Wit and Wisdom From West Africa

Wit and Wisdom From West Africa  (1865) 
by Richard Francis Burton








These Lines





A proverb Is the horse of conversation: when the conversation flagn, a proverb revives it: proverbs and conversation follow each other.— Yobuba


5. A wise man virill hear, and will increase learning; and a man of under- standing shall attain unto wise counsels.

0. To understand a proverb, and the interpretation; the words of the wise,

ind their dark sayings. — Proverbs, Chap. i.

The legs of the lame are not equal: ao is a pcunble in the muuth uf fools.— Provkbjs, Chap, xxvii.








An able linguist has remarked, that the highest object of language-study is to obtain an insight into the cha- racters and thought-modes of mankind. This may be effected in two ways: firstly, by an accurtite acquaintance with the verbal forms in which its ideas find utterance; secondly, by the inyestigation of its literary composi- tions.*

AflJ^gards the African tongues, too much Jabour has hitherto been lavished upon the adits and portals which lead to the temple of knowledge. Sir William Jones, in the last century, made the same complaint touching Asiatic dialects. The " true expression of the national spirit, containing the secrets of a race's mental organisa- tion," and "revealing the origin of customs long for- gotten," is not to be sought in accidence or in vocabulary. And they who maintain, as some have^done, that " the

  • The Bey. J. L. Dobne, Missionary to the American Board, C.

P. M. — '*A Zola-Kafir Dictionary Btymologically Explained, with copiocu illastrations and examples, preceded by an introdaction on the Zola-Kafir Language. "—Cape Town, 1857.


•pirit of a nation is exhibited to oar minda in the lifing words which have conTejed ita ideas for ages, as dearly as Hm physical appearance is presented to our eyes," and that thus the national language is the only safe exponent. of the national character," hare chosen, it appears to me, the more imperfect means of attaining the wished-fbr object.*

For Africa has an embryo literature, and hardly re- quires that one should be begotten by strangers, *' for the propagation of Christian truth and the extension of civilisation/' Some peoples, as the wild and pastoral, tribes of the southern regions, have been said to be destitute of traditions. " The sarage custom of going naked," we are told, ** has denuded the mind, and de- stroyed all decorum in the language. Poetry there is none: the songs are mostly repetitions of a few hyper- bolical expressions. There is no metre, no rhyme, nothing that interests or soothes the feelings, or arrests the passions; no admiration of the heavenly bodies, no taste for the beauties of creation. We miss the cul- tivated mind which delights in seizing on these objects, and embodying them in suitable words." Finally, the

  • Humboldt, Pen. Narr. Chap. IX., remarks, '* There are certain

points in vbich idioms the most dissimiUr concur one with another. That which is common in the intellectual organisation of man is re^ i«eied in the general structure of language; and every idiom, bow- 0f«r barbarous it may ai>i>ear, discloses a regulating principle wbich tepradded at its formation."


massiYeness and bulkiness of the languages, — which bear the stamp of the people who use them, — " has caused weakness in the intellect of the native."

But surely these opinions regarding the absence of oral literature, if the phrase be allowed, amongst the so- called Kafir races, are greatly exaggerated, if not wholly erroneous. The Eev. Mr. Moffat often refers to the fables and apologues of the Bachwanas (Bechuanas). " Les Bassoutous " (Basutu), says M. Casalis,* alluding to their proverbs, " me paraissent avoir ete particuliere- ment heureux dans ce genre de composition. Leur langue, par sa precision ^nergique, se prcte admirablement au style sententieux, et T^l^ment m^taphorique est entree si abondamment dans sa formation qu'on ne saurait la parler sans s'habituer insensiblement k revetir ses pense^ de quelque image qui les fixe dans la memoire.'* As an instance of this metaphysical style, we find amongst his catalogue of Sisuto proverbs, ** La pointe de Taiguille doit passer la premiere; " meaning, " Be discreet in your dis- course, avoid disguising the truth by evasive words."t This does not confirm Mr. Dohne*8 views.

Even if, however, IVIr. Dohne's dictum be correct in the case of the Kafirs, it is distinctly not so when

  • Etudes Bar la langue S^chnana, par Eng. Gasalis, Part III. p. 84.

+ I should rather explain this by our kindred expression, "in- troduce the sharp edge of the wedge first;" or, as the West Africans say, '* Softly! Softly caught the monkey."


applied to other African tribes, even to those of an in- ferior organisation, mental and physical.

Amongst the negroid races of the seaboard and the interior, MM!. Dard and Koelle* have shown that there is a vernacular literature. The latter has transcribed a variety of ^* tales in the same language, and about the same words, in which they have been told over and over again, to beguile many an idle hour in a land where nature's richest bounties are obtained without almost any labour." He soon managed to collect a MS. of about 800 pages, which constituted a rich material for grammatical investigation, and of which he published a limited collection. And he justly remarks, that they present the student with the proper means of acquiring a correct and thorough acquaintance with the language. << Translations of books made by foreigners — ^for in- stance, the Bible — cannot fully answer this object; and even to tell a native English phrases for the purpose of having them translated into his own tongue, is a mode of proceeding not quite safe, inasmuch as it often places him in the temptation of adapting his own language to the English idiom: the whole peculiar cast and features of a language can be thoroughly learned only when we hear natives express their thoughts in their own mother- tongue." He includes in his work sketches of no little

  • These authors will presently be more distinctly alluded to.


importance, depictiag the two most powerful nations of Central A&ica, the Bornuese and the Fulas, with the sensible observation, *^ that where all is still enveloped in so much darkness, any such sporadic glimpses of light become of great value." Of the fables, it can only be said that we recognise in them a specimen of that old- world literature which immortalised iBsop, and which enables the Fanjatantra still to remain the text-book of Hindostan.

M. Koelle proceeds to a deduction, in which he would compel all to agree with him, by merely substituting the word " Negroid " for " Negro." The Bornuese, like the Wolof, are semi-Semites — they have the Koran and the Arab alphabet:* we may, therefore, expect to find a superiority in their compositions over those of the pure African. *' It is hoped that the publication of these first specimens of Kanuri literature will prove useful in more than one way. Independently of the advantage it offers for a practical acquaintance with the language, it also introduces the reader to some extent into the inward world of Negro mind and Negro thoughts; and this is a circumstance of paramount importance, so long as there

  • The Vai Syllsbarium which, like the Cherokee alphabet, excited

a nine-days' wonder in Europe, was the inyention of a race cognate with the Mandenga, and who probably derived from the Koran the idea of writing their mother-tongne. They call the world "dunya" and a wife **namasi," which sufficiently shows their theology, and the Krarce whence they drew the most important of their words.


are any who either flatly negative the question, or, at least, consider it still open, ' "Whether the Negroes are a genuine portion of mankind or not.* It is vain to speculate on this question from mere anatomical facts, from peculiarities of the hair, or from the colour of the skin: if it is mind that distinguishes men from animals, the question cannot be decided without consulting the languages of the Negroes, for language gives the expreS' Stan and the manifestation of the mind. Now, as the grammar proves that Negro languages are capable of expressing human thoughts — some of them, through their rich formal development, even with astonishing precision — so specimens of their 'Native Literature' show that the Negroes actually have thoughts to express; that they reflect and reason about things just as other men. Considered in such a point of view, such speci- mens may go a long way towards refuting the old- fashioned doctrine of an essential inequality of the Negroes with the rest of mankind, which now and then shows itself, not only in America, but also in Europe. Such views may, perhaps, be excusable in those who have never heard black men speak, except in a language foreign to them, and which they had to learn from mere hearing; but when I was amongst them in their native land, on the soil which the feet of their fathers have trod, and heard them deliver in their own native tongue stirring extempore speeches, adorned with beautiful


imagery, and of half-anrhour or an hour's duration; or when I was writing from their dictation, sometimes two hours in succession, without having to correct a word or alter a construction in twenty or thirty pages; or, when in Sierra Leone, I attended examinations of the sons of liberated slaves in Algebra, Geometry, Latin, Greek, Hebrew, etc. — then, I confess, any other idea never entered my mind but that I had to do with real men,**

Proceeding further South, we reach the Gold Coast; whose population is purely pagan, and which afforded the Ashante, Cormantyn, and " Guinea Niggers," once so well-known in Jamaica and in the Southern States of the American Union. M. Zimmermann has supplied us with specimens of proverbs, of historical composition, of the old stories of the Accra people, and of speeches delivered by the chiefs during the poll-tax disturbances, which occurred in January, 1854. About 8000 armed men, "protected " by Great Britain, assembled at night, sometimes near, at other times under the guns of our forts. The people having formed a large circle, with the Caboceers, headmen, captains, and speakers in advance, and having saluted one another in due form, chose their speakers and witnesses to accompany them to the several groups, and delivered orations of a Hibernian and repeal tendency, which the Reverend Reporter transcribes with evident zest. We have also a specimen of a Ga-fable: '■ 6


" Spider and Spider-son and three Ghosts," — the spider, who is supposed to have created the first man, being therein brought to shame.* Then follow Lalai, or songs, which are, however, mere tautologies. The author re- marks, " Short Ga-songs are composed at random during plays and processions, dances and labours. Thej are often witty and satirical; but we are still too little acquainted with this part of the language to have a sure footing as to metre, time, ellipses, and other points. Proverbs and fables or tales, which already exist by hundreds and even thousands, are also continually pro- duced by young and old.f But it is also difficult, especially with the latter, by which many a moonlight night is occupied, to get them correctly — their style and spirit partly expressed by theatrical changes of voice, by songs, by imitations of noises and interjections, are, as in the case of the speeches, generally lost in writing them down. Bespecting the proverbs, it is to be remarked, that though they form as it were the expression of the law and manners of the country, they appear often very

• Of these AnanBesem, or spider-stories, more in a future page, fiosman (Description of Guinea, Letter 17) is my authority for as- serting that the Gold-Coast people believe the first men to have been made by the spider. M. Zimmermann speaks of it rather as a popular demon than a creator.

t There are men at Accra, Mr. Addo of the British hotel, for instance, who have a repertoire almost as copious as the Arabian Nights, and to which Europeans listen with curiosity and wonder, if not with admiration.


embiguous, and allow not only a bad, but often also an unclean use.'**

Still advancing eastward, we enter the land of Toruba, of which it will be remembered Dahome and Benin form part.f "It would seem," said the good and learned Bishop VidaljJ "that there is scarcely an object pre- sented to the eye, scarcely an idea excited in the mind, but it is accompanied by some sententious aphorism, founded on a close observance of men and manners, and, in many cases, of a decidedly moral tendency. It ia*true

  • Perhaps the worst of the whole are the songs, which are mere

repetitions. The hymns and spiritual pieces, translated by Gatechists, bear the impress of want of power. The two following were ex- temporised by Erobo children -after the first fruits of the tribe had been baptised, and the second alludes to that event. They are sang, we are told, to a yery sweet tone.

