Avoidance And Patience

1. The crab said that he had two heads so that death could not kill him, but  death came between them and killed him:  No matter how a person tries to avoid a thing or takes great care, what is going to happen will still happen.  (There is no armor against fate.)

2. When you see an old woman eating chicken excrement [because of senility], take it away from her, because when she gets a cough it will spread to everyone:  It is not good to wink at evil.  Hate evil.  (Do not connive at evils.)

3. The toad tells his companion "wøokøom" ["Shame on you.]:  One who scolds his companion [for not doing something] yet is unable to do it himself.  (Being conceited.  Self flattery.)

4. If a man is tapping the palm tree and cooking food at the same time, if his wine falls short [from improper tapping method] his food will fall short.  A person should not do two things at once.  Cf. Two hands collecting palmnuts while climbing down from the storage shelf [no hand left for holding on] .  (One thing at a time.  Doing many things at a time leads to failure.)

5. If a child holds both fire and a knife, if the fire does not burn him the knife will cut him.  (Doing many things at a time leads to failure.)

6. Hot soup should be sipped slowly:  Doing a thing in its turn (or very slowly) so one will be able to accomplish it.  (Slow and steady wins the race.)


1. One who lives in a land does not steal its sand:  What one has in abundance he does not long for. (There is a limit to human  insatiability.)

2. Shame is not felt by a madman the same as it is felt by his brothers:  It is not only the one who does something bad who feels shame, it is felt even more by his friends and relatives.  (Bad conduct is even more disgraceful to relatives and friends, than the culprit.)

3. The chicken says that the reason he knows he is a king is that he is carried to town on the head:  If you give someone the honor of which he is worthy, he will not hold a grudge.  Everyone eats his own food [gets what is due him].  (Honor to whom honor is due.  Every little respect is an honor itself.)

4. The chicken one carries on the head does not know that the road is long.  One who has someone to do things for him does not know the pains involved in it.  (A person who has one to do his work does not care.)

5. The chicken is king in his nest:  Everyone is important in his own place.  (An Englishman's house is his castle.)

6. The eye that is looking at meat does not see anything else:  A person puts all of his energy into the thing that he strongly desires.  (People put their energy wholly in what they desire to accomplish.)

7. The vulture says that one who is invited feels confident:  Cf. If one is invited and he treads on a chicken, he will name the one who invited him.  (A person to whom honor is done is happy.)

Possibilities and Impossibilities

1. A fighter  will not punch a head of palmnuts:  There is a limit to human potential.  Cf. A feather-wearer can not wear a feather from a fly.  A basket does not hold water.  (There is a limit to human possibility.)

2. If you praise a goat it will break its waist:  Cf. One who is praised too much preens himself [scratches his neck--gesture of pride].  (Overdoing a thing.  Too much praise is disastrous.)

3. The only thing that fills a bag is a head of palm nuts  fills quickly because of so many nuts].  (There is a limit to human possibilities.)

4. A wrestling expert can not throw down the ground:  There is a limit to man's powers.  Cf. A fighter will not punch a head of palm nuts:  One does not stuff a head of palm nuts into his armpit [it is too large and full of thorns].  (There is a limit to human possibilities.)

5. Night is stronger than a strong man:  Cf. The night is fearsome.  Anything (bad things) can happen at night.  (Many things (usually bad) can happen at night.)

6. No matter how beautiful a daughter is, her father can not marry her himself:  Something unacceptable is not good for a person to seek.  (There is a limit to what one can do.)

7. Slandering an outstanding citizen is worse than killing him:  Slandering a person is very bad.  There is nothing to compare with slander.  (Libeling or slandering a person is bad.)

8. If the head is missed, the shoulder receives:  If something is passed over, something else receives it.  If something is too much for a person, a helper comes.  Cf.  If one finds no place to put the hands, one puts them on the knees.  (Alternative; a helper.  Assisting another in difficulty.)

