Episode 7 – Four common proverbs

Bakery hands knead bread.

In this episode we will be speaking about a few common proverbs used in Lebanon. Proverbs are used a lot in the Lebanese dialect and daily conversations, and many of them are hard to understand without knowing the story behind them or at least learning their explanation. The proverbs we will speak about in this episode are, “Your neighbor before your house”, “Drop the pitcher on its mouth, the girl would resemble her mother”, “Give your bread to the baker, even if he ate half of it”, and finally “Haleema went back to doing her old habit”.

Lebanese-Arabic Transcript and English Contextual Translation

1

مرحبا وأهلا وسهلا فيكن من جديد معي أنا مريم بحلقة شعبية وتراثية عاللانغويج وايف.

Hi everyone, and welcome back with me Mariam to a new cultural episode on Language Wave.

2

بحلقة اليوم رح نحكي عن الأمتال الشعبية. والمتل هو جملة قصيرة انحكت بعد قصة صارت مع ناس من زمان، وتحوّلت لعبرة أو حكمة بيستعملوا الناس لحد اليوم بحياتن اليومية للتذكير بهيدي العبرة. العبرة هي متل نتيجة لقصة بتساعدنا نتعلم دروس بالحياة من ناس غيرنا مرقو بإشيا بتشبه ظروفنا أو قصصنا.

In today’s episode, we will be speaking about common proverbs. A proverb is a short sentence that has been said after a story that some people lived a long time ago, and it later became a maxim that people use in their daily life to remind others of this maxim up until today. A maxim is like a conclusion that comes out of a certain story, one that helps us learn lessons in life from other people who went through events and circumstances similar to ours. 

3

الأمتال الشعبية حاضرة علسان الكل. ولاد، شباب، كبار بالعمر. يعني وين ما كنت وبأي نوع من الأحاديث ممكن تسمع هيدي الأمتال. قبل ما نبلش خلوني قلكن إنو القصص اللي رح خبركن هي عن هالأمتال مش بالضرورة تكون مزبوطة أو فعلا هيك صارت، بس هي قصص انشهرت بين الناس وصار الكل يحكيا عن هالمتل أو هيداك.

Common Proverbs are used by everyone; kids, youth, and elderly. So wherever you were and in any type of conversation, you might hear these proverbs. But before we start, let me just point out that the stories I will tell about these proverbs are not necessarily true or did happen exactly like this. They are stories that became famous between people and everyone started telling about this proverb or that.

 4

أول متل رح نحكي عنو هو “الجار قبل الدار”، وحبيت إني بلشفيه لأن بيحمل معانيكتير حلوة بتدل على أهمية الجار ببلادنا الشرقية، والعلاقة القوية اللي كانت تربط الجيران ببعض لحد ما يصيرو كأنن بيت واحد.

The first proverb we will talk about is “Your neighbor before your house”. I wanted to start with this proverb because it holds very beautiful meanings that highlight the value of neighbors in our eastern countries, and the strong bond that connected neighbors to each other until their houses became as one.

5

بقولو انو قصة هالمتل بترجع لسنين كتيرة لورا. بس ما ذَكرو بأي بلد أو مدينة. والقصة بتقول إنو كان في زلمة اسمو أبو دف البغدادي، جارو وقع بأزمة مالية صعبة كتير واضطر يعرض بيتو للبيع حتى يقدر يوفي ديونو. وبالفعل عرض الجار بيتو بألف دينار. كل الجيران قالو لهالرجال إنو بيتو بيسوى خمسمية دينار بس، وأبو دف كمان رجع حاول يقنع جارو إنو البيت بيسوى بس خمسمية.

They say that the story behind this proverb dates back to a long time ago, but they did not say in which city or country. The story says that there was once a man named Abu-Daf Al-Baghdadi. His neighbor went through a financial crisis that he had to sell his house in order to repay his debts. And as said, the neighbor offered his house for sale in exchange for 1000 Dinar. All the neighbors told this man that his house is only worth 500 Dinar, and Abu-Daf tried again to convince his neighbor that the house is worth only 500.

6

جارو لأبو دف كان عندو جواب بفاجأ كتير، وقلو إنو هو عم ببيع البيت بخميسمية، والجيران بخمسمية تانية. وأكدلو لأبو دف إنو وقت اشترى البيت من عشرين سنة كان يفكر بالجيرة –يعني الجيران- كتير. وبالفعل مع السنين ربطتو بجيرانو علاقة صداقة وأخوّة وشاف منن كل خير وأديش هني أصيلين. أصيلين يعني ناس عندا مبادئ وأخلاق وشهامة. ولمن ولادو تزوجو وبعّدو عنو، رفض يترك جيرانو وعشرتو معن لأنو قيمتن بتسوى قيمة بيتو.

