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D.E. Marvin, comp. Curiosities in Proverbs. 1916.

Wit and Humour in Proverbs

A blind man can see his mouth. (Irish).

A cat will be a small thing to an old dame who swallowed an elephant. (Tamil).

A fool, unless he knows Latin, is never a great fool. (Spanish).
“Learned fools are the greatest fools.” (English, German, French). “None can play the fool as well as a wise man.” (English).

“All beginnings are hard,” said the thief, and began by stealing the anvil. (Dutch).

A man is of little use when his wife’s a widow. (Scotch).

An inch off a man’s nose is a great deal. (Gaelic).

As bad as marrying the devil’s daughter, and living with the old folks. (English).

“Bad company,” said the thief, as he went to the gallows between the hangman and the monk. (Dutch).

By talking too loud the jaw becomes swelled. (Louisiana Creole).
He who uses abusive language when angry may receive a blow that will cause his jaw to be swollen.

Daddy Tortoise goes slow, but he gets to the goal while Daddy Deer is asleep. (Louisiana Creole).

Do a man a gude turn and he’ll never forgi’e you. (Scotch).
“Save a thief from the gallows and he will hang you for it.” (French). “Bring up a raven and he will pick out your eyes.” (French, German). “After crossing the river the boatman gets a cuff.” (Tamil). “As soon as you have drunk you turn your back upon the spring.” “He has brought up a bird to pick out his own eyes.” “I taught you to swim, and now you would drown me.” “Save a thief from the gallows and he’ll be the first to cut your throat.” “The axe goes to the wood from which it borrowed its helve.” “The sword has forgotten the smith that forged it.” “When I had thatched his house he would have hurled me from the roof.” (English). “He that you seat upon your shoulder will often try to get upon your head.” (Danish).
Though this proverb seems to be an expression of Scotch wit it was used seriously particularly during the early part of the eighteenth century. It originated in the Shetland Islands where there was an old superstition that it was unlucky to save a drowning man as he would be sure to reward the service rendered by some act of unkindness, if not of real injury. The superstition came from the habit of permitting men to drown who attempted to escape from a wreck, so that there being no survivors the vessel might be considered lawful plunder.
“‘Are you mad?’ said he, ‘you that have lived sae lang in Zetland, to risk the saving of a drowning man? Wot ye not, if you bring him to life again, he will be sure to do you some capital injury.’”—Sir Walter Scott in The Pirate.
“‘In troth,’ said the Ranzelman, ‘they are wise folks that let wave and withy hund their ain—luck never came of a half drowned man, or a half hanged one either.’”—Sir Walter Scott in The Pirate.

Do not be breakin’ a shin on a stool that’s not in your way. (Irish).

Do not cut your donkey’s tail in a crowd—one will say “It is too long,” another “Too short.” (Osmanli).
“Different people take different views.” (English).

Dress a little toad, and it will look pretty. (Spanish).
By suitable clothing the ugliest or most deformed person can be made to look presentable if not acceptable.

Early rising is the first thing that puts a man to the door. (Scotch).
See Rhyming Proverbs: “Early to rise and late to bed, lifts again the debtor’s head.”
See also Grouping Proverbs: “To rise at five, dine at nine, sup at five, go to bed at nine, make a man live to ninety-nine.”
This proverb is intended as a jest. The expression, “puts a man to the door,” is sometimes used to indicate that the man is utterly ruined. On the other hand, it is intended to be taken literally and conveys the thought that the man who is an early riser passes through his bedroom door, and then through the outer door of his house, to engage in business. By early rising he becomes prosperous.
“To rise betimes makes one healthy, virtuous, and rich.” (Latin). “Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.” (German). “Rise early and you will see; take pains and you will grow rich.” (Spanish). “Early to rise has virtues three: ’tis healthy, wealthy, and godlie.” (English—16th century).
“Sloth makes all things difficult; but industry all things easy, as Poor Richard says; and he that riseth late must trot all day and shall scarce overtake his business at night; while laziness travels so slowly that poverty soon overtakes him, as we read in Poor Richard, who adds, Drive thy business! let not that drive thee! and:

  • Early to bed and early to rise
  • Makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.
  • So what signifies wishing and hoping for better times? We may make these times better if we bestir ourselves.”—Benjamin Franklin.

