Episode 27 – Two common proverbs

Has someone you know acted petty even when they have everything they need? Or have you ever been surprised that everyone around you does not see the obvious logic you see so clearly? Well, Mariam has two perfect proverbs to help you in such situations. In this episode, she tells us the stories behind these proverbs and how and when to use them. But, be careful. Not everyone takes kindly to being indirectly told they are immature or illogical. Proceed cautiously and don’t say we didn’t warn you!  😀

Lebanese Arabic Transcript and English Contextual Translation

1

يمكن وحدة من أصعب الأشيا علينا لما كنا ولاد صغار، ونحب نقعد مع الكبار، ونتسمع على أحاديثن كانت الأمتال. أساساً، شو هو المتل وليش الناس، خاصةً الكبار بالعمر، بيحكو كتير أمتال بأحاديثن؟

Maybe one of the hardest things for us when we were little kids and loved to sit with adults and listen to their conversations, was proverbs. Originally, what is a proverb? And why do people, especially the elderly, say a lot of proverbs in their conversations?

2

هاي الأسئلة كانت تزعجنا نحنا وصغار، لأن غالبا الكبار ما كانو يخبرونا معنى الأمتال وقت نسأل عنن، ويقلولنا “بعدكن صغار” و “شو بدكن بهيدا الحكي”. ومع الإيام، نصير نسمع هالجملة أو العبارة القصيرة، اللي هي المتل، عم تنقال وتتكرر قدامنا بأكتر من موقف بالحياة. ومنصير منعرف شو معناتا وشو كان قاصد الشخص اللي قال هالعبارة، وشوي بعد منصير نحنا نعرف أيمتا وكيف منستخدما.

These questions used to annoy us as kids because mostly, adults would not tell us the meaning of proverbs when we asked about them. They would tell us, “You are still young” and “never mind these sayings”. With days, we start to hear this sentence or short phrase, which is the proverb, being said and repeated in front of us in more than one situation in life. We start to know what its meaning is and what the person who said this phrase meant. Sometime later, we start to know when and how to use it.

3

لأن بالأخير، في كتير أمتال بتحمل عبرة أو حكمة من القصة اللي إجت منا، سواء كانت هالقصة حقيقية أو تأليف. تأليف يعني ما صارت عنجد وحدا اخترعا. والعبرة، هي متل نتيجة لقصة بتساعدنا نتعلم دروس بالحياة، من ناس غيرنا مرقو بأشيا بتشبه ظروفنا أو قصصنا.

Because eventually, there are many proverbs that hold a maxim or wisdom from the story they came from, whether this story was real or made up. A maxim is like a conclusion of a story, which helps us learn lessons in life from others who passed through things similar to our circumstances and stories.

4

مرحبا لكل مستعميننا ومتابعيننا عاللانغويج وايف، بحلقة جديدة معي أنا مريم عن الأمتال الشعبية اللبنانية.

المتل الأول اللي رح نحكي قصتو اليوم بقول “الولد ولد ولو حكم بلد”. وقصة هالمتل بقولو إنا بترجع لأكتر من 150 سنة لورا، على أيام والي، يعني حاكم عثماني عأيام السلطنة العثمانية، كان اسمو محمد علي باشا وكان بيحكم مصر بوقتا. بيوم من الإيام كان هالوالي عم يتمشى بشوارع  مدينة القاهرة، اللي هي عاصمة مصر، وكان معو مرافقة وحرس.

Hello to all our listeners and followers on Language Wave, in a new episode with me Mariam about common Lebanese proverbs.

The first proverb we will tell its story today says “A kid is a kid, even if he ruled a country.” It is said that the story of this proverb dates back to more than 150 years during the days of a “wali”, which means a Turkish ruler during the days of the Ottoman Sultanate, whose name was Mohammad Ali Basha. He ruled Egypt back then. One day, this wali was walking in the streets of Cairo city, which is the capital of Egypt, and he had escorts and guards.

5

هو وعم يمشي بالحارات، شاف مجموعة صبيان صغار، عم يلعبو عالشارع بالغلل. الغلة هي طابة من حديد أو قزاز، صغيرة كتير وكانت من أشهر الألعاب عند الولاد من زمان. وغالباً، مع اختلاف الطرق الكتيرة لهاللعبة، الولد اللي معو عدد أكبر من الغلل بتكون فرصو للربح أعلى بكتير.

