proverbs and Sayings

Evaluation of the concept of proverbs and sayings in the East.

Evaluation of the concept of proverbs and sayings in the East.

In the Assyrian-Babylonian language, we find the word “Mathal” (proverb, saying) which signifies “to shine”, where as in Arabic, we use “Hukm” (power) and its derivatives such as “Hikma” (wisdom) to evoke power and sovereignty. As for the Hebrew, it kept the word “Mathal” instead of “Hukm” to evoke the power and sovereignty.

Most of researchers agreed that the signification of the word wisdom is more general than that of the proverb. All proverbs or sayings are wisdom whereas all wisdoms are not necessarily proverbs or sayings. 

The Semites have used the word “Mathal” (proverb or saying) to indicate “the art of speech”. In the Greek language, the proverb is defined as “a brief and famous expression”. This Greek definition seems to have reached the East.

The Arabs have adopted a similar approach. Ibn Salam considers that the proverb must be concise, with a clear meaning and does a good comparison.

Some thinkers have shown that there was a relationship between proverbs and the old poetry in the Semitic and non Semitic literature and that the old sayings and proverbs taken out from the Sumerian engravings and in the tomes of the Torah belonged to the poetic style of the Semite.

The proverb was made up of two equal verses at least. It is worth noting that written proverbs belonged to a register of formal language, a thing which certainly has preserved them from being forgotten *(

It is, however, probable from a logical point of view that the oral proverb was born before the beginning of writing for some literary purposes

Some researchers have remarked the importance of metaphors in the proverbs.

For example, The Babylonians have represented the planets by pictograms.

Researchers have deepened the relationship between the proverb and the metaphor. Some of them even claim that the proverb is the origin of the metaphor. *(

Others, in studying the proverbs (or old Semite sayings), have established a relationship between them and power. These researchers think that the proverb, the way it is said, has the word for origin or the speech pronounced by the leader or the master.

The proverb would be, thus, the expression of a power practicing control over a given group. That would explain the fact that some expressions attributed to some priests or prophets were recorded in the form of sayings. These men were practicing a religious or secular authority. *  

 (Religions have praised wisdom and have intimately linked it to the Holy Books. The Arabs have recognized the relationship between wisdom and the Book and have named the man who masters the wisdom and the Book by “the verb” or the “perfect”

Popular sayings were not far from the influence of power, some sayings were largely used in the councils and entourage of sovereigns.

Others also came to us in the form of satire, criticism or praise addressed to a person or a group of people in power. After being learned by the sovereigns, the religious men, the sayings were passed on with other knowledge

If the popular Aramaic or Jewish proverbs have won the reputation that belongs to them, thanks to the interpreters of the Holy Books, and religious men; the Arabs, as for them, before the arrival of Islam, disposed of some cultural centers which largely contributed in propagating numerous sayings, proverbs, tales and wisdoms*

*  Soufan Akef – Values  of  Education in  Arab proverbs –Ministry of Education – Abu Dhabi- U.A.E- 1991. p 53



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