1. It is God's first born Who died! oh!

This is what grieves us "too much!" He will come I oh I Oh yes! oh yes! my friend!

2. People come, but people come not yet! oh! To-day, when our Father has not yet come! Tea! yea 1 yea ) my friend!

Which is somewhat like the improvisation by Mr. Theodore Hook.

t A few specimens of Dahomian sayings will be offered to the reader. Benin is not behind her sister provinces in tale and tradi- tion, bat my stay in that city was too short to make collections.

t Introduction to Mr. Crowther^s Toruba Grammar.

6 2


that this concise and pointed method of speech is, in a degree, common to all nations amongst whom civilisation has made but little progress; for, as has been justly re- marked, * proverbial expressions are peculiarly adapted to a rude state of society, and more likely to produce effect than any other j for they profess not to dispute but to command; not to persuade, but to compel: they conduct men, not by circuitous argument, but immediately to the approbation and practice of integrity and virtue.* In the Yohiba, however, there is an extraordinary exuberance of these sententious sayings, not confined to any particular caste, undertaking to be the guide of the rest; but every- where in the mouths of all, imparting a character to common conversation, and marking out a people of more than ordinary shrewdness, intelligence, and discernment. If brevity and elegance be regarded as the two main excellences of a proverb, the Toruban aphorisms may claim an equal rank with those of any other nation in ancient or modern times; for besides the condensation of the discriminating sentiment into a small compass, — which is always observable in them, — there is, for the most part, also an . almost poetical contrivance or con- struction of the parts, which marks a refinement of taste greater than we should naturally have expected.** ♦ " I believe that the number and the character of these

  • I b&rdly think that the Bishop ever could have compared the

Torubao with the Arab or Persian proverbs.


proverbial sayings will almost bear us out ia calling them the natioual poetry of the Yorubas. I am not aware of the existence amongst them of any heroic pieces, or war and hunting songs, such as those which prevail amongst the southern tribes, and of which Casalis has given us several remarkable specimens. The poetry of the Yorubas, if I in&j call it such, seems rather to be of the didactic kind, probably evincing a different character of mind in the people, and which cannot fail, I think, to remind us, both in sentiment and style, of some of the poetical books of Scripture.*'

The Bishop then proceeds to point out a characteristic which he believes gives the proverbs of Yoruba their peculiar claim to be considered a natioual didactic poetry. It is the same feature which Bishop Lowth considered one of the grand characteristics of, and which Bishop Jebb proved to be the sole distinctive characteristic of, the Hebrew poetry, — the system of parallelism.* After

  • "Denoting a certain equality or resemblance between the members

of each period, so that in two lines, or members, of the same period, things shall answer to things and words to words, aa if fitted to each other by a kind of rule or measure."

With diffidence, due when differing in opinion with three bishops, I venture to remark, that in the Semitic dialects, and in other than Asiatic and Indo-European tongues, — as the Persian, — which imitate their style, the habit of balancing sentences naturally produces this paralklism. And I believe that the Thousand and One Nights would supply as many instances as can be found in the Hebrew poets.

hi another point I can liai<lly agree with the learned Mr. Vidal,


adding instaDces of the gradational, the antithetic, and the introverted, he concludes, " Such is the striking feature of parallelism which so evidently characterises the Yoruba proverbs. It is this which gives them their claim to the title of poetry; for there does not appear to be anything which can be strictly called rhythm or metre in any of them; although the feature which I am about to notice may be regarded as a slight approximation to it. I mean, that there is in the main a conformity of length between the lines which are designed to be parallel or antithetic; and that where there is a third line, either preceding or following, which stands alone, it is of a different length from the others, and, in most cases, considerably longer. These stanzas, if we may call them so, of three lines,*

viz., that the Yoruba must be exclu<led from the extensive alliteral family of languages, — e.g., Congo, Damara, Sichwana, and Eafir, — vhich occupies the i^hole of Africa south of the equator. The dis- tingnisbiDg points of the Hamitic tongaes are these. 1. The root is a consonant, followed by a vowel — monosyllabic, as opp<i8ed to the hiliteral Semitic, — so that vowels do not initiate roots, nor do consonants, except liquids and nasals, terminate them. 2. An inordinate reduplica- Uonand combination to assist the roots, whose simplicity demands some such aid. 3. The distinction, not of gender, but of the ))ersoQal and the impersonal, the animate and the inanimate. 4. Negation in the verb by a negative voice. 6. The absence of a passive voice. 6. The peculiar and artificial system of eujibony. 7 and final, The change of words at the beginning instead of at the end of the vucable, where per- formatives or affixes take the place of the Aryan suffixes. Tried by these testa, the Yoruba clearly belongs to the trans Sahara family.

  • The characteristic of the indigenous Sindhi poetry is the stanza

of three lines, the third numbeiiug two or more feet than the first


are of very frequent occurrence amongst the Toruba proverbs, and the peculiarity just noticed will, I think, be found to prevail almost universally in them.*'

I will conclude this portion of the subject with ex- tracting two passages from the Introduction above quoted.

    • I must not omit to mention, in this brief account of

the Yoruba proverbs, that there is a degree of moral light observable in them which renders them peculiarly interesting, and gives them, I may add, a real value in connection with the inquiry into the moral government of the universe; inasmuch as it presents us with a lively comment on the words of St. Paul concerning the Gentiles, * which show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the meanwhile accusing or else excusing one another.' (Eom. ii. 15.) These proverbs, in many instances, display ideas concerning the providence of God, the moral rectitude of actions, or the practice of social virtues, which (to say the least) we should hardly have expected to find in a people so wholly separated from the influences, direct or indirect, of that revelation which God was pleased to make of Himself to man.* The

and second. I have quoted many instances of tlxis peculiarity in " A History of Sindh."

• I believe, on the contrary, that the whole of Yoruba shows more or less the effects of Bl Islam. With respect to the Kafirs,


words of Casalis, with reference to the Sisuto proverbs, are, in my opinion, even more applicable to those of the Yorubas. 'Sous le rapport moral, il est interessant d'observer les vestiges de cette conscience universelle, a laquelle Dieu a confix la direction de toute creature intelli- gente. Nous acquerous par la la certitude qu*il n'est pas d'homme sur la terre qui ne sache diacerner entre ce qui est moralement bon et moralement mauvais, et qui par consequent en soit susceptible d*encourir la condamna- tion attach^e a la transgression des lois divines.' Amongst his list of Sisuto proverbs, we meet with some that express a moral sentiment; as, for example, ' La trappe prend le grand oiseau aussi bien que le petit; ' ' Le sang humain est pesant, il empeche celui qui I'a r^pandu de fuir;* * Le meurtrier dit, Je n'ai tue qu'une b^te, mais Tanimal sans poll (Fhomme) ne perit pas sans etre veng6; ' * L'homme trompeur est une aiguille a deux * pointes.' But there is something more striking in the high standard of morality obser- vable in the sayings of the Yorubas, displaying as it does a conscious recognition of the intrinsic excel- lence of those peculiar virtues which we commonly regard as being appreciated only in civilised society.*

it most be noted that they are a mixed race of African, Arab, and perhaps Peraian blood.

  • The fact is, civilisation takes too much npon herself. There is

more of equality between the saToge and the civilizee — the difference


Were we to measure this people by the standard of their proverbial morality, we should come to the conclusion that they had attained no inconsiderable height in the deyelopment of social relations, having passed out of that savage barbarism, in which every individual lives for himself alone, into a higher state of being, in which the mutual dependence of one member on another is recognised, giving room for the exercise of social virtues as a sort of moral compact for the safeguard of society."

After illustrating his dictum by instances, Mr. Vidal draws the following deductions: —

" Surely these are indications of no ordinary percep- tion of moral truths, and suiBcient to warrant the infer- ence that in closeness of observation, in depth of thought, and in shrewd intelligence, the Toruban is oh rvx^v atnjp — no ordinary man. The existence of proverbs such as these, amongst a people situated as the Torubans are, is a fact pregnant with many thoughts, on which the theo- logian and the moralist may dwell with advantage, and may awaken in all an interest in a nation towards whom the sympathies of the public have been already directed by the exciting events of their recent political history.

being one of quantity, not of quality— than the latter will admit. For man is everywhere commensurate with man. Hence, whilst the average Englishman despises the Yoruba, the Yoruba "reciprocates'* with hate and fear.