    “Every little helps to lighten the freight,” said the captain, as he threw his wife overboard. (Dutch).

    Fools are not planted or sowed, they grow of themselves. (Russian).
    “Fools grow without watering.” (Italian). “An ill weed grows of its own accord.” (French). “Weeds want no sowing.” (English). “Ill weeds grow soonest and last longest.” (Danish).

    “Gulp!” quoth the wife, when she swallowed her tongue (Scotch).

    “Hame’s namely,” quo’ the deil when he found himsel in the Court o’ Sessions. (Scotch).

    Hanging’s sair on the eesight. (Scotch).

    He breaks his wife’s head and then buys a plaster for it. (Irish).
    “You break my head and then bring me a plaster.” (English). “You first break my head and then plaster my skull.” (Spanish).

    “Hech!” quo Howie, when he swallowed his wife’s clue. (Scotch).
    “Hech”—an expression of surprise or grief. “Clue”—a ball of worsted.

    He has done like the Perugian, who, when his head was broken, ran home for his helmet. (Italian).

    He has no nose. “Will you take snuff?” (Marathi).

    He is asked the price of rice, but answers, “Wheat is sold at ten paseri!” (Behar).
    This aphorism is used in comment when anyone gives an irrelevant answer to a question.

    He may be trusted with a house full of millstones. (English).
    But not with anything that he is able to carry away.

    He may well be musical, for he walks upon German flutes. (English).
    Applied to a musician who has very slender legs.

    He looks as angry as if he was vexed. (Irish).

    He sits wi’ little ease wha sits on his neighbour’s coat-tail. (Scotch).

    He sprang from a chestnut shell and he does not admire the husk. (Osmanli).
    Applied to one who is ashamed of his family or ancestors.

    He that would be healthy must wear the same clothes in summer as in winter. (Spanish).

    He who likes noise, let him buy a pig. (Spanish).

    I am a man for eating and drinking, but for fighting, here is my hump-backed brother. (Marathi).

    If a camel comes to the village of ignorant people, they all declare that their ancestor has risen from the dead. (Behar).
    A proverb used to ridicule ignorant people of the lower class who look with wonder on that which is new or unusual and are easily duped by adventurers and unprincipled tradesmen.

    If all fools wore white caps, we should look like a flock of sheep. (Russian).

    If “ifs” and “ans” were pots and pans, there’d be no work for tinker’s hands. (English, Scotch).
    “With an ‘if’ we might put Paris in a bottle.” “Were it not for ‘if’ and ‘but,’ we should all be rich forever.” (French). “Had it not been for an ‘if,’ the old woman would have bitten a wolf.” (Danish).
    “The man who invented ‘if’ and ‘but’ must surely have transformed chopped straw into gold.”—G. A. Bürger.

    If my aunt were wheels, she would be an omnibus. (German).
    “If my aunt had been a man, she’d have been my uncle.” (English).

    If you have no pain, buy a goat. (Persian).
    If you keep a goat it will cause you so much trouble that you will think it easier to endure physical pain.

    “I hate ’bout gates,” quo’ the wife when she hurl’d her man through the ingle. (Scotch).
    I hate roundabout ways, come straight to the point.
    “‘I never lov’d ’bout gates,’ quoth the good wife, when she harl’d (trail’d) the good man o’er the fire. The second part is added only to make it comical; it signifies no more, but I always lov’d plain dealing.—James Kelly.

    It is because of his good heart that the crab has no head. (Martinique Creole).
    This proverb, says Lafcadio Hearn, “implies that excessive good nature is usually indicative of feeble reasoning power.”

