Above painting: Louis Jean Francois - Mars and Venus an Allegory of Peace
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Friday, November 13, 2009

Scottish Proverbs, Vol. I, by Nancy Lee Badger

Please join me in welcoming back guest blogger, Nancy Lee Badger. Nancy knows quite a bit about Scottish history, you'll recall her previous articles, The Origin of Scottish Mythology and Highland Games: Then and Now.

Today she'll be presenting Scottish Proverbs, Volume I. Come back on 2/12/09 for Volume II.
Take it away Nancy...and Happy Birthday!

I think of proverbs as simple, popular sayings. The Oxford English Dictionary explains a proverb as: “a pithy saying in general use", and the Longman Dictionary says it is: “a short well known phrase or sentence, which contains advice about life.” Often repeated, proverbs express a truth based on common sense. Proverbs are wise words of wisdom, said in a hidden way. In many cases, we heard them given as advice or as warnings.

Proverbs are handed down generation-to-generation, country to country, and through more than one language. The ‘Bible’s’ ‘Book of Proverbs’, and medieval Latin, have played a large role in distributing proverbs across Europe, although almost every culture has examples of its own.

Everyone has heard proverbs, in one form or another, retold over and again by the people who influenced their lives. Sage expressions such as hast makes wast, willful waste makes woeful want, and penny wise, pound fool were meant to guide us in our younger years. Spouted by our parents, schoolteachers, and clergy, we children were taught to use them wisely upon reaching adulthood. Recalling their words make us pause when faced with an important decision.

I write Scottish historical novels and my research has uncovered several interesting tidbits. I am amazed at the vast number of proverbs linked to Scottish origins. Many of these I found in literary texts written before 1600! Several of these old adages sounded familiar!

My favorites among the proverbs I recorded for this article are the ones that mention our furry or feathered friends. Please bear with me. I believe they will also ring true, even though their translations from Scottish dialects to English sound funny!

Waken not sleeping dogs. I agree. Good advice! I like owning ten fingers. Ye cannot make a silk purse of a sows lug. I felt this way when in my younger years, until the braces came off. Love me, love my dog. My sister, the veterinarian, lives this. A given horse should not be lookt in the teeth. I never let on which wedding gifts were God-awful-ugly! A few eventually found their way into one of our yard sales. Better a fowl in hand nor twa flying. I have always had a problem with taking ready cash and investing it in order to make more. With the all-too-recent economic downturn, this became a wise choice. Ane may lead a horse to the water, but four and twenty cannot gar him drink. I married a man just as stubborn! I find it best NOT to give him a choice about anything. And, this last one made me break out laughing, especially when I remember awkward family dinners! Fidlers, dogs and flies, come to the feast uncalled. (Just kidding, Mom and Dad)

Born a Scorpio, I have also used several adages from my childhood to tame my temper and found it TRUE that the higher up, the greater the fall. No one loves a bitch. What about all is not gold that glitters? Many instances in my life have shown me the truth in these words, especially when I recall our first home. It looked like a castle to our young first-time homebuyers eyes. What a money-pit.

As a volunteer EMT, I often responded to an emergency scene and arrived first. I learned many hands makes light work and always breathed a little easier when my squad showed up to back me up. Of course, my mom used that same proverb around my sisters and I quite frequently! And, a new bissom sweeps clean is recognizable in any language. Maybe we ignored her words at the time, as it goes in at one ear, and out the other, but I remember her wisdom years later.

You can find oodles of Scottish Proverbs in a vast selection of printed books, on-line resources, and even T-shirts! How have proverbs passed through time and space to guide our thoughts and actions? Family stories, one generation to the next, is the most common method. When you find yourself pausing before acting on some impulse which may change your life forever, think back on those little Scottish proverbs. And remember: no door ever closed but another opened. When you do, you may be delighted to find that all is well that ends well.

For more information on Scottish Proverbs try:

Nancy Lee Badger lives with her husband in Raleigh, NC. She loves Scottish Highlanders, chocolate-chip shortbread, and bagpipes. She volunteers at present day Highland Games while writing of ancient Scotland. She is a member of Romance Writers of America, Heart of Carolina Romance Writers, Sisters In Crime, FF&P Romance Writers, and the Celtic Heart Romance Writers. Visit her website at http://www.nancyleebadger.com/


Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

These are just great. I hadn't ever given thought where they had originated. Two years ago when we went to Scotland my hubby found one of their more colorful proverbs to be a delight to share: Pecker up, which is to mean pull your bootstraps up and get on with things. :)

Emma Lai said...

Thanks for sharing, Nancy! What fun!

Pat McDermott said...

Love those old proverbs, Nancy. First time I've heard some of the Scottish variants. Very interesting!

Beth Caudill said...

Hey Nancy

Nice article.

librarypat said...

Thanks for a trip down memory lane. I heard many of those sayings when I was growing up and have used them with my children. I was surprised at work a bit ago. I used "penny wise and pound foolish" with some teens and they just stared at me. They had never heard it before. I've used other proverbs and am amazed that some people were not familiar with them.
I look forward to Vol. II.

librarypat said...

Went back and read your blog on highland games. We happened upon the NHHG purely by accident. It was the "last" year they held them at Loon Mt. before moving them to the state fair grounds. I'm glad they saw their mistake and moved them back to the mountains. We live in NE TN so can make the Grandfather Mountain games in NC without too much trouble. We have a small festival here, but the size of the NHHG and Grandfather Mt. make them very special. You get a real taste of the Highlands.

Nancy Lee Badger said...

Dear Librarypat;
...If you ever happen to get to the New Hampshire Highland Games again, I am working under the Information Tent next to the parade grounds. I joined my husband, who has volunteered since 1982. We now live in NC, but make the effort. Got many ideas from there as well as the photo on this article of the man sitting around the fire 'spinnin' yarns' as in stories. Glad you enjoyed this.

Skhye said...

Great post to start the day with!!! I had planned on lying around. Guess I'll have to be productive now. LOL. I'm with you on the love of kilted men, shortbread, and bagpipes... Although, I've written a few heroes who aren't kilted. ;)

Anonymous said...

Your thought filled article brought back so many memories of the sayings my mother used in her everyday speech. One of her favorites was "What Can't Be Cured Must Be Endured." Mickey