While he was walking in the neighborhoods, he saw a group of little boys playing on the street with marbles. A marble is a ball made of iron or glass, very small, and it was one of the most famous games for kids long ago. Mostly, with the many different ways for this game, the kid who has a bigger number of marbles, his chances for winning would be much higher.

6

الوالي لاحظ واحد من الصبيان لابس طربوش على راسو – الطربوش هو لبس قديم وتراثي بيشبه الطقية. أخد الوالي الطربوش عن راس الولد وسألو “بأديش بتبيعني هالطربوش؟” رد الولد وقلو “سعرو قبل ما إنت تمسكو كان عشر فلوس (الفلس هو عملة مصرية قديمة)، أمّا هلأ بعد ما إيديك لمسوه صار حقو أغلى من إني إقدر قدرو أو أعرفو.”

The wali noticed one of the boys wearing a “Tarboosh” on his head. Tarboosh is an old and traditional garment that is similar to the hat. The wali took the tarboosh from the kid’s head and asked him, “For how much would you sell me this tarboosh?” The kid replied and said, “Its price before you held it was 10 Fils, (Fils is an old Egyptian currency). However now, after your hands touched it, its price became more expensive than I can estimate or know.”

7

ضحك الوالي وانعجب بذكائو للصبي وقلو “إذا دفعتلك حقو ألف فلس، شو بتعمل بالمصاري؟” رد الولد وقال “بشتري كومة كبيرة من الغلل حتى خسّر فيهن رفقاتي بلعبة الغلل اللي عم نلعبا!”

The wali laughed, admired the boy’s intelligence, and said to him, “If I paid you 1000 Fils for it, what will you do with the money?” The boy replied and said, “I will buy a big pile of marbles so that I defeat with them my friends in the marbles game which we are playing!”

8

وبعد هالرد من الصبي، ابتسم الوالي وقال “الولد ولد ولو حكم ولد”. يعني الولد أو الشخص اللي عندو طيش أو ولدنة، بضل طبعو ومنطقو هيك، حتى لو صار غني وعندو سلطة، أو يعني حاكم لبلد.

After this reply from the boy, the wali smiled and said, “A kid is a kid, even if he ruled a country.” This means that the child, or the person who has indiscretion or childishness, his nature and logic remains like this even if he became rich and has authority, or which means a ruler of a country.

9

أما المتل التاني فبقول، “إذا جنّو ربعك، عقلك ما بينفعك”. وربعك معناتا عشيرتو للشخص أو عيلتو الكبيرة، أو يعني الناس اللي عايش معن وهو جزء من مجتمعن. بقولو إنو بقديم الزمان، تلوث نهر مدينة بمرض إسمو طاعون الجنون. ما خبرونا بأي مدينة وبأي زمن تحديداً.

As for the second proverb, it says, “If your people went crazy, your mind will not benefit you.” (Raba‘k means the extended family of a person or his bigger family, or it means the people he lives with and is part of their community.) They say that a long time ago, the river of a city was polluted with a disease called the Madness Plague. They did not tell us in which city and which time specifically.

10

بس صارو الناس كل ما حدا يشرب من النهر يصير مجنون، يعني يفقد عقلو. وصارو الناس اللي جنو يجتمعو مع بعض، ويحكو بلغة ما يفهموما العاقلين. العاقلين يعني الناس اللي ما فقدت عقلا أو جنت. وفقدت يعني خسرت أو ضيعت، أو بطل عندا عقل يعني.

But it happened that whenever someone drinks from the river he becomes crazy, and the people who went crazy started to come together and speak in a language which the sane would not understand.

11

حاول ملك المدينة يواجهة ويحارب هالطاعون والجنون، بس بيوم من الإيام بفيق وبلاقي إنو الملكة، يعني مرتو، كمان صارت مجنونة! وصارت الملكة تجتمع مع ناس تانيين، فقدو عقلن كمان، وتشكيلن عن جنون الملك زوجا!

طلب الملك وزيرو فوراً وقلو، “يا وزير! الملكة فقدت عقلا! وين كان الحرس؟!”

رد الوزير “يا مولاي الملك، الحرس كمان انجنو.”

The king of the city tried to face and fight this plague and madness, but one day, he wakes up and finds that the queen, which means his wife, also became crazy! The queen started to meet with other people who lost their mind as well and complain to them about the madness of the king; her husband.

The king requested his minister immediately and said to him, “Oh minister! The queen lost her mind! Where were the guards?!”

The minister replied, “My lord the king, the guards also went mad.”

12

فقلو الملك “طيب اطلبلي الدكتور فوراً.”