We can now see a little way into the thoughts and feelings of that people, which has come prominently before our notice as the butt of the last efforts of the expiring slave trade, and the repeUer of those efforts: * we can now dive a little into that sea of mind, to which the Dahomian tyrant would fain have cried, * Hitherto shalt thou come, and no further; ' which he would fain have bound in the chains of slavery like the Persian monarch of old, but which refused to be fettered, rising up wholly like a flood, and forcing his proud army to flee before it. Surely great interest must attach to an insight into t.he mind of such a people, now for the first time furnished to the civilised world in the work before us, by one of the most intelligent amongst them,t whose long acquaintance with foreign civilisation renders him capable of appreciating the importance of the work which he has undertaken, and of estimating the difficulty which attends upon the task of rendering intelligible in a new language, the ideas of another, wholly diverse and alien." « • • • #

The idea of the present compilation was suggested to me by an old and favourite work — the delight, indeed, of all Anglo-Eastern students — " £oebuck*s Oriental Pro-

  • To which we may now add, "and since its re-establishment,

itself the most ardent of enslavers." Within the last four years it has sold off some 20,000 — Ijaye people, its allies.

t Then the Rer. Mr., now the fiight. £er. Bishop Crowther.


verbs," whose breadth of plan has rendered it a kind of manual of Asiatic thought.* Without attaching high importance to aphorisms and apophthegms as the " con- centrated expression of profound sagacity " — indeed, the saws and adages of most languages generally run in pairs, the one contradicting the other t — we may not the less regard them as " often the characteristic representa- tion of modes of thought peculiar to the people amongst whom they are current, and therefore valuable accessories to the delineation of national manners and opinions.'* It seemed to me that the readiest, indeed the only, way of understanding the negro is to let him speak of himself

  • "The nations of the East have always delighted in the significant

brerity of aphoristic eloquence, and the Proverbs of Solomon are a satisfiftctory testimony of the antiquity and extent of their employ* ment amongst the Jews. The Arabs were not less addicted to this phraseology than the Hebrews, and the vast collection of Maidain forms, perhaps, but a limited repository of Arabic proverbs. Many of them have, of course, passed into the languages of Persia and India, but there is no want of such idioms in those dialects of a purely indigenous origin: the latter is especially rich in this respect, and the student of Hindustani, or Hindi, can scarcely open a book in which he is not hampered by the recurrence in almost every page of idiomatic phrases of local application, unfamiliar allusions, and proverbial sententiousness." — Introduction to Capt. Thomas Roebuck's Collection of Proverbs and Proverbial Phrases in the Persian and Hindoostani Languages. Calcutta, 182t(.

t So the poet says: —

"All things are double, one against another.'*

And to quote one proverb against another, there is our English dictum: — "Wise men make proverbs, and fools use them."


in his own words, and that if ever a book aspires to the title of * L* African peint par lui-meme/ it must be one that contains a most compendious collection of purely Hamitic proverbs and idioms. Already the Englishman begins to own that he cannot dive into the abysses of the Chinese and Japanese character: the Eussians and the Anglo-Americans declare — and perhaps all nations, pure and mixed, might do the same — that they cannot be un- derstood by foreigners. The African has long been con- fessedly a puzzle. That the Japhite — we will retain these useful but conventional and provisional terms — cannot enter into the mysteries of Hamitic organisation, is easily proved by the vast scale of different gradations ranging between the two extremes, which make the negro in European opinion either an angel of light or a goblin damned. Those who have observed him the longest, indeed, seem to have elicited only a series of contradic- tions; witness the Author of " Eighteen Tears on the Gold Coast.*' " Joy and sorrow,** we are told, "reckless gaiety and gloomy despondency, exaggerated hopes and distracting fears, unbridled passions and humble meek- ness, ardent love and cool indifference, furious hate and cordial friendship, prodigal profusion and griping avarice, atheistical unconcern and bigoted superstition, sway by turns their versatile minds, and with a rapidity of change which startles and confounds us.*' What can be made of such a definition or a description as this?


The matter was readj to my band, as soon as the thought of a collection suggested itself. I had but to borrow, under due acknowledgement, from the many proverb-lists of linguist authors, who have translated them from various African tongues, with a view to illus- trate the grammar rather than the logic of the negro. The books from which I have copied are so scattered, as will appear in the following pages, that the general reader never has an opportunity of perusing them: and this will, it is trusted, justify me in publishing such a com- pilation.

This Handbook contains a total of 2268 proverbs, idioms, enigmas, laconisms, and words conveying know- ledge concerning the people's habits and superstitions. Of these, 226 are in the Wolof Tongue, 83 in the Kanuri, or Bomuese. I have appended but few explanations to them, principally because their manifestly Semitic modes of thought render them sufficiently intelligible to the European mind. On the other hand, the contrary has been judged necessary with the purely Hamitic, whose richness of metaphor and whose peculiar method of envisaging moral and physical phenomena, to say nothing of an ellipsis often forced and sometimes obscure, renders them like a Sankrit or a Prakrit, as compared with an Arabic or a Persian book, unfamiliar to us, and beyond or beside, as it were, our views. Of these there are 265 in the Oji, or Ashante, language; 221 in the Ga, or Accra,



iongno: the latter are less diffusclr illustrated, because oxplaiued by the former. Ensue 60S ia the idiom of Toruba, most of them necessitating a somewhat lengthy explanation. A few are borrowed from the Efun, or pahome, one of the many dialects of Yoruba: there is a small collection from the I:<ubu and Dualla of the Bight of Biafra: the mi:«collanoous collection containing a total of 37; the Efik dialect of the Old Calabar Hirer, in the Bight of Biufra, has supplied S14; and, lastly, there are 14 specimens from the Mpar.gwes (Fans) of the Upper Gaboon IJiver.

The orthoirrapiiy of the oriinnal collectors has been, \tx tlio adviLV of iry learned frioLd, Mr. William Stirling, M.l* > ^'^' ^^'ir- nnainod.

1 rt'liovo I'lvo rt-adiT from furthor preface, hoping that he will find as ii noli I'li-asuri^ and pront in perusing, as the ivwrlior h;\> l:ad in coiicciiajT, during the dreary iolitudo of a raiuv season in the Tropics, the ** Hand- KK»k of \Vi>T A:rican Vrovcrbial rhiiosophy."










. 179




vii.— proverbial sayings and idioms in the mpangwe

(fan) tongue 439










The subjoined collection of Proverbs is extracted from tbat excellent work, M. Dard's Grammar.*

The Wolofs, formerly called joloffs,! are mentioned bj many travellers. As early as a.d. 1446 tbey were known to the Portuguese; and in the reign of King

  • Grammaire Wolofe, on M^thode poor Windier la langne des noirs

qui habitent Les Boyaiunes de Boarba-Yolof, de Walo, de Darnel, de Boar-sine, de Saloume, de Baole, en Sdn^gambie. Suivi d'an ap- pendice od sout ^tablis les particularity lea plus essentielles des prin- cipales langnes de L'Afrique Septentrionale. Par J. Dard, Instituteur de r£cole Wolofe-Fran9aise du S^n^I, Auteur des dictionnaires Wolof et Bambara. ImprimS par autorisation da &oi & rimprimerie roj^ale, 1826.

It is popularly said in Senegal that no one will ever speak Wolof like M. Dard. The reason is, that, under the nevr regime of compulsory French instruction, the vernacular language languishes, — loses all its raciness.

t According to the Folyglotta Africana *'Jolof " is merely a "Wolof" district.

B 2


John, one " Bemoir," of princely bouse, visited Lisbon in state, was baptised, and did homage to the Europeau king. Their habitat is " Senegambia," the country be- t^een the rivers Gambia and the Senegal, the latter separating them from the Assanhaji, who are held to be the Sanhagii of Leo Africanus. Thej are " black, but comely," with long-oval faces, finely-formed features, straight noses, and jetty glossy skins: in character they are brave and dignified, and they are distinctly not negroes, but negroids.

Their language differs from those around them, and is remarkable for copiousness and picturesqueness. It is widely extended, because Senegambia has long been — like the North African coast — the importation-place of European goods intended for Central Africa, for Tim- buktu, Hausa, Bomu, and the upper Nigerian basin. Besides the natives of the maritime countries, the people of Buudu, Kayaga (Galam), Kaarta, Kasson, Fuladu, and Bambara, all aftect it. As M. Dard remarks, Mungo Park has often used, in his "African Travels," expressions which he deems Mandenga, but which may be Wolof. For instance, in the story of " poor Nealee," " Kang-tegi! " — " cut her throat;" would be, in Wolof, " Kung akateke!" — " let her head be cut off"! " and ** Nealee affeeleeata," is equally corrupted by the author or printer from Nealee afeyleata, which signifies moreover not " Nealee is lost," but simply " Nealee breathes no more."

In Wolof the Proverbs are numerous and expressive: the people are exceedingly fond of them, and a Euro- pean with any knowledge of these wise sayings, can travel r.mongst them not only in safety, but with all respect. I would request the reader to compare these


and the Kanuri proverbs, which are both Moslem, with those of the Kafirs or Infidels in the Oji, the Gai and the Toruba languages. M. Dard's orthography is preserved throughout.


Ba n^a sainata rone, rone a la diaka saina.

"When thou seest the pabu-tree, the palm-tree has i/

seen thee.


Jalele sainon ane na sainon guissetil dara, tey magne. dieki thy soufe gnissa yope.

The child looks everywhere and often sees nought; but the old man, sitting on the ground, sees everything.

3. Ntiole don napa thy tate on morome am omeley. The diver-bird cannot catch fish behind his companion. N.B.— Omel^ is to oatch an abundance of fish."