    It’s a lonesome washing that there’s not a (man’s) shirt in. (Irish).

    It’s as true as Biglam’s cat crew, and the cock rock’d the cradle. (Scotch).
    That is to say, it is untrue.

    I would sooner be your Bible than your horse. (Scotch).
    Because you neglect your Bible and overwork your horse.

    Let that which is lost be for God. (Spanish).
    “The tale on which this is founded is a tale in a sentence. A man makes his will in Spain and, after having allotted everything, he says: ‘There is a cow, but the cow was lost; if it be found it is for so and so, but if it is never found it is for God.’ Did I say that proverb was Spanish? It is literally, but it is not merely Spanish morally, suggestively, in all its wider meanings. We have left God thousands of lost cows, He may have them all; if we find them we will bring them home, but if we do not find them the Lord may have them. We have made over all our bad debts to Him, but as to the actual money we have in hand that is another matter.”—Joseph Parker in People’s Bible.

    Like a man saying, when asked why he was getting up the coacoanut tree, that he wanted grass for his calf. (Telugu).

    Like scratching one’s head with a firebrand. (Telugu).
    A most absurd procedure but no more absurd than to employ an incompetent and unworthy person to represent you in an important enterprise. He will be sure to do you more injury than good.

    Little folk are soon angry. (Scotch).
    On hearing this phrase for the first time one naturally asks why little folk are more quickly angered than others? The answer is found in another saying: “Little folk are soon angry, for their hearts get soon to their mouths.”

    Man’s twal is no sae gude as the deil’s dizzen. (Scotch).
    Because “man’s twal” is twelve and the deil’s dizzen is thirteen.

    Marry a mountainy woman and you’ll marry the whole mountain. (Irish).
    Marry a woman who lives on the mountain, and you will have to be intimate with all her friends and kindred who are also inhabitants of the mountain.

    Musn’t tie up the hound with a string of sausages. (Louisiana Creole).

    Naething to be done in haste but gripping fleas. (Scotch, English, German, Dutch, Russian).
    “Nothing is done well in haste, except running from the plague or a quarrel, and catching fleas.” (Italian).

    Ne’er gie me my death in a toom dish. (Scotch).
    Toom—i.e., empty.
    Intended as a request for something to eat. Do not starve me to death by compelling me to wait long for my meal.

    Ne’er marry a widow unless her first man was hanged. (Scotch).
    If he has been hanged, she will not refer to his virtues nor make comparisons to your disadvantage.

    Now I am going to the battle of the frogs: it is to be seen whether I am alive or dead. (Behar).
    See Proverbs Founded on Historic Incidents, etc.: “The weaver lost his way in a linseed field.”
    Weavers are held in disrepute and ridiculed by Bihari peasants. In a note to the above proverb John Christian relates the following absurd tale that is common among the people and that represents a weaver recounting to his wondering wife the particulars of a severe combat that he has had with a frog in which he was defeated.
    “Once, being on a journey, he met a frog on the road. The first to strike was the frog with repeated blows. The jolha (weaver) fell below and the frog was on top of him (i.e., the frog won the fight). Thus defeated, he appeared in court and cried: ‘O Sir! the frog has beaten me. He broke my weaving frame and ran away with my shuttle, and in addition gave me a thrashing.’ The wife of the weaver, with tears in her eyes, began to inquire, ‘What kind of a being is a froggy?’ ‘He has long legs, my dear, and a beak like that of a crane; he hits from above as well as below (lit., he hits from above and presses from below),’ said the weaver, and added: ‘Now hear, brother, hear, my nephew, and hear, my mother dear, I am now off to do battle with the frogs, whether I live or die!’”

    Of that hair neither cat nor dog. (Spanish).
    Alluding to red hair which is disliked in Spain.