رد الوزير وقال “كمان الدكتور صار مجنون.”

ضاقت الدنيا فيه للملك، يعني اتضايق كتير وحس حالو اختنق، وقال “شو هالمصيبة اللي وقعت علينا؟! مين ضل بالمدينة ما فقد عقلو؟!”

جاوبو الوزير، “للأسف يا سمو الملك، ما ضل بالمدينة غير أنا وإنت ما انجنينا.”

So the king said, “Well then, call me the doctor immediately.”

The minister replied and said, “The doctor also became crazy.”

Life narrowed down for the king, which means he was very annoyed and felt like he had suffocated, and he said, “What is this calamity that fell onto us?! Who is left in the city that did not lose his mind?

The minister answered him, “Unfortunately your highness, the king, no one is left in the city except me and you did not go crazy.”

13

صفن الملك واتضايق أكتر وصرخ “يا الله! معقول إحكم مدينة مجانين؟!”

رد الوزير “سامحني يا مولاي، بس المجانين بالمدينة عم يدّعو (يدّعو يعني يقولو شي مش مثبت إنو صح). المجانين بالمدينة عم يدّعو إنو هني العاقلين، وعم يقولو إنو ما في مجانين بالمدينة غير أنا وإنت.”

رد الملك بغضب وقال: “شو هالمهزلة هيدي! مهزلة يعني مصخرة. هني اللي شربو من النهر، وبالتالي هني اللي صابن الجنون.”

The king starred, felt more distressed, and yelled, “Oh God! Is it possible that I rule a city of mad people?!”

The minister replied, “Forgive me my lord, but the crazy people in the city are claiming that they are sane ones, and they are saying that there are no crazy people in the city except you and me.”

The king replied with anger and said, “What is this absurdity! They are the ones who drank from the river. Thus, they are the ones who got the madness!”

14

بس الوزير رجع خالف الملك وقلو، “الحقيقة يا صاحب السمو إنن عم يقولو إنو هني شربو من النهر حتى ما يصيبن الجنون، لهيك نحنا المجانين لأنو ما شربنا! يا مولاي، نحنا هلأ حبتين رمل. هني الأغلبية، يعني اللي عددن أكبر، وهني اللي بيقدرو هلأ يحددو شو هني الحق والعدل والفضيلة. الفضيلة يعني العفة أو القيم والتصرفات المنيحة. وهني اللي هلأ بحددوا شو هو العقل وشو هو الجنون!”

But the minister again disagreed with the king and said to him, “The truth your highness is that they are saying that they drank from the river so they do not get the madness. Thus, we are the crazy ones because we did not drink! My lord, we are now two grains of sand. They are the majority, and they are the ones that can now define what is righteousness, justice, and virtue. Virtue means chastity or good values and behavior. And they are now the ones who determine what sanity is and what is madness!”

15

هون، تنهد الملك، يعني ضهر نفس طويل لبرا، وقال: “يا وزير، جبلي كباية مي من النهر لإشربا. لأن الجنون الحقيقي هو إنك تضل عاقل بدنيا مليانة مجانين.”

Here, the king sighed and said “Minister, bring me a cup of water from river so that I drink it, because the real madness is to remain sane in a life full of mad people.”

16

سواء اتفقنا أو اختلفنا مع العبرة اللي بهالمتل، الناس بيستعملوه كتير بأحاديثن. مثلا، إذا كان في شخص اسمو سمير فايت بنقاش مع مجموعة ناس عن موضوع معين، وعم يحاول يقنعن بإنو رأيو هو الصح، بس الكل عم يخالفوه ومش متفقين مع رأيو. بس سمير مصر ومتأكد إنو رأيو هو الصح وهو الحكمة! هون بينسحب سمير من الحديث وبقول “إذا جنو ربعك، عقلك ما بينفعك”. وهيك متل كأن سمير عم يقول للناس، إنو ما عاد رح يناقشن لأنو رأين هو الجنون ورأيو هو العقل والصح، ولأنن هني كلن مجانين وهو العاقل، فالنقاش معن ما عاد ينفع أو يجيب نتيجة.

Whether we agreed or disagreed with the maxim/lesson in this proverb, people use it a lot in their conversations. For example, if there was a person called Samir going through a discussion with a group of people about a certain topic, and he is trying to convince them that his opinion is the right one but all of them are disagreeing with his opinion. However, Samir is insisting and is certain that his opinion is the right and is the wisdom! Here, Samir withdraws from the conversation and says, “If your people went crazy, your mind will not benefit you.” This is as if Samir is telling people that he will no longer discuss with them because their opinion is madness and his opinion is sanity and the right. And because they are all crazy and he is the sane one, discussing with them will no longer benefit or bring a result.