Abu Daf’s neighbor had a very surprising answer. He told Abu-Daf that he was selling the house for 500 and the neighbors for another 500. He assured Abu-Daf that when he himself bought the house twenty years ago, he was giving much consideration to the neighbors. And as the years passed, a great relationship of brotherhood and friendship connected him to his neighbors, from whom he saw every good and authenticity. We mean by authenticity good principles, ethics, and nobility. When his kids grew up, got married, and left him, he refused to move out and leave his neighbors and the great bond connecting him to them, because their value equaled the value of his house.

7

لمن أبو دف سمع هيدا الحكي، تكفّل بكل ديون جارو، ودفعلو كل شي عليه  حتى يضل ببيتو. من هون صارت الناس تقول الجار قبل الدار لمّا بدن يدلو على أهمية الجيران وكيف إنو قيمتن من قيمة البيت، ولما بدن يذكرو انو الشخص لازم يوقف حد جيرانو ويساعدن بأي أزمة حتى لو قبل بيتو.

When Abu-Daf heard these words, he took care of all of his neighbor’s debts at his own expense, and he paid back everything so his neighbor may stay in the house. After this, people started saying “Your neighbor before your house” when they want to indicate the importance of neighbors, and how they are worth the same value of one’s house. Also, when they want to remind that a person should help his neighbors in any situation even if at the expense of his own house.

8

المتل التاني بقول “طب الجرة عتمّا بتطلع البنت لإمّا”. طب يعني وقّع أو كب، والجرة هي متل بريق مي بس معمول أو مصنوع من فخار. يعني كأن المتل حرفياً عم يقول كب البريق عتمو بتطلع البنت بتشبه إمّا. هالمتل بيستعملوه عادةً وقت بدن يخبرو أديش البنت طالعة بتشبه إمّا.

The second proverb says “Drop the pitcher on its mouth, the girl would resemble her mother.” The pitcher here is the ancient water pitcher made of clay. Literally, the proverb is saying, drop the pitcher on its mouth and the daughter will grow up resembling her mother. This proverb is usually used when people want to point out how much a daughter resembles her mother.

9

بقولو إنو قصة هالمتل بترجع لبنت بقديم الزمان خلينا نحنا نسميا ليلى. ليلى كبرت وتزوجت، وحماتا – يعني إم زوجا ورح نسميا ناديا- كانت تبعتا عالنبع لتعبي جرات المي. ليلى انعرف عنا إنا بس ترجع من النبع بتتفركش وبتوقع كتير ومرات كانت توقّع كل المي اللي بالجرات وتكسِّرُن.

They say that the story of this proverb revolves around a girl in ancient times, let us call her Leila. Leila grew up and got married. Her mother-in-law (we will name her Nadia), used to send her over to the water spring so she would fill the clay pitchers with water. Leila was known to stumble a lot and fall many times on the way back from the spring, and sometimes she would lose all the water in the pitchers and break them.

10

وبيوم من الايام بعد ما ليلى خلفت وصارت إم، وكبرت بنتا شوي، قررت حماتا ناديا تغيظا – يعني تناكدا أو تقهرا. وقررت ناديا تبعت بنت ليلى عالنبع بدال ليلى لتفرجي الكل إنو بنت ابنا أشطر وأذكى من ليلى. راحت البنت الصغيرة عالنبع تعبي مي وهي وراجعة تفركشت وكسرت  كل الجرات ورجعت لعند ستا ناديا وإمّا ليلى عم تبكي. ستّا هون ضحكت كتير على شبه البنت لإما حتى بهالشغلة وقالت “طب الجرة عتما بتطلع البنت لإما”.

One day later, after Leila had given birth, became a mother, and her daughter grew up a bit, her mother-in-law Nadia decided to tease Leila by sending Leila’s daughter to the spring instead. Nadia wanted to show everyone that her granddaughter was smarter and cleverer than Leila.  The little girl went to the spring to fill water, and on her way back she stumbled and broke all the pitchers. The girl came back crying to her grandmother Nadia and her mother Leila. The grandmother here laughed a lot at how much the little girl resembled her mother even in this detail, and she said “Drop the pitcher on its mouth, the girl would resemble her mother.”

11

تالت متل رح خبركن عنو هو “عطِ خبزك للخباز ولو أكل نصّو” وهيدا المتل عادةً بتستعملو الناس لتقول إنو سلّم أي شغلة للخبير فيا ولو أخد نصّا. 

The third proverb I will tell you about is “Give your bread to the baker, even if he ate half of it.” People usually say this proverb when they want to advise about handing any work to the expert in it even if he took half of it.