9. The vulture bathed and asked his children if he had become beautiful; they told him that today he was uglier than ever:  A person may try every possible way but he will not be able to change from the way his god created him.  (No amount of effort can change natural laws.)

10. The "noise-hearer" does not hear the noise of his mother at the market:   There is a limit to human power.  Cf. One who is very smart does not know that the chicken's egg will be male.  (Being unable to do a thing however efficient.)

11. The stone is good in ËUzüakøolî but there is no one to carry it home:  Good things are hard to learn.  (Good things are difficult to get.)

12. When the leopard's legs are broken, the deer comes to collect its debt:  When one is having difficulties, his enemies come to harass him.  (People worry their enemies when they are in difficulties.)

13. At the age where death stopped killing is where one starts being the eldest [in the family]:  The limit of the type of people available [to assist you] is the limit of your ability to speak or give advice.  (We have to accept what we can accomplish as the best.)

14. A man does not go home with the same amount of strength with which he began work:  Something that saps the strength brings on total fatigue.  A difficult task depletes one's energy.  (A difficult task saps one's energy.)

15. When a woman has ten children, there is nothing that happens during the night that she does not know about:  A big job requires much thought.  (To accomplish a difficult task requires a great effort.)

16. There is no one who does not groan:  There is no one who escapes suffering.  (Suffering is universal.)

Pretence and Patience

1. The cow said that God did her a favor in giving her iron legs:  One who sees what will help him meet his needs; having something that fills a need.  (Being talented; being specially equipped.)

2. The black ant has no gun but it still can hunt:  Everyone has something he can use to empower himself.  (No man is completely left without any provision or endowment by nature.)

 3. The dog by stealth eats up all the hen's eggs:  One who does not break the block of salt does worse than the one who is known for bad deeds. (A green snake in a green grass; "slow poison.")  [Salt was put in square tin molds and had to be removed carefully.  One who did not break the salt block might be considered outwardly as a good person.]

 4. Pretending to be good in front, being very bad in back:  One behaving so that he appears very refined but when the back is turned he does something unheard of [bad].  (Pretension; insincerity.)

 5. The sheep says that looking at something is work:  Anything one does takes something out of him.  (We spend energy in whatever we do.)

 6. All lizards lie on their stomachs, so we cannot tell which one has a stomach ache:  Not having the facts; not being indicative of a person's condition [situation].

7. The bedbug tells his children to take things slowly, that what is hot will eventually be cold.  (Slow and steady; patience leads to success.)

8. Hot soup should be eaten very slowly.  (Slow and steady; patience leads to success.)

9. When a corpse [of an unrelated person] is carried it is like carrying firewood:  People do not take any interest in things that do not affect them.  Cf.  If something happens to another person's body it is as though it happened to a tree.  (People do not care for other people's suffering.)

10. One who sits down eats kola nut:  Patience.  Cf. Hot soup should be eaten very slowly.

11. No matter how the rain beats the guinea fowl, its color remains the same:  What God gave to a person another person will not be able to take away.  (No amount of persecution can thwart destiny.)

12. Another is another, different is different:  Everything stands in its own place.  (What is, is.  Everything has its own natural law.)

13. What possesses the vulture [being bald] to plait its hair--is it going to the ofala  festival?  Doing things according to one's rank.  What is out of one's reach or not appropriate for him is not good for him to strive for.  (People should strive after what is within their reach.  People do not strive after what is of no use to them.)


1. The chicken pecks at the bag and it says to him, "Brother, when did we begin to quarrel?"  One seeking to quarrel with another for nothing.  (Deliberate persecutions or maltreatment without provocation.)

2. The quarrelsome person says that the chameleon stepped on his plate:  Cf. One who tells his father's wife to give him oil to eat palmfruit:  Picking a quarrel.  (Deliberate courting for quarrel.  Provocating a person.)  [Palmfruit already contains oil so no further oil is needed.]