    One man’s beard is burning, another goes to light his cigarette by it. (Marathi).
    See Singular Proverbs: “If you see your neighbour’s beard on fire, water your own.”
    See also Proverbs Founded on Historic Incidents, etc.: “He set fire to his beard.” “The camel is drowning and the goat asks him the depth of the water,” is a proverb of similar import.
    The proverb is used in referring to absent-mindedness. For other sayings referring to absent-mindedness, see Impossibilities and Absurdities in Proverbs: “The story of one who wandered through the jungle in search of a lamb that he had on his shoulder.”
    The man is so intent on getting a light that he mistakes his companion’s red beard for a burning match or cigar, and thrusts his cigarette into the hair. The absurdity of the act gives force to the proverb.
    There are several other proverbs of like character that are quoted with different applications. For example, the following are used to indicate false sympathy: “When one man cried that his beard was on fire, another followed him asking for a light for his cigar.” (Telugu). “One man’s house is on fire, another warms himself by it.” (Urdu). “If my beard is burnt, others try to light their pipe at it.” (Turkish). The following is used to express pleasure at another’s misfortune: “One man’s beard is on fire and another man warms his hands by it.” (Kashmiri). And this as a taunt at one who having submitted to indignities will have to suffer additional insults: “Hast shaven the gentile and he is pleased, set fire to his beard also, and thou wilt never be finished laughing at him.” (Hebrew).
    Other sayings relating to the beard are as follows: “For such a beard, such a skin.” “To make the beard tremble.” (Spanish). “Don’t pluck a man’s beard whom you don’t know.” “He is well, but don’t pull his beard.” (Gaelic). “The men with beards”—rustics. (Latin). “To pull the devil by the beard.” “To make his beard”—to cheat him. “To beard him”—to affront him. (English).

    Put her in the mortar and she will seven times avoid being hit by the pestle. (Marathi).
    The ridiculous picture of a person in a mortar dodging the blows of a pestle is here given as an appropriate illustration of the stratagems of a cunning man. Sometimes a similar idea is expressed in the form of the question, “After putting one’s head into the mortar, who fears the pestle?”

    Raggit folk and bonny folk are aye ta’en haud o’. (Scotch).
    Spoken in jest when anyone tears his clothes on a nail or some other projection.

    School boys are the most reasonable people in the world; they care not how little they have for their money. (English).
    They care not how little education they receive for the money that is paid for their tuition.
    “You pay more for your schooling than your learning is worth.” (English).

    Scotsmen tak a’ they can get, and a little more if they can. (Scotch).

    Sycophants scratch pimples for a livelihood. (Telugu).

    The ass boasted that there was no voice equal to his, and no gait equal to that of his elder sister. (Tamil).

    The barber learns his art on the orphan’s face. (Arabian).
    “When a Village Lyceum Committee asks me to give a lecture and I tell them I will read one I am just writing they are pleased. Poor men, they little know how different that lecture will be when it is given in New York or is printed. I ‘try it on’ on them. ‘The barber learns his trade on the orphan’s chin.’”—Ralph Waldo Emerson.
    This was a favourite proverb with Mr. Emerson.

    The best art of the swimmer is to know how to secure his clothes. (Spanish).

    The blind son’s name is Lily-eyed. (Bengalese).
    “Vile persons are decorated with fine titles and attributes, as when one being childless has at length a son born blind and calls him, through a doting fondness, Lily-eyed!”—W. Morton.

    The camel going to seek horns lost his ears. (Latin, Hebrew, English, Modern Greek, Turkish).
    “The camel, while seeking horns, died in both ears”—like the stag. (Osmanli). “The ass went seeking for horns and lost his ears.” (Arabian). “The crow went to learn the ways of the goose, but lost its own.” The waddling gait of the goose is greatly admired by Bihari peasants. (Behar). “To go for wool and return shorn.” (English).
    This absurd proverb is generally applied to people who neglect to develop their natural talents, or refuse opportunities for advancement that come to people in the station of life to which they belong, and ape the manners and speech of others whom they envy, hoping thereby to secure success and fame. In seeking to better their condition they lose the advantages that are at hand.
    “The fable seems to have taken its rise from the camel’s having shorter ears than most animals of its size, and to its not being, or reputed not to be, quick of hearing. Hence the ancients feigned that Jupiter, offended at their asking for horns, had deprived them of their ears also.”—Robert Bland.
    Professor Alexander Negris says that the proverb was borrowed from Æsop’s Fables. It is also claimed that it was first spoken by the Hebrew Rabbis and applied by them in the Talmud to Balaam, who being appointed as a prophet of Israel fell from his high position through ignorance.