Lon jalele vaja thia saine kenrre la ko degney. What the child says, he has heard it at home. N.Bb —Distinctly referring to the "enfant terrible" class.


Lon gony ry ry, gnife a di ndeey am.

The great calabash-tree has had a seed for its mother.

6. Son baton on nda diakono thia nsakje dieetiL If only the small measure goes to the shop, the millet will last long.

^^^^^^^1 * ^^^^H




Jadhie sou sassonl, don baw.

If the dog is not at home, he barks not.


Fondhie on naigue de na jaija ab taw, tey sailo yagonl.

The houae-roof figlits with the rain, but he who is sheltered ignores it.

9. Jama sa bope mo gnenne kon la ko waja. Know th jself better than he does who speaks of thee.


Tabaje son diamanto mbande todhiele (de nga ko todbia).

If you practise your *prentice-hand upon a large jar, you will break it.

11. Jamonl aya na, tey ladhieteonl a ko raw. Not to know is bad, not to wish to know is worse.

12. Tape don dieala yape. Meat eats not meat. N.B. — Meaniog, beggars do not devour one another.


Son donl kone tonbeye dionly aya. But for the wide trowsers, prayer would be a scandal. N.B. — Because prostration would be indecent.


Xou amonl ndeey nampa nuune am.

He who has no mother sucka his grandmother.

15. Kou tey jamone ndialbene, mondhie di noflaye. If you know the beginning well, the ead will not trouble you.

16. Sopa bonT ay oqI, wandey botir bou la sopa a ko guenne. To love the king is not bad, but a king who loves you is better.


Kon tey jamone kon nga bokala bakane, mon di Ba ande thy adonna.

Whoso knows one who will die with him, he (the known) will be his friend in this world.


Nitte de na anda ak morome am, tey don masse am. Man should take as companion one older than himself.

19. Bafete dhiko mo guenne dhiko dhion bone. A good action is better than a bad action.


Nitte gon Ion nga dinthia mon defist thia lojo am doyonl denkala.

A man who touches what you have shut up, should not dwell with you.



La diarake ama di yonja son ko luw amone diala. What the conyalescent refuses, would give pleasure to the dead.

22. Gnema na dee, ndigui yaje. I believe the death, because of the bones.

23. Diaeekat ou yige demmetil dianew. The bom-merchant goes not to the other world.


Bala nga toufou, fetal y bentte.

Before curing ophthalmia, the eyes must be seen.

26. Son bonnte on naigne amone y gobar kaine don gnenna.

If the door had daggers, no one would leave the room.

Bnla nga onyon naika fa.

Before one replies, one must be present.

27. Son donl kone barame lojo di kondon. Without fingers the hand would be a spoon.




Daw don maee y taliba. Sunning about gives no scholars. N3. — ^Our " Rolling stone gathers no moss."


Son ma jatMo sonfe, dorey fa ma naika.

If I wanted to collect sand, I should begin where I am.

30. Lou diarake bone bone, mana waka niw. He who is scarcely convalescent, can stifle a dead man.

81. Tenradi agonl dianew.

He who always turns when sleeping, does it no more in the other world.

82. Lon bonki oma oma, mana bare ak bay. Though the wolf be lean, he can contend with a' goat.

33. Mbajaney don faikey dee on borome am. The cup finds not out its master's death. K.B. — Because it passes into other hands.


Son nitte dialey dangogne am di simey thierey,

bon ko niana nieje.

If a man makes soup of his tears, do not ask him for broth.




Jaidhie on nthiokaire ak sene am kon thia fatte g^essi oma.

She whom the partridge loves, as she whom he hates, would starve if they forgot to scratch the ground {for food).

86. Hbote a gnenne bengaa ndoje, wandey mon tangue bokon thia.

The frog enjoys itself in water, but not in hot water.

87. Oane yon barey bongalonl mbame sen! Many guests matter little to the ass of the inn.

88. lo mana mana hire on nitte difa na thia Ion nga yagonL

Thou knowest not what man*s stomach can contain.


Son gniro kone maee la, difa thia ndabe la ngaine boka.

He who takes thy part at the dish to give it to thee, had better allow thee to take it.


Eon lajonl laika laja til diaee. He who makes not soup for himself, will not make honUlie for sale.


Bengneti ma Isje, bel sama bope defa bosse. I want no boiled meat if my head must be the trivet (ufhich supports the pot),

42. Kon jaiba laje on ndeki defon gnon ko thy nope am. When you give a man boiled meat for breakfast, you do not pour it into his ears.


Eon tenba ak y sabare danon ak y ngnote, son nga laine laikonl, kone itte gnon dhiegna la laine.

He who jumps upon the corn-bundles falls with the ears, and if thou dost not eat them thou wilt be the less charged with eating them.

44. Dhignene dhion ondMe am dee, dara bongalon ko thia. A woman who has lost her rival has no sorrow.


Bonr bon amonl y nitte don done bonr.

... ^

A subjectless king is no king.


Eon di bengna rindi bope am, son gnon ko bengney rindi varrool yooja.

He who wishes to blow out his brains, need not fear their being blown out by others.


Barey nieje, barey thierey ko gnenna. Much Boup is better than much broth.

48. Na gore ayebir, tey bou mou aye lamigne. Let man be bad if (only) his tongue be good.

49. Boigne de na ree, wandey derette anga thia souf am. The teeth may laugh, but the blood is above them.

60. Wathial jale you, nejeley magaati ko. Prevent him not who walks in the fire, for it would be a great compliment.

51. Lou berafe feta feta dala thia aude am. Toasted seeds jump, but they always fall towards their companions.

62. T gore yope ametil diabar, y dhiguene yope ametil diakar.

All men have not wives, and all women are not married.

63. Daw raw thy ngore la boka. He who runs away and escapes, is clever.



Daw dhitou dou maee kailifo.

To run the best, does not give the highest rank.

55. Bala gna fadhiana diaka verle. Before healing others, heal thyself.

56. Yonne amoiil nkerre. A road has no shadow.

57. Ndegam barame ou deye mo ayeignennetey nthiastane. If the big finger be greedj, the heel is more so.

58. New na mo gaenne dara. A little is better than nothing.

59. Faka na la, mo gneime jamon ma la.

    • I have forgotten thy name," is better than " I know

thee not.**


Sou enre nawey, mbote dou faunde.

If the fly flies, the frog goes not supperless to bed.

61. Fassale sou ittey togna.

He who separates men that are fighting, should not strike them.

14 WIT JlSd wisdom from west ateioa,


Liama sakete dou ndana.

The hunter who pierces the tree, has not shot well.

63. fiedhine dou dhiaka saja bope. Horns grow not before the head.

64. Oadhia ndoje, sa demme a thia maitL To cleave water hurts the stomach.

65. Mpetaje ou rabe la.

The pigeon of the animal is there.

N.R — A Senegambian phrase, used to stop a coDTersation con- cerning one absent, when suddenly there appears somebody who is likely to let him know what was said. M. Dard considers this proverb a proof that negroes formerly used carrier pigeons. It may, however, allude to the mythical pigeon that whispered in the Prophet's ear.


Vaidil, 80 gnissey gnemaL Deny, but what thou seest believe!


Mpithie sou bagney daije, souje la niala.

If the bird drinks not at the stream, it knows its own watering place.


Lou mpithie nana nana, nanetil nane ou gneye.

The bird can drink much, but the elephant drinks more.



Mpetaje mou naika thy talle, niro onl sabine ak ma thia kaw garap.

The voice of the pigeon on the spit is not like the voice of the pigeon on the tree.

70. Lon narre barey barey sou dengue dickey diota ko. Lies, however numerous, will be caught by truth when it rises up.

71. Hthiokaire bengua na senbe, wandey don dhion mon andala thy nthine.

The partridge loves peas, but not those which go into the pot with it.

72. Oarap gon nga romba mon sanni la y mbonron son thia enlnek so, nga romba fa.

If the tree under which you pass throw bread to you, you will pass it again to-morrow.


Nejala kon la fiEUMale, nejala kon la dana a ko gnenne.

To flatter one who separates us is good, but it is better to flatter one who strikes us.


Ama na kon la ni ma yenna la, tey sa ndabe la bengna saita.

There are people who place a basket on your head to see what you carry.



Boigne a di sakete ou guemigne. Teeth serve as a fence to the mouth.

76. Jadhie bou gneima amonl borome. The dog that has left the house has no master.

77. Haitite on jole son naikone thy tanke gnon soja ko. If the stomach-ache were in the foot, one would go lame.


Lu nga niaka niaka njel, jama ni diabar on baye ndeey la.

Though thou hast no mother- wit, thou knowest that the father's wife is mother.

79. Sou bidow done mbourou, barey kou fanana bity. If the stars were loaves, many people would sleep out.


Assamana modi bonr y mbare.

The sky is the king of sheds.

81. Oondi modi bonr on nkerre. Night is the queen of shades.




Sonfe modi bonr y lal. Earth is the queen of beds.


Diante modi hour y niton. The sun is the king of torches.


Mpethie on sagor Ion nga thia gawanton kone yobonl gonbe.

If you go to the sparrows' hall, take ears of com for them.


Bala nga dhiton diote.

Before preceding, one must reach.


Kon di dioee kou ko wata defa, amonl kou ko bota. He who cries to have himself dragged, has no one to carry him.


Htortor on garap gope don defa domo. All the flowers of a tree do not produce firuit.


Kou mana faiya don jaron thy ndoje.

He who knows swimming, dies not in the water.



Sou sipou ngabo gnennetey pate. If he who buys milk is proud, he who sells it should be prouder.


Na^e lamigne thy ndiaee, demma fou sorey a ko gaenna.

