A SHORT LIST OF TURKISH PROVERBS... My notes toward a modest compilation of Turkish proverbs. Mütevazı bir Türk atasözleri derlemesine yönelik notlarım. 10. "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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Doç. Dr. Yalçın İzbul,  http://www.ingilizce-ders.com

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10: Köprüyü -- Nerede

turkish proverb136  Köprüyü geçinceye (or, geçene) kadar ayıya dayı de. (or, diyeceksin).  transl: Call the bear Uncle till you have crossed the bridge.  meaning: Keep on good terms with those who may (by their superior position) hinder your progress, especially with those who are overbearing, cruel or unjust. [Turkish differentiates between a paternal uncle (= amca) and a maternal uncle (= dayı). The preference here is due purely to the rhyming pair.]

turkish proverb137   Körle yatan şaşı kalkar.  transl: He who sleeps with a blind person gets up cross-eyed. [This is to be interpreted in the figurative sense only: If you hang around in bad/unwise company, you are bound to be influenced in a negative way somehow or other.] near equiv: The rotten apple injures its neighbours.

turkish proverb138  Kötü haber tez yayılır.  Bad news travels fast. Ill news travels/runs apace. [A note for Turkish-speakers: "ill" = "kötü" anlamına gelen bir önek veya sıfat olarak kullanılabilir.]

turkish proverb139  Kurda ensen neden kalın demişler, kendi işimi kendim görürüm de ondan demiş.  transl: They asked the wolf how come its neck is so thick; the retort was that he did his job himself, that was why.  meaning: To prosper in any plan, initiative or undertaking, one must attend to it oneself and not leave it to others' doing.  This is somewhat in the same category as, "God helps them who help themselves," with emphasis on individualistic and independent action.

turkish proverb140  Kurunun yanında yaş da yanar.  transl: Damp wood, too, will burn alongside the dry.  meaning: The whole group will face the consequences of the actions of those targeted. Innocents and all will share the same fate as the culprits. (Often with the implication that this is inevitable.)

turkish proverb141  Kuzguna yavrusu anka (or, şahin) görünür.  transl: The raven sees her chicks as phoenixes (or, as falcons).  equiv: All his geese are swans.

turkish proverb142  Lâfla peynir gemisi yürümez.  transl: You can't move a "cheese ship" by idle talk. [meaning "a ship carrying a cargo of cheese" -- there is an old anecdote behind the saying]  meaning: You can prove or solve nothing by chattering away about the subject. Tangible results call for action.  equiv: Deeds are fruits, words are but leaves. Actions speak louder than words.

turkish proverb143   Mart kapıdan baktırır, kazma kürek yaktırır.  transl: The month of March makes one look through the door and makes one burn hoes and shovels. meaning: Although wintery conditions continue, you have by now run out of all your stored wood for heating.  near equiv: Ne'er cast a clout till May is out. [It is interesting to note the way climatic reality is reflected here: Warm days put in an appearance in April in Anatolia, whereas the poor poor British have to wait on till May is out!]

turkish proverb144  Meramın elinden (hiç)birşey kurtulmaz.  equiv: Where there is a will, there is a way. [will = istek, istek ve kararlılık, istenç, irade]

turkish proverb145  Merd-i kıptî şecaât arzederken sirkatin söyler. (or, Şecaât arzederken merd-i kıptî sirkatin söyler.) transl: A truthful gypsy, as he talks of his bravery (= of his daring exploits), admits to his thieveries. [Said of people who, while defending their position or bragging about themselves, give away a past action which is culpable in the eyes of the listeners.]

turkish proverb146  Meyveli ağacı taşlarlar.  transl: They throw stones at the tree that bears fruit. meaning: Creative, productive, and successful people become a target for people's jealous slanders.

turkish proverb147  Minareyi çalan kılıfını hazırlar.  transl: He who steals a minaret would have prepared a cover for it.  meaning: A person who intends to commit any kind of misappropriation takes precautions beforehand not to be caught. [The meaning may be extended to cover other forms of misbehaviour or crime; and it may even take the form of some practical advice.]

turkish proverb148  Murat insandan, takdir Allah'tan.  equiv: Man proposes, God disposes. meaning: People can make and do make plans; but God will determine how things will work out.

turkish proverb149  Mühür kimde ise Süleyman odur.  transl: Whosoever has the seal, he is "Solomon". meaning: Whoever is the boss, he calls the shots. ["Süleyman": According to the shared Jewish, Christian and Islamic legends, the prophet-king Solomon had a magical signet ring which gave him the power to command demons and jinni, or to speak with animals. The ring is known as "The Seal of Solomon".]

turkish proverb150  Nerede (= nerde) çokluk orada (= orda) bokluk.  equiv: Too many cooks spoil the broth.  meaning: When there are too many people involved there is sure to be discordance and conflict. [This is a coarse saying and it must be avoided in polite company. "Bokluk" means "something shitty".]

 turkish proverb151  Nerede (= nerde) hareket orada (= orda) bereket.  transl: Where there is activity, there is plentifulness and prosperity.


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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