Home » The world’s wisest and weirdest proverbs

The world’s wisest and weirdest proverbs

written by James Shackell August 20, 2015

In the western world, we grow up with a few pearls of apron-string wisdom that get passed down through the generations. A friend in need is a friend in deed. One swallow doesn’t make a summer. Don’t run with scissors you’ll have someone’s eye out, seriously put them down now. That sort of thing.

But there are hundreds of far more interesting and exotic proverbs that grow like tulip bulbs in the weed-choked garden that is global common sense. They range from the pithy and poignant to the strangely unsettling, and we’ve collected them all in one place for your amusement.

To take revenge on an enemy, give him an elephant: first he must thank you for the gift, and then the elephant’s appetite will deplete your enemy’s resources – Nepalese proverb

Possibly the greatest proverb of all time. I’m going to use it at least once a week.

A good husband is healthy and absent – Japanese proverb

All those Japanese business trips suddenly make sense.

A drowning man is not troubled by rain – Persian proverb

The silver lining of deaths at sea. Thanks Persia.

A country can be judged by the quality of its proverbs – German proverb

Germany getting a little meta with this one.

A closed mouth catches no flies – Italian proverb

Possibly the only proverb where the alternative is worse?

A prudent man does not make the goat his gardener – Hungarian proverb

An even more prudent man doesn’t make the goat his chef, valet or financial advisor. Goats are limited.

A monkey never thinks her baby’s ugly – Haitian proverb

Monkeys need to start telling it like it is.

A little too late, is much too late – German proverb

This explains the phenomenon of German Rail.

A hungry man is an angry man – English proverb

This explains the phenomenon of English Breakfast.

A throne is only a bench covered with velvet – French proverb

Three guesses when the French thought this one up…

A courtyard common to all will be swept by none – Chinese proverb

A surprise entry from the country that still thinks communism is pretty neat.

If you can’t live longer, live deeper – Italian proverb

I don’t know what this means exactly, but I think it has something to do with eating a lot of cheese and watching operas.

Measure a thousand times and cut once – Turkish proverb

It’s this sort of attention to detail that builds a carpet empire.

In a battle between elephants, the ants get squashed – Thai proverb

It’s always the ants that suffer in these things.

If you go to a donkey’s house, don’t talk about ears – Jamaican proverb

Who is this donkey and how did he save up a house deposit? Seriously, the market is inflated as hell right now.

No man can paddle two canoes at the same time – Bantu proverb

I know you’ve had your eye on a second one for a while, but trust me, one canoe’s enough. Leave it at one.

Feature c/o image Guldem Ustun, Flickr 


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1 comment

Alice Genoh August 20, 2015 - 9:34 pm


Glad to read your guide about the world’s strangest proverbs. I must say you did a great job by collecting such a great proverb!


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