To vaunt one's goods is good, but it is better to go where they are bought.

91. Bate on dengne yomba na jama. The voice of truth is easily known.

92. Samme bagna na na^a barame. A shepherd strikes not his sheep.

93. Gneye voxi doja ndiolore mo lou ndine am sakon. If the elephant were to walk about at mid-day, every- body would call him.


Jaije diama ane na enlenk, tey niaka-sontonra taje ko di teye.

He will fight to-morrow; but if there is a dispute, it is to-day.





Yebou thia nangou thia, kon la thia yoni nga gaw thia demma.

We go quickly where we are sent, when we take in- terest in the journey.


Sigadi, laikadi, veradi, tole bou mou ama dougonp dou thia ama.

Not to bud, not to eat, not to be cured, give no grain in one's field.

97. Ke dialou yonja, jama na Ion jaiwe. He who weeps from the morning, knows what makes him weep.


Bala nga rera dioka.

Before losing the road, one must rise up.


Demmal mo gnenne do demma. " Go! " is better than " Don't go! "


Kon la ni maeel sa alale, sa ngnarame la bengna. He who tells you to give away your property, deserves your thanks.


Voe on bire diafe na degna.

The song of the stomach is hard to hear.

c 2



Satou kou ko logua yabi damme.

If jou fill jour mouth with a razor, you will spit blood.

103. Satou dou wata hope am. A razor cannot shave itself.

104. Yalla dekala yomba na ko. To resuscitatei is easy to Allah.

105. Yag^e bai oul dara.

Time destroys all things.



Mongne a gaenne.

Patience is good.

Jama a gnexme. Knowledge is good.

108. Fora nenba dou jelo diebaley. One returns not what one hides after finding it.


Mana a gnenne. Power is good.



Waje y mague doyoul vaidi.

Thou shalt not contradict an elder's words.

111. Bi bire ama Ion nga laika baje na tMa. To have plenty to eat, is good for the big bellj.

112. Jalele bagna na lo moa tamma. The child hates him who gives it all ilr wants.


Son gnon la ittey thy berab, bainaine yone do fa


If they smite thee in a place, thou wilt go there no more.

114. Koampa diapa na nitte thy diombasse ou kani. Curiosity often leads men into bitterness.

115. Sou mbajaney done nana yore, kaine dou ko sella. If the hat drank the brain, nobody would wear it.

116. Garap lo thia gadhla mou sojatL The split tree still grows.

iir. Seupadiallegne dou dindi joujane. To make a summersault, will not remove a rupture.



Talla sou done defa sago bagney, defa sago sopey. If Allah gives reason to hate, he also gives reason to love.


Lou saja y donngne naw gnenaon bandiolL Everything that has feathers flies, except the ostrich.

120. Kou dhionkana yomba na danela. What lowers itself, is ready to fall.

121. Kewale gna thia gnethie, dana manou ko diama. The hind in the sea fears not the hunter.

122. Sou noppe done rathia laje, gnou woa mbame. If ears could stir boiled meat, one would call the pig. \

123. Kon amonl y noppe don degna. He who has no ears, hears not.


Lanthie tati la, nga mbare dengna.

If you have nothing to eat, you will not seek lodgings.

125. Eou sango denrre na yatou diegui safara He who covers himself with cotton, should not approach the fire.


Dome Ion mou faika thy vene ou ndeey am la nampa.

The infant sucks onlj what it finds in its mother's breasts.


Kou amoQl mbonbe sa hire faigaa. He who has no shirt, shows his stomach.


Kou ama dhionr diaee laiae. He who has goods can sell them.

129. Bala nga togna ama rande. Before cooking, one must have provisions.

130. Boreey leufe a la reelo. One laughs not without cause.

131. Bala nga sanni dira. Before shooting, one must aim.

132. Sou nga amey fasse varra ko. If you have a horse, mount it.



Lou gname barey barey, mondhie dieja. Although you have many provisions, you will see the end of them.

184. Sou la diaka dhioudon eupe la y sagar. He who is born the first, has the most of ragged clothes.

N.B. — ^Beoanse the younger children— in Africa— get the best


Kon diakey vajetane dou ko moudhie.

He who begins a conversation, sees not the end.

136. Onon ma done waja baye, dhionroa ma laine. I have not begotten all that call me sire.

137. Kou sella yerey you diafe, leguy anga sella sagar. 'He who wears too fine clothes, shall go about in rags.

138. Kou Yorra kon la donl Torra, Talla vorra la. He who betrays one that betrays him not, Allah shall betray him.

139. Kavete bo dika di taw y jale boa ko gnome. If live coals fell in the bad weather, no one would go out.




Kou nga ni Tankal ma, don la vaukal fou la na^a. He who says " Scratch me! '* shall not be scratched where he wishes.

141. Lou dogna danou guenaou jale. All that one cuts foils to the ground, except the melon.

142. Manou gnon ama dara tey sonon gnou thia. No good without truth. N.B. — Nul bien sans peine.


Ella WBJtL bou ntonte, tey degnelou bou barey. One must talk little, and listen much. N.B. — Talk is ailyer, silence is gold.


Lou dongua thy benne noppe guenna thia baley. What goes in at one ear goes out by the other.

145. Y waje yon baje, dou mae lou gno laika. The best words give no food. N.B. — Fine words butter no parsnipa


Kou naike nd^je bope am, tey Talla ndaje gnop. Each for himself, and Allah for all.

147. Hiare y beutte de nagnou guenna gnissa asse benne Two eyea see better than one.



Ama na y beutte you guenna ry asse gnemigne am. His eyes are larger than his mouth. N.R — A popular proverb in Asia as well as in Africa.


Kou naike sopa na niro am. Everybody likes those like him.

150. Onenne galle dou yeba morome am. One boat does not load another.


Don gnou telgale niare y nague yon mbakante. One cannot part two fighting bulls.

152. Dou gnou laikelo nitte sou sonrey. One should not press a full man to eat.

153. Eaine dou waja Ion mou jamoul. No one should say that which he knows not.

154. Kou bengna jalisse ligueya. He who loves money must labour.

155. Koudi di binda nopalikou. He who writes, rests himself.


Lekatte sou done nitte koa thia de& gname mou yoqja.

If the plate were a man, the soup put into it would make him weep.

157. Onethie kou ko joossa toy a. He who crosses the sea, is wet.


Hiare gnon gonda sikime, don gnon fonante. Those that have long chins cannot kiss one another.

169. Demma fo yonne amonl mongnenne dieki lojo nene. To go where there is no road, is better than to remain without doing anything.

160. Son la la nagne dey dakja nga tenda. If the bull would throw thee, lie down.

161. Faleon ma nthine Ion bajonl. I listen not to the caldron which boils not.

162. Faleon ma barame bon amonl ve. I listen not to the finger that has no nail.



Lenfe Ion la Yalla tegoa kaine manon ko dindi. The thing which Allah has placed, cannot be displaced by any one.

164. Kou manonl dara, dou defo dara. He who can do nothing, does nothing.


Kon guenne di bour thy adouna, mo gaenne di diame thia lajira.

The more powerful one is in this world, the more servile one will be in the next.

166. Diaka lae don taje nga aiya.

The first who speaks of lawsuit is not always right.

167. Kou sa bagne dee do ko dioee. He who loses his enemy, weeps not for him.


Lou nga sopa sopa dome on diambonr, sa dome gnennala la ko.

If you love the children of others, you will love your own even better.

169. Ope dhion maiti don taja dee. A severe malady does not always kill.




Son nga dialou lai lala la.

If you rise too early, the dew will wet you.

171. Xaine don dogna la ou dMane. No one cuts the serpent's net.

172. Kou dasrna dMane, don la ni watMa ko. If you trample on the serpent, no one will say to you, « Don't!"

173. Ba rama, di sathia son maguey diala gnette. If the child robs when he begins to walk, he will plun- der a sheepfold when he grows older.

174. Barra diante don ko taire finka. To place oneself before the sun, does not prevent its continuing its path.

175. Sonla nkerre don ko taire tora. To coyer the shade of sand, does not prevent its flying.


Dara don doe nitte, jana Ion mon amouL

Nothing can suffice a man except that which he has not.


177. Kou di jassaba yonne amonl serre. He who amuses himself in ell-ing the road, has no stuff to measure.

178. Baigne don boar, wandey kou ko beagaa jonssa sonmi sa y dalle.

The rivulet is not a king, yet he who would cross it removes his shoes.

179. Venne fepe on dongoup don diara salon. A grain of millet is not worth a calf.


Kon Yalla maee mon ama. He to whom Allah gives, has.


Lon mpithie naw, naw *dala thi sonfe. The bird flies, but always returns to earth.

182. Eon dajka jadhie bel tbia saine kenrre nga bai ko. He who hunts a dog home, then leaves it.


Oneye manonl thy dakjar data, jana gassam-gassama bai.

An elephant can do nothing to a tamarind-tree, except it be to shake it




irtliiiie don ama kav&re ndigui safara. The caldron baa no hair by reaaou of the fire.

135. Kou Yalla aaimi faite do ko mana fakon. He at wham Allah has discharged a ahaft^ cannot avaid it.

Fou dhlanaje yabey woundou, nkane a fa dlagneyt When the monae laughs at the cat, there ia a hole.


Sou gua donguey thy naig^e youja, gneana yonja do jama niata laa a thia naika.

If you weep on entering a house, and also on leaTiog it, you 7 ill never know how many beams it has,

183. Sedo yope don gnou bonr.

All soldiera are not klugi.

Guene on goliye gonda na, wandry Ion nga thia lala borome yegua.

The monkey *s tail la long, and yet if you touch it, ita owner feeb (tJi^ tofich).