    The camel is drowning and the goat asks him the depth of the water. (Marathi).
    See proverb: “One man’s beard is burning, another goes to light a cigarette by it.”
    This is a taunt at men who are self-centred and absent-minded. The thoughts of the goat are so fully occupied with planning some way by which he can cross the river that he does not perceive that the camel is in peril of drowning and asks for information regarding the depth of the water.

    The chickens don’t brag about their own soup. (Martinique Creole).
    The reference is of course to chicken soup.

    The cockroach is never in the right where the fowl is concerned. (Trinidad Creole).
    Lafcadio Hearn declared that he found this proverb in every dialect that he had been able to study.
    “The cockroach is never silly enough to approach the door of the henhouse.” (Martinique Creole). “The cockroach is always wrong when arguing with the chickens.” (English). “The cockroach never wins its cause when the chicken is judge.” (Haytian).
    In a note to this proverb Mr. John Bigelow quotes P. B. Hunt of Philadelphia as saying: “Hens feed on cockroaches in the West Indies to such an extent as to make the yolks of their eggs pale, thin, and at times more or less bitter, just as our hens’ eggs are affected in the ‘locust year’ by a similar course of feeding…. It is the commonest negro proverb in Martinique. When in 1845 the Chamber of Deputies of France was discussing the question of slavery in the colonies and proposed a plan by which a slave could redeem himself by an appeal to the colonial magistrates, Rouillat de Cussac, a Martinique lawyer, told the deputies that in this case the slave would repeat to them leur proverb le plus habituel, ‘Ravet pas teni raison devant poulé.’ It has always been in use in Trinidad, which was both a French and Spanish island before it was English. The negroes of Jamaica and the other British West Indies say: ‘Cockroach never in de right before fowls.’ ‘Cockroach eber so drunk, him no walk past fowl yard.’ ‘When cockroach make dance, him no ax fowl.’”—“Wit and Wisdom of the Haytians” (Harper’s Monthly, 1875).

    The dog has four paws, but it is not able to go four different ways. (Martinique Creole).
    Four different ways at the same time.

    The devil is a busy bishop in his own diocese. (English, Scotch).

    The frog enjoys itself in water, but not in hot water. (Wolof—West African).

    The frog has no shirt, and you want him to wear drawers. (Trinidad Creole).

    The height o’ nonsense is supping soor milk wi’ a brogue. (Scotch).
    Brogue—i.e., bradawl.
    “Keeping the sea back with a pitchfork.” “You cannot drive a windmill with a pair of bellows.” “Long ere you cut down an oak with a penknife.” (English).
    Other proverbs of similar nature will be found under Impossibilities and Absurdities in Proverbs.

    The Kjar has gone to Bihr, while the wife has wide spread her eyelids. (Behar).
    Kjar—i.e., lamp-black.
    The ludicrous picture presented by this proverb is that of a woman, who, desiring to put some lampblack on the lower lids of her eyes according to the practices of the women of the district, opens her eyes wide for the purpose and finds that there is none within reach, so instead of exerting herself to get it she remains with staring countenance vainly waiting for it to be brought. The ridiculousness of her position, the unsatisfied vanity depicted in her features, and the hopelessness of her expectation unite in making the picture one that fitly represents people who wait without exertion for some turn in events, by which lost opportunities for personal betterment will return.
    “They have gone to Bihr for the collyrium and the bride continues looking in expectation.” (Hindustani).

