Tag Archives: Arabic proverbs


donkeyPrimrose Arnander and Ashkhain Skipwith have put together three books of proverbs from Arab countries. The first one I ever encountered was Unload Your Own Donkey, which is the untranslatable Arabic equivalent for “mind your own business.” I have said that donkey thing to people in my small Appalachian town a couple of times, and it doesn’t translate. Which may have worked in my favor.

That’s the fun thing about this book–one of, anyway: that the proverbs are written in Arabic and English, and that they translate word-for-word without making much word-for-word sense for the most part in English, and yet you can see the folk wisdom behind the words–Arabic or English.

Take, for instance, a phrase originating in an Arabic proverb that has more or less entered the American mainstream, “the camel’s nose under the tent,” which is pretty much the same as “the tip of the iceberg.” It’s a cute way of saying something is creeping up on us that will get bigger before it goes away.

One of my other favorites, “The fly has acquired a shop and it is closing early” is another of my favorites. If you think about it for a minute, you can see our American equivalent: “you’re in over your head.” Then there’s “his son is on his shoulder, and he is looking for him” (as plain as the nose on your face).

And my other favorite, “Someone scalded by soup will blow on yogurt” (once bitten, twice shy). I was swapping proverbs with a British friend of Arabic background, and she laughed at this one and told me her family used to say, “Someone bitten by a snake will run from a coiled rope.”

“Bankrupt merchants search old books” (flogging a dead horse). “If things didn’t break, there would be no potters” (every cloud has a silver lining). “Advise the ignorant and become his enemy” (pearls and swine) and “like honey on top of cream” (gilding the lily) are some other fun ones.

The pictures in this book are sweet and fun to go along with the proverbs, and it’s a great dip-in book–not a story, but a diversion. I haul Unload Your Own Donkey out when I need a laugh. I also have its sister volume, Apricots Tomorrow¬†(tomorrow will be a better day). Admit it, you have the theme song from Annie running through your head right now, don’t you?

And just for laughs, the third title in this series is The Son of a Duck is a Floater. (Have fun figuring it out.)


Filed under book reviews, folklore and ethnography, humor, Life reflections, publishing, reading, Scotland, Uncategorized, writing

The Camel’s Nose Under the Tent

maddy 1This is Maddy, Maddy Prior. She is our newest (and only) foster in the bookstore. Jack and I like rescuing kitties, but over the past summer we looked up one day and found ourselves knee-deep in the little rascals. And their by-products.

Our customers are loyal, kind-hearted people, but we do kinda have to run a business, y’know? So we agreed, once the book touring started, that we would not foster again until we finished. And that we would not get overwhelmed by the need and go nuts.

Then, with one gig to go (tonight at 7 in St. Louis at Left Bank Books, and btw they have an adorable staff cat named Spike) my friend Stacy–curse her except she has the flu so she’s already cursed–started posting Facebook pix of kitties in our overcrowded local shelter.

Jack looked at them, looked at me, and said a really bad word.

So this is Maddy; I pulled her from the shelter Tuesday, and we left for St. Louis Thursday. She’ll be staying with us until someone wants her for life. Once she got a clean bill of health from the lovely Dr. Beth up the road, we let her socialize with our cats, but she really prefers lounging in her own little bed, occasionally rising with a yawn to walk over and down a mouthful of Cat Crunchies before returning to repose.

It’s good that she gets exercise.

I want to get Maddy a good home right away because there are three more kitties (probably about 12 weeks old) in the shelter, a yellow fluffball of incredible intelligence, and twin tortoise shells. All are in danger, as the shelter fills up fast just before Christmas, and right after the Holidays, adoptions screech to a “no money, bad weather” halt. maddy 2

Jack says one cat at a time, this is the camel’s nose under the tent, we can’t save them all. Yes, I know. I saw the look in the fluffball’s eyes as I carried Maddy out of the shelter, felt his little paw try to grab my finger, convince me to take him too.

So I hope someone who’s been looking for a healthy, six-month-old, gorgeous, litter-trained cat who aspires to a life of as little exertion as possible will soon give Maddy a happy home. She has a lot of love and purrs to offer. And so do the cats waiting in the shelter.


Filed under animal rescue, Big Stone Gap, folklore and ethnography, humor, small town USA