Samme sagna na maee mew, wandey sagnonl maee salon.

The shepherd can give sweet milk, but he cannot give a calf.


Sagore bengna na dongonp, wandey don baya. The sparrow loves millet, but he labours not.

192. Barey dongonp faikey dewanne a ko guenna. Much millet is good, but it is better to find next year.

198. > Vata a guenne vaifa. Shaving is better than plucking the hair.

194. Onissa de na taja jama. Seeing excites to knowing.

195. Dono gaeramonl kaine gaw dee a ko maee.

The heir thanks nobody but the sudden death.


Dhignene doyonl volon, ndigni Ion mou la waja, waja ko sa morome.

Trust not a woman: she will tell thee what she has just told her companion.


Kon bengiui laime, gnomel yambe. If you like honey, fear uot the bees.

198. Bala nga laika onbil sa gnemigne. Before eating, open thy mouth.

199. Ton nagne naika bonki dee fsu Where are the cattle, there the wolf shall die.

200. Tendal doyonl digala niw. You do not tell a corpse to go to bed.

201. Kon yakey lojo bai kondon don ko niarel a. He who puts aside his spoon to draw from the pot with his hand, does not do so twice.

202. Gnon yamonl y lorre, dou gnon makjando sonngonfe. Those whose saliva is not equal, should not chew flour (jjrain?) together.


Daigne on pote y jame am don ko nana. They who know the unwholesome well, drink not from its water.



Ama sauo de na apela barey, wandey don apela wge. One maj have much milk, but it is never too white.


Mb^janey mo natta thy sa bope they diekon thia bon ko natta thy sa bope on naweley.

If the hat which you try on fits not your head, do not make your neighbour try it.


Mere mandingne, doja boa gaw a ko gaenne.

It is better to walk than to grow angry with the road.


Fatfatlou don fiissale mbame seuf ak y nope am. Shaking the head separates not the ears from the ass.


Senpadiallegna don la fassale ak y teigne. A summersault does not separate the head from the lice.

209. Lakaye on Yalla, jalanjoa dou ko dindi.

Boiling in the sand will not loosen the knot which Allah has tied.

210. Fou Bikime diama saino ko fa yobon. "Where the chin goes, the eyes carry it.

fhoteebs in the wolof TOi^&rE.



Sou deugna watite en dhiane borome anga fa faikouL

Que wnlka on the serpent^a tracks when it ia no longer there.


Lou n^a telle telle dioka, yoime dhitoa la. He who rises early findi the way ahort.


Kou dl nana nguel&o son diothey thy sauo diala; He who Uvea upon air has no miik.


Nthiokaire lo naw di gassa sou daley donpL dhiandhie. If the partridge that scratches when ilying should alight at the grange, it wHl throw the grain about on all sides.


Son nga faikey ^ou di jonlo^ son nga thia forey, wajetey dengue gna.

If you meet with thoao who quarrel, you may take one aide, hut at least speak the truth.

21 et.

Oarap gon la ftonttonl don la maee nkerre. The tree which ia not taller thaa thou art, cannot shade thee.




Beutte don yenon, wandey Ion bepe atana jama na ko.

The eye is not loaded, but it knows all that the head carries.


So nionl tota, nion la bow, niti le dhiangne do ama ligneya

If you remain not at home, if yon enter not, if you appear not, you will find no work.

219. Sissey die rafete on ndongne a ko gnenne. It is better to carry to market good merchandise than to be stingy of it.


Boka ndeey don t%ja mane.

The children of the same mother do not always agree.


Yalla don rayala nitte y bagne am.

Allah does not destroy the men whom one hates.

222. Kou la sontta nga ni ko ndiole mi To him who is larger than thou art, say "I am a dwarf."

N.B.^Meaiiiiig, call great, only him who is more powerful than thyseli




Lamba dadionl dara mo guenna noe dion. To catch and hold nothing, is more tender than butter. K.B. — This imitateB our saying about " many a slip,** &o.


So dey diemma ngnampata dialame mbole nga amoiiL

He who tries to bite the iron, is without corn-ears to


X.R — Dialame is a little iron cylinder serying to separate the seed from the cotton.


Kbn la ni, nga ni ko, jonlo niaw gaw. If you speak to him who speaks to jrou, a dispute will soon start up.


Eou beta bonki jadhie baw la. He who swaddles the wolf, will be barked at by the dog.


The following Proverbs and Sayings, LaconismB and Figurative Expressions, are taken from the Rev. M. Koelle's work,* The reader will bear in mind that the

  • African Native Literatare, or Proverbs, Tales, Fables, and His-

torical Pragments in the Eannri or Boma Language; to wbich are added, a Translation of the above and a Kanuri-English Vocabulary. By the Bev. S. W. Eoelle, Church Missionary. London, Church Mis- sionary House, Salisbury Square, 1854. I have retained the reverend gentleman's orthography, necessarily omitting, however, signs and accents.

Boma (Bomon, Benu) Proper, according to Dr. Barth (voL ii. p. 201) is the nucleus of the Great Central African (and now quasi- Moslem) Empire in its second stage, after Eanem had been given up. It is bounded on the north by the Tibbu, south by Mandara, to the east by the Chad Lake, and to the west by a small body of water, popularly known as the Teou. The limits usually assigned are 200 miles along the western shore of the larger lake, and about the same distance inland. The people, who call themselves Eanuri or Eanowry, are known by twenty cuts on each side of the face, one on the centre of the forehead, six on each arm, six on each leg or thigh, four on each breast, and nine on each side, a total of ninety-one cuts. The country is an extensive plain, once very populous; in the chief market, ^' Angomu,"* the crowd has been estimated at 80,000 to 100,000 souls. Taking the wordBomu in its widest sense, the popu- lation has been raised to five millions. The old capital, Bimi, is said to have covered from five to six square miles, and to have contained 200,000 aouls. Early in the present century, however, it was overrun with dreadful devastation by its western neighbours, the Fellatahs. The


Bomuese, though described by some travellers as com- plete negroes both in form and feature," are, like the Mandengas and Wolofs, a Moslem race, with a consider- able amount of Semitic innervation, and their proverbs will contrast strongly with those current amongst the Pagans of the Gold Coasts and Yoruba.

1. Nontsenin kampnnye lanentsia, ate gerganenuni If one who knows thee not, or a blind man scolds thee, do not become angry.

2. Ago komande ntsinite, dnnon manem, pandem bago. If thou seekest to obtain by force what the Lord has not given thee, thou wilt not obtain it.


Kabn datsia, kargrrn bago.

The days being finished, there is no medicine.

N.B. — Meaning, if one's time to live is completed, no medicine can ward ofif death.

country recovered under the Shaykb who was visited hy Major Denham in 1S23; this man, a native of Eanem, of humble birth but great energy, rallied round him a band of spearmen, had a vision of the Prophet, hoisted the green flag, and, after a ten months* campaign, liberated his country, and replaced the rightful sultan on the throne. The picture of this worthy, *• squatting on a sort of cane-basket, covered with silk," must be fresh in the recollection of every reader of African travels.



Ago fiignbe mminy ogafobe mm bago. Thou Beest what is before, not what is behind thee. N.B. — Meaning, thou knowest the past, but not the future.

Angalte silman gani karga, kalalan karga. Wisdom is not in the eye, but in the head.

Eampnro ago yiminya, ka muskontsibetnro gana- gem, dngo siro ye; wageya niro " ago Bimmi " taenia, ka moBkontsibetiye sedaro naptsin.

If thou givest anything to a blind man, lay it first upon the staff in his hand ere thou givest it to him; in the next world, when he shall say, "thou hast not given me anything! ** the staff in his hand will bear witness.

7. Gedi kanadiben tsaxmawa. At the bottom of patience there is heaven.

8. Kam bnrgo Bonartia derege ademmaro kotsi. Being prepared before-hand is better than after- thought.

9. Earn neoDtse bagote si manantse bago dabu kam meognbeiL

He that has no house, has no word in society.



Hana kamnye ndi nemetsia, tilo gonem, tilo kolone.

If a woman speaks two words, take one and leave the other.

11. Bnrgontse bnrgo kenyeribe gadi. He is as cunning as a weazel.


Eamte ago ngala kammo tsedia» nemgalate pattsegin bago.

If a man confers a benefit upon another, that benefit is not lost (to himself).

13. Eannu kam tsebni. Fire devours a man. N.B.— Meaning, " He is in great affliction."


Earn dantse keli kwoya, sima na kannubero ger- tegin.

He draws near the fire when meat is raw.

N.B. — He who deaires an object, is glad to adopt the requisite measures. The Persian proverb is, *• For an object, men kiss the donkey's taiL"








Engoi timi litsia, wa niga beantseskin. I will pay thee when fowls cut their teeth. N.a— Like the Latin <' Ad Grsocas kalendas."

Kargete, sima kam kaimnro tsatin, sinia kam tsan- naro tsatm.

It is the heart that carries one to hell or to heaven.

Earn kargen kam tseteite sima kerdigo. He is a heathen who holds another in his heart. N.B. — Meaning, who bears malice.


Kam neme am wurabe tsatseranite neme kitabube tsetserani, kam neme kitabube tsatseranite, neme komandebe tsetserani.

He who does not believe what the elders say, will not be- lieve the sayings of the Book (the Bible); and he who does not believe the sayiugs of the Book, will not believe what the Lord says.

N.B. — This was apparently dictated to M. Koelle by some Christian convert. He informs us, that Pato Ramaba, i. e., Heaven, was the original Eanuri name for God^ now generally superseded by the Arabic ♦' Allah."




