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قيل لي
I was told


حتى واحد ما لقاها كيف بغاها
Nobody has ever lived the way he wished

By: M. Abdessalami

            It is quite interesting that most proverbs play the role of the helm of life. As a living oral collective memory of old experience, proverbs work like a gear which must lead people in the right path towards noble objectives. In order to correct misbehavior or to remind others of how well-mannered deeds look like, people quote proverbs instead of being too long in explaining or commenting on an event, a conduct or an act. Here we can borrow the Chinese proverb :"One proverb is worth ten thousand words". Some of these proverbs bear years of trying endeavor and experience. Therefore we should be thankful to the old generations who transmit their experiences in short concise expressions to teach us the skill of living, good manners and conduct to set up a harmonious society.

            All nations have got their own repertoire of proverbs but they eventually dovetail with each other because those proverbs are the outcome of human experience which is normally the same everywhere and every when. No doubt proverbs are one of the springs from which the human expertise emerges albeit other sources aliment it like religion, wise sayings and scientific facts; and this is another story.

            "Never put yourself completely between the hands of your friends for one day they may turn against you" is a wise proverb that can be universal because people everywhere in the world share the quality of being "suspicious". Moreover many people can be disloyal to their friends. Because of some personal gain or interest, they easily betray one another.

            Younger people repeat their ancestors' words in the form of very brief rich utterances that rarely change in form and content with time; unless some transformation occurs in the society or new factors interfere and make the proverb hard to understand or explain. They keep repeating them so as not to commit the same mistakes the older generations made. So the idea that those who repeat proverbs all the time are unable to express themselves is not quite sustained as an argument. These proverbs are the gist of life itself. From the stupid mistakes we make throughout our experiences with life we can forge new proverbs as the outcome of those experiences. Our grandchildren, then, will repeat them so as to anticipate and subsequently do not repeat the same errors to progress safely. It is true that the proverbs donít create a successful society but they pave the way to make the successful social norms reachable.


            We can substantiate that only proverbs need not be translated because they have their matches in the other cultures.

            These are surely adaptations of the same proverb. Nevertheless, there are others which are different in text and diction but they have the same context and meaning. These are examples of the same proverb in two different old nations' cultures notably Britain and Morocco:

            Many other examples are available in almost all cultures. There is always an equivalent to any proverb you have in mind in another culture. It is human, isn't it?

            These are the same although they stem from completely different environments. There may be some interaction but the fact that one of the cultures adopts a proverb from another culture, means that people on this planet are of the same nature, otherwise proverbs will be useless where other norms and civilizations are established. I mean that despite the diversity of civilizations and modes of life, the human nature remains the same. Take these examples of different proverbs from different civilizations and see if they aren't universal:

Now let's have a look at proverbs from different ages: You can quote as many as you like, but the human experience is not restricted. As a result, the most important part of our lives nowadays is made up of recorded proverbs. I use these as examples to show that we, human beings, share the essence of the experience in life no matter how different our backgrounds are. Another fact worth mentioning is that a proverb could be used in a culture while its origin is in another. Sometimes we use this expression, "as the French proverb goes Ö" (or so) to make allusion that the proverb is not local but it works though. Very often we don't bother mention the source on the basis that all proverbs are a part of mankind heritage no matter what nationality they are. Consequently, I believe the use of proverbs in their international spirit smashes the boundaries that may have been installed through the times of foolishness humanity had undergone all over recorded history.

            Here is a list of local Moroccan proverbs that I tried to translate into English. If they are understood as the original version, surely they will have corresponding ones in your culture, or else they will, at least, be accepted because they are the product of human experiences in its universal sphere. I wish I succeeded to transmit my idea which, I assume, is so common that it may reflect what you already know.

Enjoy these Moroccan proverbs and feel free to send feedback or comments.

  • The determined ostrich hunter will surely meet one
  • He who has been bitten by a snake is afraid of a rope.
  • We hope we aren't forced to choose among hurting things.
  • Every beetle is a gazelle in the eyes of his mother.
  • The liar cheats the greedy.
  • If you play with a dog, it will lick your lips.
  • He who chooses to be a grain, the hen will eat it.
  • He who wants honey should bear bees' stings.
  • He who follows the right path, thorns will not hurt him.
  • He who bites you and you don't bite him in return, you are toothless.
  • One is carrying it; the other is suffering from its heaviness.
  • The camel doesn't see his heap; he rather sees that of his friend.
  • It is shameful if the camel climbs up the roof, but the coq is used to that.
  • The chicken in agony, her eyes on food.
  • The hen washed its legs and forgot its dirty past.
  • No lamb has ever been born with its wool on.
  • Lies have got no legs.

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Moroccan Proverbs
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Here is a list of links for your quest:

  • Proverb(e)s in alphabetical order (English & French)
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  • Match English and French proverbs.
  • Proverbs and sayings. (In Arabic)
  • Most typical Moroccan proverbs. (In Arabic)
  • Different proverbs from different nations. (In Arabic)
  • Dog, cat and horse in language use: proverbs, idioms and sayings.
  • Proverbs, Hummmm ... Proverbs that's all!
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