12

بيحكو إنو كان في خبّاز كبير بالعمر عندو فرن، وكانت مصلحة بيشتغل فيا من سنين، ولمن عجّز وما عاد قادر يدير الفرن، سلم الشغل لشاب بيشتغل عندو وقلّو الفرن صار الك. وخبر الشاب إنو هاي مسؤولية كبيرة لأن كل الحي بيعتمد على خبز الفرن بالأكل اليومي. وحدد للشاب كم رغيف بتحتاج كل عيلة بالحي لأن ما لازم يزيد الخبز حتى ما يضطرو يكبوه وما لازم ينقص عن حاجة الناس. وقال للشاب إنو هو بيحتاج أربع ترغفة خبز كل يوم لإلو ولمرتو.

They say that once, there was an old baker who owned a bakery and had been working in this industry for many years. When he became too old to run the bakery, he passed it on to a young man who worked for him and told him that the bakery is now his own. He told the young worker that this is a big responsibility given that the entire neighborhood relies on the bread from the bakery for their daily meals. He specified to the worker how many bread loafs each family in the neighborhood needed because the bread should not exceed people’s needs so they would not have to throw it away, nor should it come out less than people’s needs. And then the old baker told the worker that he needs four loafs of bread each day for himself and his wife.

13

بعد فترة، قرر الشاب يعيد حسابات الفرن، ولقى إنو الخباز الختيار -يعني الكبير بالعمر- هو ومرتو كتير عليُن أربع ترغفة خبز، وصار يبعتلُن بس رغيفين بدون ما يشاورُن أو يسألُن. وبيوم من الأيام ضهر الشاب ليشتري دجاج من السوق بس ما لقى. ولأن الخبّاز عندو قن دجاج وهو اللي ببيع للسوق قرر الشاب يزورو ببيتو. لمن وصل شاف بقن الدجاج الكبير –يعني قفص الدجاج- بس دجاجة وحدة، فسأل مرت الخباز ليش باقي بس وحدة.

Sometime later, the worker decided to recalculate the bakery’s accounts, and he found that four loafs of bread were too much for the old baker and his wife. So, he started sending them only two loafs without asking or consulting with them. One day, the young man went to the market to buy some chicken, but he did not find any. And because the old baker owned a hen, and he was the main chicken distributor to the market, the young man decided to visit him in his home. When he arrived, he saw in the baker’s big hen only one chicken, and so he asked the baker’s wife about the reason there is only one left.

14

قالتلو انو هي وزوجا من زمان ما عاد قادرين يضهرو عالسوق ويجيبو علف أو أكل للدجاج، لهيك كانو معتمدين عالخبز اللي بيجين من الفرن. كانت تاكل هي وزوجا رغيفين وتيبس رغيفين لتطعمين للدجاجات. لمن الشاب صار يبعتلن بس رغيفين، بطل عندا أكل للدجاج وهيك صارو يموتو الدجاجات وضل عندن بس دجاجة وحدة. قالتلو للشاب “بسبب قلة خبرتك وغلطتك بالتقدير حرمت الحي كلو من الدجاج.. يا ابني عط خبزك للخباز ولو أكل نصو.”

She told him that for a long time ago, neither she nor her husband were still able to go to the market and buy food for the chicken, and that’s why they started to depend on the bread they receive from the bakery. She would eat two loafs of bread with her husband and dry the other two loafs to feed them to the chicken. When the young man started sending only two loafs, she no longer had food for the chicken, and that’s how they started dying one after another until there was only one chicken left. She told the young man, “Because of your lack of experience and wrong estimation, you deprived the entire neighborhood of chicken. My dear son, give your bread to the baker, even if he ate half of it.”

15

المتل الرابع والأخير اللي نحكي قصتو هلأ هو “رجعت حليمة لعادتا القديمة”. وهيدا المتل بيستعملوه وقت حدا يكون معروف عنو عادة أو شغلة معينة بيعملا كتير، ويحاول يغيرا، بس بعد فترة ما بيقدر وبيرجع يعملا نفسا.

The fourth and last proverb we will speak about is “Haleema went back to doing her old habit”. This proverb is usually used when someone is known for practicing a habit or doing something regularly and tries to change it. But after a while he would not be able, and he again starts doing the same old habit.   

16

بقولو قصة هالمتل بترجع لمرتو لحاتم الطائي. حاتم الطائي هو شاعر عربي قديم كان معروف كتير بالكرم مع إنو كان وضعو المادي على أدو، يعني ما عندو كتير مصاري أو أملاك. لدرجة إنو مرة إجا لعندو ضيوف جوعانين بوقت كان في جفاف لأن ما عم ينزل شتا والزراعة ما عم تنتج منيح فالناس ما عندا شي تاكلو، لهيك ومن كرمو، دبح الفرس اللي عندو – يعني حصانو- حتى يطعمين، وهيك صار مضرب متل بالكرم.