M nemketsindo, wote kargenemga kamnro yimmi. "Whatever be thy iutimacy, never give thy heart to a woman.


Kaliae afi nemgalantse yaye tatanem dibigo tseteni.

Whatever be the goodness of a slave, he does not come up to a bad son.


Ealia ago kanmersibe gani: kaliaro mersanemia, sima niga ntsetso.

A slave is not % thing to be trusted: if thou trustest a slave he will slay thee.

28. Earn yantse ganawate asimtse tsakkata. One who has a younger brother, his secrets are covered. N.B. — Meaning, he has a confidential frtend— in Africa.

Eamte ago ngala dimia, AUaye ngalan niro pats< artsin.

If one does good, Alkh will interpret it to him for good.


Komande kammo leman Ui yaye, tata bago kwoya, lemante manantse bago.

If our Lord gives riches to a man, and there are no children, the riches have no word.

N.B. — Meaning, they have no object, no yalue.

^^^^^^^^^H ^H



Kam komande tata tsinnama, asirntse Allaye tsakts- enamago.

The man to whom the Lord gives children, his secrets Allah covers.


Ago fagabete, kamande genya, ngndo dabn kuru- gnamai tsnrai bago.

As to what is future, even a bird with a long neck can- not see it, but the Lord only.

83. Linia yermanem bagoro, yermanemma ngalgo. Since thou hast no benefactor in this world, the having one in the next will be all the more pleasant. N,B. — ^A consolation to the poor.


Kam yantse tsambnna bagoya, siga wadadai tsatin.

He whose mother is no more, him distress carries off.

N.B. — Amongst all the Moslem negroes, the mother is ever the best friend. So Mungo Park's Mandenga said, *' Strike me, but do not abuse my mother t "


Earn asirntse kamnro gnltsegia, kamute siga tsaba setanberc tseako.

If a man tells his secrets to his wife, she will bring him into the way of Satan.

N.B,— Rather a contrast to the English proverb, *• He who would thrive must ask his wife! "




Xarnnye taaba ngalaro kamga tsakin bago. A woman ne?er bnngs a man into the right waj.


Xam kana kngiiibe ntsetsoma bagD, sai Alia No one can kill the appetite of fowls save Allah. N.B. — ^Meaning, " Man cannot satiBfy them.**


Ago dmianyin koron kirnyinno tata tserageoago bago.

Nothing in the world loves its joung more than a she- alave and an ass.


Hi talaga kwoya, ate galifa sobanemmL

If thou art poor, do not make a rich man thy friend.


Hniotoro lenemia, ati pato galifdben tsamnemmi If thou goest to a foreign land, do not alight at a rich man's house.


Bnltoro dinia watsi tsabalan.

It became day whilst the hysena was on its way.

N.R — ^Meaning, "The man's strength was broken before he his object"






Wuna mei *' tsiga kamagiinbe.*'

I am '* King Elephant-bag."

N.B. — ^Meaning, ** I am so Btrong that I can oany an elephant in a bag/' or ** I am ao powerful an to think nothing too difficult for me."


Wu tawangi dngo tsabalan wnro dinia wasegi.

I arose early, but the dawning day o?ertook me on the


N.B. — Meaning; " I married a wife in early youth, but had no ohildren by her.'*


Eannwari nonemmi kwoya, kanuwate nonemiba?

If thou dost not know hate, dost thou know indififer-


N.B. — Meaning. "How is it thou didst not perceive that I loye thee not, even though thou didst not discover that I hate thee? **


Wn gesga gana ruske, kolonge; knra gongimba?

If I see a small tree, shall I leave it and take a large


N.B. — Meaning, " If I have a chance of marrying a young man whom I can easily manage, shall I pass him by and marry one who is too strong for me? "


A certain man took a long journey, on which he passed a rich mau who had many children, all of them girls; he saluted him, saying, " Aba talaga touse** — poor man, how


art thoa? This man was vexed to bear himself called poor. He next pasaed a poor man who bad maay little children, all of whom were boys, and him he saluted, saying, " Aba galifu wuse** — ^ricb man! how art thou? This man was vexed on account of being called rich. He next met a man who had neither wife nor children, and who, at night, slept in a pitch-dark bouse without lump; him he saluted, saying, " Aba kampu wuse'^ — blind man! how art thou? This man was vexed at being called blind. At last he met a man lying under a hangar, a tree with very long and sharp thorns; him be saluted, saying, " Aba Jcoa figurdegi tcuse* — lame man! how art thoa P This man was vexed to hear himself called lame. When the traveller returned, after a long time, he visited these men again, and saluted each by the directly opposite title; but then they were again vexed, since, during his absence, the prophecy contained in his former addresses bad been realised.

47. A certain man had a most beautiful daughter who was beset by many suitors. But as soon as they were told that the sole condition on which they could obtain her was to bale out a brook with a ground nut shell (what is about half the size of a walnut shell), they always walked away in disappointment. However, at last one took heart of grace, and began the task. He obtained the beauty; for the father said, " ham ago tsuru baditsia tsido** — he who imdertakes what be says, will do it.

N.B. — The Hindoos have a Bomewhat similar fabliau concerning a land-piper, who, in reyenge for the loss of his young, began to

E 2


dry up Samudra Devta, or the ocean. Both teach men not to admit the word ^ impossible " into their vocabularies, and to consider nothing too high for human will to attain. So it is popularly said amongst ourselves that, if a man really determined to win it, he might wear the crown of England.

48. Once in a famine a woman asked her husband to look after the pot au feu while she was goibg to fetch water. On her returning unobserred bj him, she found that when skimming off the foam or scum he filled a calabash with it, and hid it somewhere, supposing it to be the best part of the food. The woman did not let him know that she had seen him play this triek. But at dinner, when the husband, trusting in what he had hid, said to her, "give me only a little, and let our children have plenty," she said to him, "ahantsa ate hilguro higela gullemmV* — father! do not call scum, harvest! He did not under- stand what this meant till he went to eat what he had put aside for himself, and, as might be expected, found the calabash empty.

49. The question was once asked — " Kamunyin koanganyin nduntsa ngubugo?'* t.c, Who are more in number, the women or the men? One answered, " Koangama ganagOy kamuma ngubugo; ago hamuga nguburo tsedenate^ koan- ga mana kamube pantsinte siga kamuro tamissagei, atem- arokamutengubuy' i.e., Men are the minority, women are the majority; the reason why there are more women is this, til at men who listen to what women say, are counted as women.



The Pula once sent the following message to the go- vernor of a town — ^* Koa helama Tsarami Daduimate tegera tseba dugo andi eiro keam yate dinye yeyogo! " — literally. May Sarah's son, the governor of Dadui, make dumplings, till we come and bring him milk, and mash them, that we may drink together! This message refers to the Fula practice of mashing dumplings in milk and then drinking it: the meaning is, " Prepare thyself for war, and get dinner ready for us: we are about to attack and to defeat thee."

61. On the other hand, the Burmese governor returned the following message to the Fula — " Sandi hoanga kwoya, isa, ngo beri denesgana, halu tsagute, toua sandyua huiye! " — literally, If they are men, let them come; behold, I have cooked meat, let them bring the sauce, that I and they may eat it The meaning of this is, " I am prepared for war and battle: we will fight as soon as you come.'*


Sintse tilo dinian, tilo lairan.

He has one foot in this world and one in the next.

N.B. — ^Meaning, he is in imminent danger: as we aaj, " He has one foot in the grare."


Andi ngafo Inkranben bonye. We shall sleep behind the Koran. N.B.— Meaning, '< We shall feel more secure after an oath."

"^ p

^^ _



Ealantselan dangL

I stand on his head (i.e., turpass Mm).

N.E — Kala, the head, ia much used in pbraaea, e. ^., I see my head, i,e,, I think or deliberate; I lift up my head, i.e., I am highly pleased; I take out a person's head, %.€., I can deliver him; I hold a person's head, i.e., I help or protect him. No. 69.


Wnte dabnndon wn bago.

As for me, I shall not be in your midst. N.B. — Meaning, ** I will have nothing to do with you."


Kargeni na tilon naptsenL

My heart did not sit down in one place (i.e., I teas

uneasy, disquieted).

57. Tigini amtsi.

My skin is cold (i.e., lam sad^ grieved),

58. Tsi manaro or Lebalaro yakeskin. I put my mouth into the matter or dispute (i.e., I meddle with it),


Alia kamnro kalantse tsin.

Allah gives a woman her head.

N.B. — Meaning, Ood gives a safe delivery: so they say a woman has obtained her head, i.e., has been safely confined. Also,


Kalani pandeski " means, I have received my head, t.c, I have escaped safely, I have been delivered. This expreaaion is used especially in regard to the delivery of a woman in childbed, but also in regard to any other deliverance. Similarly, " Allah gives a persoc his head," i.e., saves, rescues him: used by man referring to recovery from illness, return from battle, &c. See No. 5i.


Pesga gereskin.

I tie a face (i.e., pull a long faee^ look displeased),


Hanande ngalema tsaba tiloa tsulngenL

Our word never left one and the same road.

N.B. — ^Meaning, " We never fell out or disputed with one another."


Saudi manantsa na tiloro tsaBake, Thej put their words in one and the same place. N.B. —Meaning, '* they are all of one mind.**


Afiyaye Allaye agemesagenate sitema ruiyen. What Allah has decreed for us, that we shall see (i.e., experience),


Allah artsski beiantse!

Allah give thee good luck.

N.B.— So also they say Allah bless thee— keep thee— grant thee loDglifeii



Alia barganem or Alia bargando (gotse). May Allah take his blessing from you. N^— A great eiirML



A bug: the Bomuese^like the pagans of TJnyamwezi, consider the smell aromatic, and they suppose the aroma of Paradise and that of bugs to be of the same nature.

