A SHORT LIST OF TURKISH PROVERBS... My notes toward a modest compilation of Turkish proverbs. Mütevazı bir Türk atasözleri derlemesine yönelik notlarım. 03. "A proverb is a traditional saying, which offers advice or presents a moral in a short or pithy manner. As with proverbs of other nations, the Turkish-speaking peoples’ folk philosophy, distinctive regional customs and, above all, the peculiar flavor of their language and phraseology constitute the uniqueness of Turkish proverbs. A close examination of these proverbs reveals observations about men and things, oriental customs and ceremonies, facts of natural history, fragments of poetry, and quaint rhymes, puns, and similes." Nejat Muallimoğlu, The Turkish Delights, A Treasury of Proverbs and Folk Sayings, (New York, 1998).

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My notes toward a modest compilation of Turkish Proverbs

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03: Ayıpsız -- Beş

turkish proverb031  Ayıpsız dost arayan dostsuz kalır. transl: He who looks for a friend without blemish is doomed to remain friendless.  meaning: Do not hope to find an unblemished man upon this earth.

turkish proverb032  Aynası (or, âinesi) iştir kişinin, lâfa bakılmaz.  His work is the mirror held up to a man; his words count for nnaught.  equiv: Actions speak louder than words.

turkish proverb033  Ayağını yorganına göre uzat.  transl: Stretch your legs according to the length of your quilt.  equiv: Cut your coat according to your cloth. (The widespread saying in English, "Stretch your legs according to the length of your quilt," would appear to be a translation from an "overseas" culture, Turkish being one of the most likely among several candidates for that honour -- along with Russian, Arabic, and Spanish. "Quilt" is replaced by other words in different sources, notably by "coverlet" or "clothes".)

turkish proverb034  Azı çalan çoğu da çalar.  transl. He who steals a little is certain to go on to stealing larger amounts, too."  equiv: He who will steal the eggs, will steal the hen.

turkish proverb035  Babası oğluna bir bağ bağışlamış, oğul babaya bir salkım üzüm vermemiş. transl: The father gives away to his son a vineyard; the son gives his father not even a single bunch of grapes. [However, the reference is not limited to filial ingratitude.] [A note on the tense: The Turkish tense used here would translate as, "They say the father gave (or, had given)..... etc." However, the sense does not preclude, and indeed is equivalent of, the simple present tense interpretation, i.e., that of universality.]

turkish proverb036  Bakarsan bağ olur, bakmazsan dağ olur  transl: It is the want of care that leaves the land bare.  (A note for Turkish readers: want = "the lack of".)

turkish proverb037  Bakmakla usta olunsa köpek kasap olurdu. transl:  If skills could be gained just by watching (= looking on), the dog would start a butcher's shop.

turkish proverb038   Balık baştan kokar.  transl & equiv: A fish rots (stinks) from the head down. meaning: Corruption begins at and spreads down from the top echelons.

turkish proverb039  Bana arkadaşını söyle, sana kim olduğunu söyleyeyim. (or, Bana arkadaşının kim olduğunu söyle, sana kim olduğunu söyleyeyim.) transl: Tell me who your friend is, and I will tell you who you are. equiv: Tell me with whom thou goest and I'll tell thee what thou doest. A man is known by the company he keeps.

turkish proverb040  Başa gelen çekilir.  What cannot be cured must be endured.

turkish proverb041  Baş başa vermeyince taş yerinden kalkmaz.  transl: The rock would not budge from its place -- not unless you would co-operate.

turkish proverb042  Battı balık yan gider.  equiv: In for a penny, in for a pound. In for a dime, in for a dollar. (However, the Turkish proverb is somewhat pessimistic about the outcome -- and a little suicidal, too.)

turkish proverb043  Bedava sirke baldan tatlıdır.  transl: Free vinegar is sweeter than honey. meaning: Being free of charge leads to desirability and contentment.

turkish proverb044   Bekâra karı boşamak kolay.  (or, ....kolay gelir.) trans: It is an easy matter for a bachelor to divorce his wife. meaning: You cannot appreciate the predicament another person is in just by looking on from outside; you cannot appreciate it unless you are in the same fix yourself.

turkish proverb045  Beş parmak bir olmaz. (= Beş parmak bir olur mu? / Beş parmağın beşi bir olur mu?) transl: The five fingers cannot be the same. meaning: You cannot expect every member of a group, family, team, etc to be the same (particularly, in character).


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The Turkish word for a proverb, atasozu means "grandfather's sayings," or "words," or "elder's words." "In Turkey no conversation takes place without one or more proverbs being mentioned, and it is amazing to see the influence they have on an audience; as soon as a proverb is recited all heads nod in approval and all arguments cease, a suffering or loss becomes bearable and even death loses its sting, for proverbs embody the crystal truth found by long and painful experience, and even though it may sometimes be bitter, it is an acceptable form." Nejat Muallimoğlu, The Turkish Delights, A Treasury of Proverbs and Folk Sayings, (New York, 1998)

Turkish Proverbs: Doç. Dr. Yalçın İzbul, http://www.ingilizce-ders.com  Notes toward a modest compilation of Turkish proverbs. Türk atasözleri derlemesine yönelik notlarım. 2009