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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 don’t
create a successful society but they pave the way to make the successful social norms

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

* "Tous les chemins mène à Rome" French

* "All roads lead to Rome" English
* "‫ "كل الشعاب تؤدي الى مكة‬Arab
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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

* British say: "Grasp all, lose all"

* Moroccans say: "‫"اللي بغاها كلها يخليها كلها‬

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?

* The French say: "Tel père, tel fils"

* The Arabs say: "‫"هذا الشبل من ذاك السد‬
* The British say: "Like father, like son"

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:

* Latin: "Art has no enemy except ignorance"

* French: "Autres temps, autres mœurs" (Other times, other manners)
* Italian: "Be sure before you marry of a house wherein to tarry"
* Arab: "The world is with those who are standing"

Now let's have a look at proverbs from different ages:

* 14th Century: "All is well that ends well"

* 15th Century: "As bold as a coat"
* 16th Century: "Bad excuse is better than none"
* 17th Century: "Anything in a quiet life"
* 18th Century: "Ask no questions and you will be told no lies"
* 19th Century: "Accidents will happen in the best regulated families"
* 20th Century: "Actions speak louder than words"

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 …" (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 an
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.

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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.

* 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
* One is carrying it; the other is suffering from its heaviness.
* The camel doesn't see his heap; he rather sees that of his
* 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.

For more Moroccan proverbs with translation and transcription visit:

To surf more than 500 proverb(e)s in English and French visit:

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