As They Say in Zanzibar: Proverbial Wisdom from Around the World (Hardcover)

Proverbial Wisdom from Around the World

By David Crystal

Oxford University Press, USA, 9780195374506, 717pp.

Publication Date: September 4, 2008



In this captivating tour of humanity's received wisdom, one of Britain's best-known and best-selling authorities on language, David Crystal, brings together more than 2,000 delightful proverbs from 110 countries--the first new book of world proverbs to appear in nearly eighty years.
Here readers will find proverbs they have known all their lives--such as "Everything comes to those who wait" and "Once a crook, always as crook"--alongside such lesser known gems as "One generation plants the tree, another gets the shade" (China) or "When two elephants tussle, it's the grass that suffers" (Zanzibar). Indeed, one of the great virtues of this volume is that Crystal serves up proverbs almost certain to be unknown to the reader, providing many fresh and wonderful surprises. Readers will find shrewd and incisive sayings from virtually every continent, ranging from Finland ("Even a small star shines in the darkness") to Ethiopia ("The smaller the lizard, the greater its hope of becoming a crocodile") to Japan ("Too much courtesy is discourtesy"). Loosely following the method of Roget's Thesaurus, which groups words with similar meanings, Crystal has gathered these proverbs in 468 fields such as sameness and difference, small amount and large amount, thus placing similar and antithetical proverbs in close proximity. In addition, there are more than thirty side panels on special topics, such as proverbs in Shakespeare ("Brevity is the soul of wit"), biblical proverbs ("Pride goeth before destruction"), and much more.
Proverbs are fascinating in what they tell us about another culture's view of life. Each proverb in this book adds a tiny bit more to our understanding of the world's cultural diversity, and thus helps us grasp more fully what it means to be human.
A coconut shell full of water is a sea to an ant (Zanzibar)
Don't call the alligator a big-mouth till you have crossed the river (Belize)
A bit of fragrance always clings to the hand that gives you roses (China)
They dread a moth, who have been stung by a wasp (Albania)
God heals and the doctor gets the money (Belgium)
The nail suffers as much as the hole (Netherlands)
When you sweep the stairs, you start at the top (Germany)

About the Author

Author of more than one hundred books, including most recently Words, Words, Words and The Fight for English, David Crystal received an OBE for services to the English language in 1995. Also a Fellow of the British Academy, a board member of the English Speaking Union, and former president of the Johnson Society, he is a frequent commentator on radio and TV on all matters linguistic.