    The moat is heaven to the cat that falls into it. (Telugu).
    He will be drowned.
    The proverb is applied to people who become involved in inextricable difficulties.

    The mosquito is without a soul, but its whizzing vexes the soul. (Osmanli).

    The plaintiff and defendant are in a boat, the witnesses are obliged to swim. (Hindustani).
    When it comes to the court, the plaintiff and defendant may be anxious as to the issue of the trial, but the witnesses have to stir themselves to greater exertion.

    There is no sore as big as the head cut off. (Vai—West Africa).

    There is nothing so eloquent as a rattlesnake’s tail. (American Indian).

    “There’s a mote in’t,” quo’ the man when he swallowed the dishclout. (Scotch).

    There’s mair knavery on sea and land than a’ the warld beside. (Scotch).

    “There’s many a sort of instrument,” said the man who had the wooden trump. (Irish).

    “There’s sma sorrow at our parting,” as the auld mear said to the broken cart. (Scotch).

    The Rui fish grieves at falling into the hands of an unskilful cook. (Bengalese).
    The Rui fish is regarded by the people of Bengal as a great delicacy, and is used in this proverb as representing an intelligent person who has come under the authority of an ignorant man or a fool.

    The snake says he doesn’t hate the person who kills him, but the one who calls out, “Look at the snake!” (Martinique Creole).

    The stealing is done by the moustacheless, but the man with a moustache is blamed for it. (Behar).
    “The small fish do the skipping, but it comes down on the head of the big fish.” (Behar). “The small fish, by their activity, stir up the water and thus indicate to the fisherman where he should cast his net; then, when it is cast, they escape through the meshes and let the big fish be caught; so the moustacheless man steals food and lets the man who has crumbs on his moustache be blamed.”

    The titmouse holds up his feet that the sky may not fall on it. (Persian).
    “Would the sea gull support the sky (with her feet) in case it fall?” (Behar).
    The absurd picture of a titmouse sleeping on its back with its tiny feet held up to prevent the sky from falling on it is presented to the mind by this proverb, for the purpose of showing the folly of a weak man contending with another who is stronger, or attempting to perform a task too difficult for him.

    The wren spreads his feet wide in his own house. (Gaelic).
    The absurd picture of the little bird, in its pride and assumption of importance, stretching its feet wide apart in its own house, is here presented to ridicule the pretensions of a conceited swaggerer.

    They came to shoe the Pacha’s horse and the beetle stretched out his leg. (Arabian).
    “The camels were being branded and the spider came to be branded too.” (Hindustani). “The horses were shoeing themselves, the frogs held up their feet.” (Afghan). “The camels are carried down by the current, the spider says ‘I can find no bottom.’” (Hindustani).

    “They’re a bonny pair,” as the deil said o’ his cloots. (Scotch).
    “‘They’re a bonny pair,’ as the craw said o’ his legs.” “‘Shame fa’ the couple,’ as the cow said to her fore feet.” “‘They’re curly and crooket,’ as the deil said o’ his horns.” (Scotch). “‘That’s a pair,’ as the crow said to his feet.” (Gaelic).

    This lie is a good lie: A snake swallowed an elephant. (Osmanli).

    To be up to one’s neck in love with a pair of tall clogs on. (Japanese).

    To come sailing in a sow’s ear. (English).

    To steal the pig and give away the pettitoes for God’s sake. (Spanish, Italian).
    “He steals a goose and gives the giblets in alms.” “He’ll dress an egg and give the offal to the poor.” “He will swallow an egg and give away the shell in alms.” “To steal the hog and give the feet for alms.” (English). “To steal the leather and give away the shoes for God’s sake.” “He swallowed an egg and gave away the shell in alms.” (German). “To steal a sheep and give away the trotters for God’s sake.” (Portuguese). “To steal the pig and give away the feet for the love of God.” (Italian).

