As I’ve written before , I like to collect proverbs from different countries because they reflect the nation’s life and character. With Myanmar in the news because of President Obama’s visit , I thought it would be a good time to list some Burmese proverbs . Rather than those which are familiar to us as re-workings of proverbs from other countries , I’ve chosen those which seem , to me , unique to the country and its people . I’ve also included my own thoughts about some of them . These proverbs are taken from several sources and , where I felt the translation left something to be desired , I’ve reworded them in a way that makes sense to me, and I hope to readers of this post.
1.Those who have the same ideas may become enemies .
2. He who is too kind hearted becomes a slave .
3. One sesame seed won’t make oil.
4. Seven days is the length of a guest’s life . Elsewhere , I have heard that “Fish and guests begin to stink after three days” . Looks like the Burmese are more hospitable than most !
5. A hero appears only when the tiger is dead.
6. Use a needle now or you may need an axe later. Obviously the same thought as : “A stitch in time saves nine ” but I liked this version , too.
7. No child was born without being conceived . Reminiscent of ” Where there is smoke , there is fire.” but not quite .
8. You can pull back your leg but not your promise.
9. Mango among fruits , pork among meats and tea among leaves ( are the best ). I was a little surprised by this one. Since the Burmese are devout Buddhists I didn’t expect any reference to meat in their sayings.
10.If you take big paces , you leave big spaces. This one puzzles me . Is it the same as ” Haste makes waste .” ? The wordplay ( ‘paces’, ‘ spaces’) is obviously the work of the translator ; I wonder what the original in Burmese said .
11. A genuine ruby won’t sink and disappear in the mud . A reminder that Burma produces many gemstones . I guess this echoes the English proverb ” Cream always rises to the top.”
12. No matter how much care is taken , someone will always be misled . Ain’t that the truth ?
13. Only with a new ruler do you realize how good the old one was.
14. The anger of the prudent never shows.
15. You can stop speaking to someone but you can’t stop being related.
16. One without learning has to carry others’ burdens .
17. Even the son of the foolish can be a sage ; even the son of a poor man can be rich. Do not be contemptuous of anyone .
18. The weakest man can cause some hurt.
19. Anthills are formed from particles of dust; raindrops when collected can fill a big pot.
20. Old cows like young grass. Another puzzler .
21.Water can wear away even the hardest rock.
22. Only true friends will tell you when your face is dirty.
24. The top of a pinnacle now , firewood soon.
25. The more violent the love , the more violent the anger.