17

أو ممكن بحالة تانية، سمير يعمل تصرف أو يقوم بأي شي وهو مش مقتنع فيه بل وشايفو غلط، بس الكل عم يقلو إنو هالشي صح وإنو هيك لازم يعمل.

فبقول سمير هالمتل بينو بين حالو حتى يقدر يعمل الشي اللي مش مقتنع فيه لأن الكل شايفو صح، فبيعتبر سمير بهالحالة إنو عقلو ما عاد ينفعو. طبعاً كتير ناس بتختلف مع هالمتل، وبيعتبرو إنو الإنسان لازم يتمسك بقناعاتو وأفكارو إذا كان شايفا صح، حتى لو ما ضل أي حدا متفق معو.

Or possibly in another case, Samir makes a behavior or does anything while he is not convinced of it, and he even sees it wrong. But everyone is telling him that this thing is right, and this is what he should do.

So Samir says this proverb to himself, so that he is able to do the thing which he is not convinced of, because everyone sees it is right. Thus, Samir considers in this case that his mind no longer benefits him. Off course, many people disagree with this proverb, and they consider that a human being should adhere to his convictions and ideas if he sees them right, even if no one is left agreeing with him.

18

بهالحلقة منكون حكينا قصة متلين واللي هني “الولد ولد ولو حكم بلد” و”إذا جنّو ربعك، عقلك ما بينفعك”. بس انتبهو شوي من استخدام الأمتال، لأنو مرات بتسبب حساسية أو زعل من قبل بعض الأشخاص إذا قلناها وكان فيها تلطيش لإلن، وهني ما بيتحملو المزح، متل مثلا الولد ولد ولو حكم بلد.

In this episode, we have told the story of two proverbs, which are “A kid is a kid, even if he ruled a country.” and “If your people went crazy, your mind will not benefit you.” But be a little bit careful with the usage of proverbs, because sometimes they cause sensitivity or upset for some people if we said them and they held indirect messages to those people who do not bear joking. Like for example, “A kid is a kid, even if he ruled a country.”

19

يعني الأمتال مش قواعد دقيقة أو دايماً صحيحة بالحياة، في أمتال ممكن تعجبنا ونقتنع فيا ونصير نستعملا. وفي أمتال ممكن نختلف معا وما نحب نستخدما لأنو العبرة اللي فيا ما عجبتنا أو ما حسيناها صح. وممكن كمان نكون من الناس اللي ما بحبو يستخدمو الأمتال أبداً، بس بحبو يعرفو شو معناتن بحال سمعوون بحديث.

ضلّو بخير، وتابعوني بحلقات جديدة دايماً عاللانغويج وايف.

This means that proverbs are not rules that are accurate or always right in life. There are proverbs that we might like, be convinced of, and start to use. And there are proverbs which we might disagree with and would not like to use because we did not like the lesson/maxim in it, or we did not feel it is right. We could also be among the people who do not like to use proverbs at all but would only like to know their meaning if they heard them in a conversation.

Stay well, and follow me in new episodes always on Language Wave.


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

  1. What are the purposes of proverbs?
  2. Why did the wali think the child playing with marbles was intelligent and what did the wali offer him?
  3. What is an example of a context where you can use the proverb “A kid is a kid, even if he rules a country.”?
  4. Why did the king decide to drink from the water of the river?
  5. What is an example of a context where you can use the proverb “If your people went crazy, your mind will not benefit you.”?

 

Vocabulary Table

# Lebanese-Arabic English Transliteration English Translation
1 تزعجنا Tez‘ejna Annoy us
2 تتكرر Tetkarrar Gets repeated
3 ظروفنا Zroofna Out circumstances
4 عاصمة A‘smeh Capital
5 طرق Toro’ Ways/methods
6  أديش Addesh How much
7 لمسوه Lamasooh Touched it
8 كومة Kawmeh Pile
9 ولدنة Waldaneh Childishness
10 تشكي Teshkeh Complains
11 مصيبة Mseebeh Calamity
12 للأسف Lil’asaf Unfortunately
13 يدّعو Yedde‘o Claim
14 تنهد Tnahhad Sighed
15 يخالفوه Ykhalfooh Disagree with him

 

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