They say that the story of this proverb belongs to Hatem Al-Tae’s wife. Hatem Al-Tae was an ancient Arab poet who was very famous for his generosity even though his financial situation was limited, and he did not own much property or money. His generosity reached to an extent that one time he was visited by hungry guests in a time of drought, and nobody had anything to eat. Thus, and out of his generosity, he butchered his horse in order to feed them, and that is how he became an icon of generosity.

17

مرتو لحاتم كان اسما حليمة وما كانت متلو. كانت مثلاً تبخل كتير بالسمنة اللي بتحطا بالاكل. السمنة هي دهن متل الزبدة مثلاً بس بيعملوا من لبن المعزة أو البقر وهي بتزيد دسامة الأكل وبالنسبة لبعض الناس بتزيد طيبتو كمان. حاتم الطائي حب يطلّع حليمة من البخل بهالشغلة، فقلا إنو جدودن حكو إنو كل ملعقة سمنة بحطا الانسان بالأكل بتزيد يوم بعمرو. وهيك صارت حليمة  كل يوم تزيد السمنة بالأكل، وصار أكلا أطيب يوم بعد يوم.

Hatem’s wife was called Haleema, and she was not like him. For example, Haleema was very frugal especially when using ghee in food. Ghee is kind of a solid fat like butter produced from the yogurt of goats or cows. It increases the fat in food and for some people, it increases its savory as well. Hatem Al-Tae wanted to rid his wife of her frugality in this, and so he told her that their ancestors once said that each spoon of ghee a person puts in food adds one year to his lifetime. That’s how Haleema started increasing the spoons of ghee in food each day, and her food was becoming tastier day after day.

18

وبيوم من الإيام بموت إبنن الوحيد، وأد ما بتزعل حليمة عليه بتصير تتمنى الموت. وبترجع بتصير تنقص السمنة بالأكل حتى ينقص عمرا. هون الناس قالو المتل المعروف “رجعت حليمة لعادتا القديمة.”

One day, the couple’s only son died, and Haleema’s enormous grief made her start wishing death. She again started decreasing the spoons of ghee in food so that her lifetime becomes shorter. Here, people said the known proverb “Haleema went back to doing her old habit.”

19

لهون منكون غطينا أو شرحنا بهالحلقة أربع أمتال مع قصصن، اللي هني “الجار قبل الدار”، “طب الجرة عتما بتطلع البنت لإمّا”، “عطِ خبزك للخباز ولو أكل نصو”، و”رجعت حليمة لعادتا القديمة”، على أمل إنو المرة الجاي اللي بتكونو عم تتحدثو فيا مع حدا ويستعمل هالأمتال بحكيو، تعرفو بالضبط شو قصدو من اللي قالو.

Till here, we have covered or explained in this episode four proverbs with their stories. These proverbs are, “Your neighbor before your house”, “Drop the pitcher on its mouth, the girl would resemble her mother”, “Give your bread to the baker, even if he ate half of it”, and “Haleema went back to doing her old habit”. Hopefully the next time you would be chatting with someone and he uses these proverbs, you will know exactly the meaning of what he said.

20

بالخلاصة في كتير أمتال بتحكيا الناس بالأحاديث اليومية لتعبر عن مواقف أو عبرة بالحياة. في أمتال ممكن الشخص يفهما من السياق أو المعنى العام للحكي، وفي منن صعب الواحد يفهمن بدون ما يعرف القصة اللي إجو منا.

In conclusion, there are many proverbs that people say in their daily conversations to express stances or a maxim in life. Some proverbs can be understood from the general context of the conversation, and others are hard to understand without knowing the story they came from.


Comprehension Questions (try to answer the questions while speaking out loud to yourself and using full sentences in Lebanese-Arabic) 

  1. What is the meaning of the proverb “Your neighbor before your house”? Do you agree with the proverb? And, why or why not?
  2. What is the meaning of the proverb “Drop the pitcher on its mouth, the girl would resemble her mother”? Do you know any mothers and daughters who have this dynamic?
  3. What was the mistake the young baker made in the proverb “Give your bread to the baker, even if he ate half of it” and how should he have acted based on this proverb?
  4. How did Hatem Al-Tae trick his wife and why did he do so in the story about the proverb “Haleema went back to doing her old habit”?
  5. Why do people use common proverbs in conversations?

 

Vocabulary Table

#

Lebanese-Arabic

English Transliteration

English Translation

1

عبرة

E’bra

Maxim

2

درس

Dares

Lesson

3

نتعلم

Net’aalam

Learn

4

مثل

Matal

Proverb

5

الجار

Al-Jar

Neighbor

6

دار

Dar

House

7

قيمة

Kimeh

Value

8

جرّة

Jarra

Pitcher

9

إم

Em

Mother

10

تم

Tem

Mouth

11

بنت

Benet

Girl

12

خبز

Khebez

Bread

13

الخباز

Al-Khabez

Baker

14

خبير

Khabir

Expert

15

عادة

A’deh

Habit

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