    What can a pig do with a rose-bottle? (Telugu).
    “Like reading a portion of the Veda to a cow about to gore you.” “Though religious instruction be whispered into the ear of an ass, nothing will come of it but the accustomed braying.” (Tamil). “A garland of flowers in a monkey’s paw.” (Telugu). “Gold coin to a cat.” (Japanese). “It is folly to give comforts to a cow.” (Persian).

    What did my father die of? An excuse! (Spanish).
    Applied to people who neglect making a will and die intestate.

    What would shame him would turn back a funeral. (Irish).

    When fortune smiles on a mean person, he orders an umbrella to be brought at midnight. (Telugu).
    Among the Telugus an umbrella is a sign of rank or authority.
    “He who is on horseback, he no longer knows his own father.” (Russian). “Set a beggar on horseback and he will ride to the devil.” (Latin, English, Spanish, German). “A beggar ennobled does not know his own kinsmen.” (Italian). “When a peasant is on horseback, he knows neither God nor any one.” “When a mean person becomes rich he knows neither relatives nor friends.” “The dog saw himself in fine breeches (and would not recognize his companions).” “The clown (or peasant) saw himself in plush breeches and was as insolent as could be.” “When a clown is on a mule he remembers neither God nor the world.” (Spanish). “When the poor man grows rich, he beholds the stars at noonday.” (Bengalese). “The Turk, if he be but mounted on a horse, thinks, ‘I am become a bey.’” (Osmanli). “Put a beggar on horseback—he does not trot but he gallops.” (Dutch). “A man well mounted is always proud.” “A clown enriched knows neither relation nor friend.” “There is no pride like a beggar grown rich.” (French). “When the slave is freed, he thinks himself a nobleman.” (Oji—West African). “A wild boar in place of a pig would ravage the town; and a slave, made king, would spare nobody.” (Yoruba—West African). “No pride like an enriched beggar’s.” “The man in boots does not know the man in shoes.” “Set a beggar on horseback and he will gallop.” (English).
    “If a Derwaysh were to head the armies of El Islam, they would soon reach the ends of the world.”—Saadi.

  • “Such is the sad effect of wealth—rank pride.
  • Mount but a beggar, how the rogue will ride!”
  • John Wolcot.
  • “A proud beggar, when he is once mounted so high as to keep his coach—which was only invented for cripples—to carry him in triumph above the earth, thinks it below him to look down upon his inferiors, and inconsistent with his grandeur to take any notice of little people that stand in the way of his impetuous career or imperious contempt…. Every page or skinkennel, who formerly waited upon my lord, or my lady somebody, that has got preferment and money, sets up for a gentleman now-a-days and is proud as any beggar in the proverb upon horseback that gallops headlong without either fear or wit upon the precipice of ambition and the brink of ruin…. Like Alexander’s great horse, Bucephalus, which, when he was naked, would let anyone back him, mount, and welcome; but with his royal trappings on, would admit no rider, save only the king his master.”—Oswald Dykes.

    When one bat visits another, “You hang and I will do the same.” (Tamil).
    The last clause is supposed to be spoken by the bat acting as host.

    When the crane attempts to dance with the horse she gets broken bones. (Danish).

    Wipe wi’ the water and wash wi’ the towel. (Scotch).
    Used as a kind of reproof to children who when told to wash their hands do so in an imperfect way.

    Ye hae put a toom spune in my mouth. (Scotch).
    Toom spune—i.e., empty spoon.
    A proverb used by way of complaint after hearing a poor sermon.

    Ye’ll sit till ye sweat and work till ye freeze. (Scotch).
    “He’ll eat till he sweats and work till he freezes.” (English).

    “Ye’re a fine sword,” quo’ the fool to the wheat braird. (Scotch).

    Ye’re an honest man and I’m your uncle—that’s twa big lees. (Scotch).

    Young man, you’ll be troubled till you marry, and from then you’ll never have rest. (Irish).

    You’ve got the hiccough from the bread and butter you never ate. (Irish).