3. Bushfowl told his child, who was pecking at yam, to peck about the roots, so that when the yam farmer dug yams he [the child] could start to eat roots:  Being prepared for the time when things are not going to be as they are now.  Being prepared.  (Being prepared for all eventualities.  Being equipped.)

4. The toad says that the reason he runs when he sees human beings is that there are too many things in their mouths [such as meat] that they use salt and pepper to eat:  A person being careful.  To be watching out. (Being always cautious.  Taking precaution even where it is not necessary.)


1. The palm kernel the child longs for does not irritate his stomach:  A person bearing patiently things he has brought on himself.  (A man faces the achievement of his desire with fortitude.)

2. If a child is treated the same as his peers are treated, he is happy:  To deal with everyone the same way is best.  (Fair deal to all is satisfactory to all.)

3. The place a runner reaches will be reached by a walker:  What one person does another person can do.  (The end attained justifies the effort.)

4. If the gun kills unimportant people, it will kill important ones:  Death does not recognize a chief.  (Death is a common leveller.)

5. Money is a guest--it can go out the same way it came in:  One should not boast about anything.  (Boastfulness about riches is foolish.)

6. Wherever the millipede dies is its grave:  It is a bad thing not to have any guardian.  (Vanity is vanity.)

7. The chief has the gun, the poor person has the gunpowder:  There is no one for whom only his own things are enough.  (Life is symbolic existence.  We live on mutual help.)

8. Not buying woolen [material]--it is because of lack of money.  Lack of money preventing a person from obtaining what he wants.  (Money determines what a person can purchase.)

9. If you dance and your hand touches the ground [excessive action], was your mother's skin used to tie on the drumhead [making the sound more attractive to you]?  One who goes too far in doing a thing.  (There is a limit to activity or behavior.)

10. The dog that scolds does not bite:  Making noise is not the strong point in carrying a load.  (He can only bark but cannot bite.  Empty vessels make a great noise.)

11. ËUwa-ezu-oke [the world is not enough], an Ngwa person, says that the best you can do for one who has died is to bury him in time:  Something which is of no value.  Death is the end of everything.  (Vanity is vanity.)

12. The chicken said that she was pregnant before she reached the cock:  Being prepared for a thing.  (Being prepared for all eventualities.)

13. If a child is always seen where meat is cut, he will be subject to restriction:  Everyone should behave according to his own life-style.  (Cf. Cut your coat according to your size.  Pride leads to a fall.)

14. If the cow tells the mountain that he is climbing it, the mountain says to him, "How is your waist?"  (To every action there must be a reaction.)  Certain things result from other things.
15. If the goat lies down, he lies on his skin.  Not having any change in a person's condition.  (Being where one started.)

16. When the old woman buys a new cloth, she goes to a feast uninvited:  A person being proud of something new or some unexpected good thing that happens to him.  (People are happy when they meet good fortune.)

17. Even if the male dog steps on the uli  paint, he still must go to Isu market:  Obstinacy leads to suffering.  (Obstinacy leads to destruction.)

18. The toad calls his companion "wøokøom " [pejorative word, similar to the "pot calling the kettle black]:  Someone who is in the same condition as oneself.  (Folly; self-deceit or conceit.)

19. If one looks a beautiful person over and can't find anything for which to criticize her, one tells her that she is knock-kneed:  One must find something for which to criticize a person or to speak against him.  (Everybody must have a blemish, setback or weak point.)

20. Eating and then denying it causes women not to have beards.  Too much complaining causes a person not to benefit from what he has:  (Complaints are not good.)

21. The short person who fell down said that what happened to him happened to the ground.  One who is on the ground does not fear a fall.  (He that is low needs fear no fall.)

22. Tortoise says, let runners to continue to run and deceivers to continue to deceive:  Everyone has something to boast of.  (People have their own talents or individual qualities.)

