A SHORT LIST OF TURKISH PROVERBS... My notes toward a modest compilation of Turkish proverbs. Mütevazı bir Türk atasözleri derlemesine yönelik notlarım. 05. "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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05: Çok -- El elin

turkish proverb061  Çok yaşayan bilmez, çok gezen bilir.  transl: It is not the one who lives long that is knowledeable, but the one who travels a lot. i.e. Experience counts more than mere years. (However, this proverb is almost exclusively used to emphasize the importance of travel in getting to know men and their ways.)

turkish proverb062  Dağ dağa kavuşmaz, insan insana kavuşur.  transl: Hills remain apart forever, (but) people do meet (someday). meaning: Parting is not forever. [This may be enunciated while parting with someone or meeting again -- after some time or unexpectedly. It is normally used outside a "romantic love" context.]

turkish proverb063  Damlaya damlaya göl olur.  transl. Drop by drop a lake comes into being. meaning: Many a mickle makes a muckle.

turkish proverb064  Demir tavında dövülür.  equiv:  Strike while the iron is hot.

turkish proverb065  Denize düşen yılana sarılır.  transl: A man fallen overboard (= a drowning man) will grab at (even) a snake.  Note: In several sources, this is shown as equivalent of "A drowning man will clutch at a straw." However, it must be noted that the Turkish proverb stresses the point that a person in a desperate situation will grab at any chance or help, even if it is deemed dangerous ordinarily. On the other hand, the idea is also somewhat akin to "Beggars can't be choosers." A note for Turkish readers: Bermutat, bizim internet kaynakları birbirinden kopyalayarak ve ilgeci de atarak "A drowning man will catch a straw." yanlışını tekrarlamışlardır. **"Saman tutmak" kavramı için sanırım "balık tutmak" (catch a fish) kavramından ilham almış olsalar gerek!

turkish proverb066  Derdini söylemeyen, derman bulamaz.  transl: Those who do not reveal what is troubling them will not obtain a remedy. equiv: A problem shared is a problem halved. Grief divided is made lighter.

turkish proverb067  Dereyi geçerken at değiştirilmez. transl: Don't change horses in midstream. Do not change horses in the middle of the stream.

turkish proverb068  Dereyi görmeden paçaları sıvama.  transl: Do not start rolling up the bottoms of your trousers before you see the creek.  equiv: Don't count your chickens before they are hatched. It's not over until the fat lady sings. [In some sources, this Turkish proverb is suggested to mean the same as the phrase "not crossing one's bridges until one comes to them", as in the proverb "Don't cross the bridge till you come to it.", which, of course says something entirely different: "Leave aside worrying about any difficulties until such a time as they may actually arise; do not burden your mind with anticipation of difficulties that may or may not lie ahead."

turkish proverb069  Dervişin fikri neyse zikri de odur.  transl: "Whatever is on the dervish's mind, it comes out through his mouth." (A "dervish" = an ascetic holy man given to simple living and religious contemplation.) A superficial interpretation of the proverb would be, "He will say no more or no less, nor different, than what he thinks." But, in fact, the Turkish proverb is mostly used about those "tell-tale" situations when a "Freudian slip" gives away a person's hidden thoughts or mental fixation.

turkish proverb070  Deveye sormuşlar neden boynun eğri. "Nerem doğru ki?" demiş.  transl: "They asked the camel why its neck is awry. He retorted (truthfully) "What part of me is aligned straight (anyway)?" meaning: (Often used pessimistically or sarcastically) Everything is out of order or "crooked" from A to Z, anyway.

turkish proverb071  Dilenciye hıyar vermişler eğri diye beğenmemiş.  transl: They give the beggar a cucumber; he looks down on it, saying it is bent and awry. (= He does not think much of it and probably refuses to take it.) equiv: Beggars cannot (must not) be choosers. (Why not, say, a carrot, an obergine or a zucchini, but a cucumber? The thing is, the word "hıyar" is in itself a sort of swear word, as differentiated from the alternative word "salatalık".)

turkish proverb072  Dinsizin hakkından imansız gelir.  transl: (Only) A faithless man can handle (= overcome) an irreligious man.  equiv: Set a thief to catch a thief. Diamond cut diamond.

turkish proverb073   Doğru söyleyeni dokuz köyden kovarlar(mış).  transl: Speak the truth, and you will get ostracised from nine villages. meaning: A truth-teller is never popular and is banished from all places. (Note: Why "nine"? Most probably the word "dokuz" (nine) alliterates with "doğru" (truth).

turkish proverb074  Dost kara günde belli olur.  transl: A friend will be known on a black day.  equiv: A friend in need is a friend indeed. [The Turkish expression "kara gün" means "a day of misfortunes, of catastrophe".]

turkish proverb075  El elin eşeğini türkü çağırarak (çığırarak) arar.  transl: Strangers sing songs while looking for one another's lost donkey. meaning: Do not expect any dedicated efforts on the part of those who are "not of the family". ("Not of the family" is here used in the extended sense which includes those who are not one's "close" friends as well as total strangers.)


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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