3650 of the World’s Finest Proverbs

A little fun today from the challenging and entertaining book 3,650 of the World’s Finest Proverbs, compiled by Christopher J. Stuart.

Because it is a collection of standalone proverbs from Europe, Africa, and Asia, it can be read in short little snippets…but I find it hard to put down. It has me variously laughing out loud, seriously examining my priorities, or appreciating the wit and wisdom handed down through different cultures.

The book is arranged both topically and geographically, making it easy to find what you are looking for. Here a few of my favorites so far:

Beauty and Ugliness

Even ugly faces are worth looking at—and that is a great comfort for most people. -Chinese

In a land where hunchback people abound, he who goes straight up is ugly. -Oromo (African)

Cash and Credit

Making money is like digging with a needle. Spending it is like pouring water into sand. -Japanese

It is not so good with money as it is bad without it. -Yiddish

Home and Abroad

A donkey that travels abroad will not return a horse. -Hebrew

A guest sees more in an hour than the host in a year. -Polish

And if anyone understands this one from the Before and After section, please explain it to me…

After looking at its rear-end, the elephant eats a tree. -Oromo


5 thoughts on “3650 of the World’s Finest Proverbs”

    1. Yeah, its a real kick. Some of them are so funny they have me in tears. Plus, the book was compiled by one of the elders at my church, which makes it more fun.

      The only drawback is that there is no dating information. It might not always be possible to determine, but it would be interesting to know how far back some of those sayings go.

      No insight into the elephant, huh? 🙂

  1. My favourite is the donkey……
    And the elephant? Here’s a guess: It’s similar to the first one which speaks to acceptance of who and what we are.
    Elephants are fat. There is no getting away from it. Most of us (certainly of the fairer sex), when looking at our rear ends will immediately go on diet. The Elephant says, “Mmmm, looking good; must eat.”

  2. Crystal,
    I’m glad you’re enjoying it. It was a blast to compile. Regarding dates: Most of the European proverbs can be tracked pretty easily. I imagine the Asian ones could as well, though you’d have to know the languages. The African ones are ‘lost in the mists of time’ since most of the cultures didn’t /don’t have a written language.

    I got most of the African ones from the work of Missionaries who were bringing literacy in order to bring the Bible. A people’s proverbs are a great place to start since they already know them and can therefore ‘read’ them more easily. The African ones tended to be my favorites because of the colorful imagery. And, no, I don’t understand them all, especially the one about the Elephant’s rear end – though undoubtedly it makes perfect sense in its context.

    My overall favorite was Nepali, “Hold short services for minor gods.” They may be polytheists, but they’re practical!


    1. Hi Chris. Thanks for the additional info! Very interesting.

      You know, I’m both relieved and disappointed that you don’t know what they all mean. It’s nice to know some of them are a bit mysterious to you as well, but I did have a mental list of odd ones I was hoping you might clear up for me some time. 🙂

      The “minor gods” was a laugh out loud one for me.

      We very much enjoy the book and we’ve had fun sharing it with family and friends!

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