23.  When a certain woman was gathering øokazî  [a green vegetable], the øokazî  told her to gather it carefully today, because another day she would need to come to gather again [don't destroy the root--leave some to sprout]:  When a person does something, he should do it well, because of the possibility that he might not have a chance to do it again.  (Do things thoroughly when you have the chance.)

24.  When an old woman begins to age, it is as though no money was spent in marrying her.  When things get old, it is as if they are no longer useful.  (When things get old, it seems as if they had never been useful.)

25. Whether the soap foams or whether it does not foam, I  go to wash clothes:  Nothing can prevent me from doing what I plan to do.  (Nothing can prevent me from doing what I have contemplated.)

26. One does not use pumpkin seeds to commission a rat to buy something at the market:  (There is a limit to what a person can do.)

27. When a falling palmnut lands in a pot of oil, it says that it has reached its house:  A poor person need not feel ashamed.  (He that is low needs fear no fall.) [The pot of oil provides the same environment for the oily palm nut.]

Good and Evil

  1. Let the hawk perch, let the eagle perch, and if one tells the other not to perch, may his wing break:  Let people live in peace and if someone refuses [to do so], may things not go well for him.  (Live and let live.)

  2. Let the morning take away evil:  The one who wishes for another person's death, let him go to sleep before the chickens [something unusual - implies illness or death].  (See above:  Live and let live.)

  3. If a woman is unsteady [unstable in mind], her house will not be in good order:  There is no peace where there are bad thoughts.  (Peace is incompatible with evil.)

  4. When the lizard falls into a pit, he knows who is his friend [the one  who honors him]:  When a person is in trouble, he knows who hates him.  (When we are in difficulties, we know our friends and enemies.)

  5. Grace [acting in a graceful way] does not please a bad person:  When a person is evil, there is nothing one can do for him to convert him.  (The evil-minded cannot be converted by good deeds.)

  6. The woman whose husband wants to hate will not be able to change his mind by cooking delicious soup:  One who wishes to do evil to a person does not remember God.  (See above.)

  7. When a corpse smells [i.e., when there is trouble], good friends go home, bad brothers come out:  There is no better model than a brother.  (Blood is thicker than water.)

  8. It is the owner of the corpse who must carry it at the head [heaviest part of the coffin]:  One who is affected by a thing must bear its burdens, not those who come to help.  (One must bear his own burden.)

  9. You cannot sell at home a chicken with a broken leg:  One takes bad or defective things out to the street.  (Neighbors can hardly be deceived.)

10. There is nothing attractive in a compound where an enemy lives:  We hate our enemy and the ground he walks on.  (People are not pleased with their enemies.)

11. We remember someone deceased when someone living does not know how to behave:  A person is remembered by what he does.  (We remember people when we are in difficulties.)  [The deceased got no credit when he was alive.  Only when some survivor does poorly do we remember how well the deceased would have done.]

12. Tortoise said that his father's children did well by him to sew a garment of iron for him:  One who has someone to look after his needs is boastful.  (We are proud of our special possessions.)

13. One who seeks to quarrel with his father's wife tells her to give him  oil to eat with his palm kernel:  One who looks for trouble is always looking for excuses.  (A quarrel-monger always seeks excuses.)

14. One is happy when his burden is removed.  (We are happy when our burden is lifted.)


  1. If you give a child something that is too much for him, he starts to ask with whom he should share it:  If you give a child something he does not expect, it surprises him.  (We are surprised at our good fortunes.)

  2. Those who have heads do not know how to rub oil on them:  People with good heads [intelligence] do not realize the blessing they have.  (People with talents do not know how to use them.)

  3. You cannot predict a bad market day from the way things go in the morning.  The beginning of something does not show how the end will be.  (Early to bed and early to rise makes a man happy and wise.  The beginning does not necessarily foretell the end.)

  4. The poor person's chicken is his goat:  No matter how small our possessions, we are satisfied.  (We are proud of our own things however small.)

