this sadly fits them, they have very few friends:

“He who seeks a faultless/perfect friend remains friendless.”

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Kazakh Proverbs about Death

I need some help by a native speaker of Kazakh to help explain the following proverb, the other Kazakh proverbs are much easier to figure out.

“The soul with a throat (i.e. the living person) – one death. (for the living person death is a sure thing)

It is easier for a person to give up his soul than to rid himself of a bad name.

“The man faces death, but not insult.”

The following proverb could be an expression that was oft repeated before the Great Patriotic War. Many Kazakh and other Central Asian men sacrificed their lives for the Soviet cause of fighting the Nazis. However, after a while, there were no men left to fight.

“Man’s heroic death increases brave men.”

Maybe related to that is this proverb: “The male lamb – a sacrifice.” (translated from “Erkek toqti – qurbandiq”) Many men’s lives were sacrificed in the second world war to supposedly end all wars.

“You may lose your life, but don’t lose your beloved wife.”

I love this last one above, it shows that Kazakh men honored their women folk by being ready to die for them. A wife who is beloved and cherished will most certainly be praying and waiting for her husband to return from the hunt or war or whatever danger he might engage in.

The Kazakhs are said to be very brave, especially those who are from the countryside. In the old days, before Soviet industrialization, they had to fight off wolves, leopards and other predatory animals in order to protect their livestock.

One last Kazakh proverb which was categorized by my friend Erik under Death (Olim) was this:  “Cattle — the sacrifice of life; soul–the sacrifice of honor.”

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Kazakh Proverbs on Honor

The following Kazakh Proverbs about HONOR are fairly self-explanatory. Again, these are from my friend Erik who has collected quite a few proverbs. Naturally we all want to be respected and honored. I especially appreciate the second proverb about ancestry. The Asian cultures do a far better job of appreciating their ancestors almost to the point of idolatry. (A Kazakh, a GOOD Kazakh is supposed to know the names of their ancestors back seven generations. Typically Americans only know their great grandparents names, going back only three generations).

Perhaps we go the other direction when we typically honor and esteem those who are young and beautiful. However, young kids want to look more grown-up, while middle aged people want to reverse their age to look younger. Older people in the U.S. are not as comfortable with their waning years. That’s regrettable since I believe older people have much to offer with their acquired wisdom that can be bite-sized down to pithy sayings such as these proverbs. Not sure I understand the third one below about a “bad man’s soul is esteemed.” Perhaps that is true after he has passed away. Any help from my Kazakh readers?

Only a person without honor disputes the time-tested words.

“The good man has no vengeance; the bad man has no ancestry.”

“The bad man’s soul is esteemed; the good person’s honor is esteemed.”

“If you are poor, don’t be ashamed (to ask for something).” In contrast to the proverb: “Even being poor have a clear conscience.”

“The thief eats others’ cattle, the thief devours his own honor.”

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Kazakh Proverbs about Friendship (Dostyk)

The following Kazakh proverbs were found and have been documented by my Minnesota friend Erik, whom I mentioned in yesterday’s blog. He is doing his Ph.D. dissertation on this topic and more specifically on Kazakh proverbs having to do with shame and honor. The word for friendship in both Kazakh and Kyrgyz is “Dostyk.” That may explain why main streets or hotels in both Almaty and Bishkek go by that name. Both nationalities are friendly and welcoming people.

I like the following proverbs because they are easy to figure out. The others that Erik discovered, after learning the Kazakh language and living in Kazakh for over a decade, need a bit more explanation.

Gentleness is not smallness, but humanness.

The sign of humanity is to bow when greeting; the sign of true friendship is punctuality. (As a teacher, I LOVE this one about punctuality!!!)

The Road separates road-mates. (Perhaps this could be in reference to the Silk Road when friends must part)

When you go through hard times, the friend comes along side you.

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Nurlan’s proverbs with meanings


Do something instead of talking.( Instead discussing activity, you should do this activity).


Little business is better than lots of time of idleness. (It is better to do something than do nothing).


If you don’t walk, you never fall. (If you do nothing you will never make mistake).


If you sell something without mind you can lose money. (Before do something you should think about it carefully).


A money does not smell. (It doesn’t matter what you do, when you earn money).


The weak peace is better than big quarrel. (It is better to find compromise than begin war).


A money is good servant, but bad owner. (You should manage a money, but a money shouldn’t manage you).


A kind word treats, but a wicked word kills. (In a difficult situation word of approval better than criticism).


Even a dog remembers, who feeds it. (If you help somebody they don’t forget it).


In a healthy body is a healthy spirit.


One book teaches a thousand people.


You should repair sledges in the spring and a wheels in the autumn. (Any business requires preliminary preparation).


The spring isn’t beautiful in a foreign county. (To any man nowhere is as good as at home).


Any family has a fool. (At any society there is an individual who always harms).


Many men, many minds.


Without working you don’t catch a fish.( If you want something you should be hardworking).


The silence is gold. (If you talk a lot you can say foolishness).


The sun also has spot. (There are no people without failings).

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Baurzhan’s 23 Proverbs

1         The eyes afraid – hands doing

2         If too afraid of wolves –  do not go to the forest.

3         In the cultural country respect the teacher.

4         Risk – precious thing.

5         The problem will call the problem.

6         If poor marrying then the night will seem beautiful

7         The trouble doesn’t go alone.

8         The poor aren’t afraid of death.

9         Who get up early- will get more.

10     Men is head wife is neck.

11     Married me without me.

12     The rich will not understand poor.

13      Wealth is the water.

14     Will be day will be food.

15     Take the wife looking at her mother.

16     The road of the girl is narrow.

17     Thief is scared of own shadow.

18     Wife is the soul of her husband.

19     Wedding and death – sisters.

20     Money opens all doors.

21     The law was created for the rich and punishment for the poor.

22     The knowledge is better than wealth.

23     Talk less do more.

24     Little people see big dreams.

25     With people the dark days seems holidays.

26     The sugar is sweet but can’t change the bread.

27     Want to know the future of people look at the young generation.

28     To dream a lot – to dream nothing.

29     Who helps others will achieve own dreams.

30     The bag of dreams doesn’t have a bottom.

31     Not all married women – wives.

32     Don’t ask from whom travels a lot ask who knows a lot.

33     You can know when you study you can reach when you go.

34     No one wants to dance under the fear.

35     Don’t be afraid of the beginning, think about the finish.   

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