Interesting Scottish Proverbs

Proverbs, as we all know, are sayings, advice given in short sentences or statements of the truth. Scottish proverbs are no different and some of the proverbs used in Scotland date back hundreds of years. Proverbs used by the Scottish can sometimes have a catchy rhyme to them or have a touch of humor, but no matter how they are spoken they are part and parcel of the Scottish culture and tradition.

Scottish proverbs are used everyday and we can often relate to most of them, such as: A gloved cat was never a good hunter; A great boaster is rarely a great performer; Better be friends at a distance than enemies at home; Danger past, God Forgotten; If you laugh at your ain sport, the company will laugh at you; and Pride and grace ne’er dwell in ae place. What most people do not realize is that there are around three thousand proverbs that are exclusive to Scotland. Most of these exclusive proverbs are short and directly to the point. A few examples are: All Stuarts are not sib (related) to the king; Ye never heard a fisher cry stinking fish; and Cast not out the foul water till you bring in the clean.

In some instances, the proverbs are exclusive to a specific area. To name one example, there are a few well-known proverbs that originate from Fife. It is said that this region was the first to have a complete collection of sayings and proverbs, compiled in the 16th century by David Ferguson. So if you hear proverbs such as: Fareweel, Bonny Scotland, I’m awa’ tae Fife; A deaf man will hear the clink o’ money; and Choose yer wife wi’ her nightcap on, you can be certain they are from Fife.

Visitors will often hear the Scottish ramble in some language that is far from being understood by tourists. This is because some of the Scottish will still make use of the Gaelic proverbs. To make it a little easier to understand, here are two. The first proverb is, ‘S fhearr caraid sa chuirt na crun san sporran, which means that a friend in court is worth more than crown in the purse, or an easier translation would be to say, that when you hit hard times, a friend is better than money. The second proverb sounds like this: Bhith beo beathail ged nach bitheadh tu beo ach leth-uair. Directly translated, it means, to live life to the full, though you would only live half an hour.

Scottish proverbs often illustrate a powerful expression of emotions. It can immortalize a community, remind us of our own mortality or merely tries to keep tradition and old values alive. They offer wisdom to the young, advice to the adults and reminds modern Scotland of its past.


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