  5. I cannot shoot a bird if he is not in the place where my bow is aiming:  We do not need excessively great things to satisfy us.  (We are happy with our own things.)

  6. The worker should be paid for his work:  Everyone deserves the reward due him.  (The laborer is worthy of his hire.)

  7. If you treat a child as his peers are treated, he will be happy:  If everyone is treated the same, there will be no murmuring [grumbling].  (Equal treatment will satisfy all.)

  8. When one consumes what he has, he covets what he does not have:  No one is satisfied with what he has.  (Man is insatiable.)

  9. A person's eye judgment is his gift:  What a person does for himself is better than what someone else does for him.  (We are better judges for ourselves.)

10. If you greet an old woman who has food left over in the morning, she says "ndarî, ndarî," my child [expression of happiness]:  We are happy if we have things.  (We are happy if we have what we want.)

11. If the dog plays with someone he knows, it looks as if he does not bite:  A person does not quarrel with someone with whom he gets along well.  (Being familiar with a process makes it appear as if it is not difficult.)

Foolishness and Wisdom

  1. A foolish person brings yam to use in cooking a snake:  A fool [one who does not know things] does foolish things.  (Fools are easily deceived.)  [My informant was not sure but said some people did not like to eat snakes and might think yam too good to waste on snake food.]

  2. If one comes to the lizard's house and tells him to bring him a chair--does he see the one the lizard is sitting on?  Cf. One who looks for something in the bag of one who is also looking for something.  Begging of a person who has nothing the thing that he does not have.  (To ask a person for what he has not.)

  3. If the tortoise argues and  stretches himself, his shell breaks:  Everything has its limits.  (There is a limit to possibility.)

  4. When the chicken's eggs are in the basket, do you know which are male and which are female?:  There are things that are beyond human knowledge.  (There are things that are beyond human understanding or knowledge.)

  5. If one does too much whispering, a deaf person hears him:  If one keeps on hiding a thing, the one from whom he is hiding it will know it.  (Too much secrecy might lead to no secrecy at all.)

  6. If a bachelor takes his fish hook and places it on a high shelf, whom is he putting it up for? [He is behaving like a man who has children]:  Everyone should act according to his rank.  (Cf. Cut your coat according to your size; people should act or live according to their rank.)

  7. The chicken heard the cry of the ufu and its head swelled in fear: (The fool places himself in difficulties through foolishness.)

At the Right Time and Place

  1. Look for a black goat in the afternoon, because of night falling [when you can't see]:  Start promptly to do something important. (Do things in their right time.  Cf. A stitch in time saves nine.  Make hay while the sun shines.)

  2. If a proverb is quoted concerning a thin basket, the thin person knows that it is he who is being referred to:  One knows when he is being talked about or when his faults are being discussed.  (We know when people refer to our weakness.)

  3. Coming and going keeps the road from getting cold:  Doing a thing all the time causes it to be done well.  (Repetition leads to perfection.)

  4. If urination is not difficult, let the chicken do it [chickens can not urinate]: One knows that something difficult is difficult.  (People know what is difficult.)

  5. The chicken being used as an aid in buying oil says that some should also be bought to compensate him:  We should remember what helps us.  (We have to remember where our wealth or fortune comes from.)

  6. A bird whose head is not hard does not go to fight a woodpecker:  A difficult task requires a strong person.  (People who want to accomplish feats must be strong.)

  7. The herbalist who talks too much does not perform divination for a thief [the thief refuses to consult him]:  The behavior of some people adversely affects their work.  (Silence is golden.  Flippancy is bad.)

  8. If death wants to take a dog, he does not smell feces:  A person does not remember what he owns when death comes.  (Obstinacy is bad.  Being deliberately mindless of looming misfortune.)

  9. One swallows one piece of food and "breaks the hunger pot" [releases a lot more hunger]:  A thing being unable to solve a person's problem.  (Being too insignificant to be of any use.)

10. The child who talks about what he has suffered illness has really been through a lot [seen something]:  The suffering a person endures for a long time is not easily described.  (Long suffering is very painful.)

11. One should not rest while the hill is still in front of him:  A person should finish the work confronting him before resting.  (We should not rest till the work is accomplished.)

12.  A prophet is not recognized [a chief] in his native land:  One who knows a person well will not take him as anyone special.  (The prophet is not honored in his own land.)

13. If you do not use mgba [forked stick] to block the road, it will not be closed:  To do something strongly or extremely well brings it to accomplishment.  (We need special efforts are to accomplish certain feats.)

14. The crab says that he has swum in waters large and small, but the woman's soup pot overcomes him [eats his head]:  Something not important defeating or overcoming a person.  (Being overcome by what one considers weak or unimportant.)

15. The bedbug told his children not to trouble themselves, that what is hot will be cold:  It is best to have patience; the thing that rushes headlong will eventually be calm.  (Patience is the key to life.  A patient dog eats the fattest bone.)

16. The chicken says that not working for one's food will distend the abdomen:  What is not done well leads to quarreling.  (What is done without due consideration leads to failure.)

17. The load is not too much for ants:  Even if a thing is difficult, if people join together it will be overcome.  (Unity is strength.  Mutual cooperation leads to success.)

18. If you prepare dog meat well,  you feel like eating it:  Doing things with care causes them to be good.  (Doing things with care leads to their being better.)

19. An old man does not fight under normal circumstances [with good eyes]:  Cf. The way the animal comes out running determines the way one aims at it.  (When something happens suddenly you handle it as it comes.)

20. One whose relative sings and dances badly is embarrassed [has an itch on his eyebrow]:  Cf. The madman does not feel shame as his kinsmen do.  (The failures of our relatives and friends are also ours.)


1. If one neglects a small pot, it boils over and extinguishes the fire:  a small thing being effective.  (Little drops of water, little grains of sand, make a mighty ocean and pleasant land.  Surprises often come from unexpected quarters.)

2. The chief smiles and the elders burst out laughing [burst open their heads]:  To be a great person is very good; people imitating [for the purpose of pleasing] those in high positions.  (Cf. Gentleman's gentleman.  A nod from the king sends the audience a-laughing.)

3. Chicken says that if the kola drum is beaten she will not listen because  she does not have teeth for chewing kola:  People will not [do what they will not] profit [from].  (People do not care for what they will not benefit.)

4. If husband and wife go out early in the morning from their house, they do not know when something bad befalls them.  (People are expert in what they know how to make.)

5. The dog bought by two people dies of hunger:  A person watches out for something of his own more than something owned by many.  (People care more for their own than things owned in common.)

6. Being spotted seems good to the python:  Something seeming good to a person because it concerns him.  (We ignore our errors or failing.)

7. The dog says to his child, are you listening to the drum--are they going to use your head to strike it?  People do not pay attention to things that do not affect them.  (People do not care for what does not concern them.)

8. The snake climbs up and the lizard falls [out of fear] and kills himself:  If something too much for a person confronts him, he will not know what to do.  Cf. If the stone climbs up, fear attacks the water pot [the stone might drop on it].  Something larger than the cricket enters the cricket's burrow.

9. If one says that he likes the dog's nose, the dog's nose is cut off and given to him:  A person should not purposely say that something bad is good.  (If a person prefers evil, evil will come to him.)

10. If a woman suffers from shabbiness (if a woman's clothes are too ragged) she says that her husband does not take care of her properly:  We discard a thing if it is no longer useful to us.  If a thing ceases to be profitable, it is like saying that there never was a time when, if you did not have that thing, you would do nothing. [You forget that there was a time when you craved a thing so much that if you did not have it you refused to do anything.] Cf. When the old woman had become aged it seemed as if no money was paid to marry her.