67. Kam kalantsen nigawa besgero letsin bago. One who has been three years married does not go to the Besge, or dancing place of young people.

68. Hgadza.

A loup-garou, one who can transform himself into a hy»na, as in Abyssinia. According to M. Koelle's infor- mant, there is a town in Gazir called Kabutiloa, in which every person possesses the gift of lycanthropy.

69. Ha daba kambe.

One's native pkce (literally, where one's " dabu " or umbilical string was buried after birth).

70. Binia fatsar kamtsi. The dawn has cut through — 1.«., day dawns. They


distinguish between gvhogum lurgohcy the first cock- crowing, between two and three in the morning, and gvhogum dcregebe, the second cock-crowing near dawn.

71. Dinia kan dabutsi. The sun is in the centre of the world (i.e., It U noon) .

72. Ago gedintse bagote nemero, si aram. It b forbidden to tell anything that has no foundation.


Karge gereskin or Earge taskin.

I tie my heart, or I hold my heart (i.e., lam composed,


N.B. — Karge, or heart, occurs in many curious phrases, e.g.t the heart is cut, i.e., courage is gone; the heart is sweet, t.&, one is glad. A black heart " is a bad heart.


Meiram kirga koitsin bago.

A princess never makes a slave her friend.


Eungana pingin.

To divine by cowrie shells, which are thrown on the ground, and which show futurity by the manner in which they fall.


76. Lnkran bnskin.

I eat the Lukran (i.e., Koran),

N.B. — ^The Bornueae swear by placing the hand first upon the Koran and then upon forehead and breast.


Nsrudi pingin.

I take out poverty (i.e., the guinea-worm).

N.B. — ^The guinearworm ia called " poverty,** because the disease always reappears at the beginning of the rains, thus preventing the sufferers from attending to their farms, and reducing them to desti> tution.


Ngnrtu kamawTinga da tsog^ tilon kotsena, kamawnn gurtaga sila tsogo tilon kotsena.

A hippopotamus exceeds an elephant by one basket of flesh, and an elephant exceeds a hippopotamus bj one basket of bones.


Allabe rambuflkixL I pay what I owe to Allah. N.B. — I pay the debt of nature-^die.



An albino, much feared for supernatural powers in Borneo. These men can have meat roasted on their naked arms, or plunge them into boiling water without injury.




A caanibal: tbia is a general and not a proper name, and the NyamnjamB have a king.


Koliram or Enriram.

A wood-demon or ghost, supposed to be of gigantic stature, with long flowing hair and pale skin like the Folas. He lives in large hollow trees, from which he issues after sunset, at midnight, and before sunrise. If any one comes in his way, be salutes him with a fearful slap in the face — sometimes kills him. He often halloas as if to call people, but he never carries them away as the water-demon does. The Kuriram remarkably resembles the Bakshasa of the Hindoos.

83. Kgamaram.

A water-demon, living in wells, cisterns, pools, rivers,

and lakes, and in shape resembling a white man. These

beings often catch people who fetch water after night has

set in. If a male demon seizes a man, he slays him at

once; if a woman, he keeps her for a month or a year,

and then dismisses her. V,v, — a she-flend kills the

women and keeps the men alive.






The Oji, Ochi^ or Otji language is spoken through- ont the empire of Ashante, which Englishmen know as Ashantee. To the south of Ashante again, and extending along the sea-coast, are their congeners, the Fante (Fantee), who use the same tongue, but with certain dialectic differences, rendering it less pure and agree- able to the ear than that of the inlanders. Besides these two large divisions, there are three small and non- maritime countries, eastward of Ashante, namely, Akim, Akwapim, and Akwarou, generally known as Ak- wambu, who are also Oji-speakers. They have, at times, been subdued by the overwhelming power of Ashante; but they are at present independent, and governed by their own chiefs and caboceers, under the protection of the English, who succeeded the Danes in that part of the coast. The idiom of Akim resembles that of its neighbour Ashante. Akwapim* lies to the east of Akim, and Akwamu to the north-east of Akwapim, bordering on the river Volta.

  • Thla proTlnce ia in about the meridian of Greenwich, and 6** N. lat.

It la separated frum the sea by Gra or Accra-land. The country is well wooded and mountainous, containing seventeen villages, each with its own chie^ who owes a loose allegiance to the headman of Akropong.


All these are gold-producing lands, and when the pre- sent inexplicable state of apathy and degradation shall have passed away, they and their language will become of importanfce. The Oji is spoken by probably two mil- lions of souls. The proverbs quoted below are borrowed from the work of the Bev. N. Eiis.*

The two preceding collections are made from negroid races, and bear unmistakeable signs of Allah and the Koran. We now come to the purely Hamitic and Negro literature, in which occasionally a Moslem or a Christian sentiment can be seen dimly reflected. As the reader has been warned in the preface, a greater amount of illustration now becomes necessary.

  • Grammatical Outline of the Oji Language, with especial Reference to

the Akwapim Dialect; together with a Collection of Prorerbs of the Natiyea, by Ber. H. N. Kiis. Basel, Bahnmaier*a Buchhandling (G. Detloff), 1854.

The collection of Mmebnaem, or proyerbs, is assisted by explanatory notes, which are inserted with a little prnning — generally a necessary operation in Teutonic " works" — and the orthography of the reverend author has been preserved. His Grammar is by no means so transcen> dental as that of the Bev. M. Zimmerman, and the Vocabulary is both useful and simple. It is hard to understand, however, why the reverend gentleman retains the obsolete letter C; and why in the order of letters T should be promoted to precedence over E.



Abe baakon na sei ensa.

One palm tree spoils the palm wine.

N.6. — Among the Oji the trees are felled— generally speaking, a number at a time—and a hole being cut in each, the juice distUa into pota or bottles placed to receive it. The produce is removed twice a day, when the contents of the pots are all poured into a single large vesseL If one tree, therefore, has given bad wine, the whole will be spoiled. Thus we say, " A little leaven leaveneth the wbole lump."

Wo to adiuva ebi ka w'ano.

If you lay poison (i. e., attempt topewn others), some I'ill touch your mouth.

Abofra bo envaw, na ommo akekiie* A child may crush a be ail, but it will not crush a tortoise.

N.B. — Means, do not attempt what is beyond yotir strength: little strength may effect objects within its sphere, but will prove vain beyond it.

Abofra nte n'eima ni n'agya asem-a. odi adnan-a en- kyinne nim.

If a child does not hear his mother's and his father's word, he {shall) eat food (which) salt is not in.



Tekrema na kna onipa, na tekrema na g^ai nipa. The tongue kills man and the tongue saves man.

N.B. — So the Hindi proverb: The tongue may mount an ele- phant, or put the head in peril The neceaaity of bitting and bridling the tongue ia a &vourite theme with the semi-civilised. Cf. The Plnoverfoe of Scripture, chaps. vL, xii., zv., xviii., and James iiL 5.


Woye abofra ensirow akotla.

If you are a child do not deride a short man.

N.B. — Because you do not know whether you may not, when grown up, be in the same predicament. Said of what the Greeks call Epichserekaki as opposed to the £pichseragathi.


Onipa mfon kwa; okom enni no-a na, odi ekaw.

A man does not fast without a cause; if he does not suffer hunger, he is in debt.

8. Asem monne fata bienni. Hard words are fit for the poor.

9. Sika ben wo-a, eboa.

When gold cornea near to jou, it glistens.

N.B. — Means that an alluring object placed before the eyes stimulates desire. So we say " opportunity makes the thief."




Onipa wonno no nna 'niara.

You do Dot always love (the same) man.

N.B. — Literally, ** A man you do not love him all days; " meaning that friendBhip and love are things that sometimes change.


Vode kokroko na di emmim-a, anka siimo beba fie. If by bodily strength violence were committed, an elephant would come into the town.

N.B. — Meaning that if might, not law, prevail, the elephant, which is the strongest of beasts, would be master.


WoBko bi afom da, wose: mi enkn ni kuafo. If you never went into another man's plantation, you would say, " I am the only planter.**

N.B. — Meaning, that the home-dweller has homely wits, and that men are prone to judge of all things from what happens under their own eyes.


Didime na yi bronni nansin adL

A feast uncovers a European's wooden leg.

N.B. — Didime is a feast of course followed by a " big drink," which — "in vino Veritas" — makes people forget self-respect, and exposes defects which are usually concealed. Bronni or Bro (in the Oa language Blofo) something or somebody European, is probably derived from Abro, Maize or Indian corn, for a reason to be quoted, in the Ga proverbs. Abrokirri, "Europe," is, however, explained by Mr. Biia as, perhaps, a corruption of ** Portugal"

P 2


Tapo ni abanm.

There is not a halfpenny in bis palace.

N.B.-~The " Tapo" is twenty cowries, or two farthings. *» Aban" is a house built of stone, a castle or palace opposed to " dan/' the n^ro square or oblong hut of clay-plastered sticks roofed with grass or palm leaves. The proverb alludes to pride and poverty, and also answers to our ** great cry and little wool" The Hindis say, there is not a thread in the house, and the blockhead wants a turban.

  • 15.

Dabi otenten benya, akotia nnya.

{This time the short one his got it, hid) another time the long one will get it, and the short one will not get it (i. e., the object of their common pursuit),

N.B. — Meaning, that fortune is fickle; celeres quatit alas.


Wonyi m*aye-a, ensei me din.

If you do not praise me, do not spoil my name {or character).

17. Akekire se, ensa ko na ansa ba. The tortoise says. The hand goes and the hand comes.

X.B. — Less literally " if you draw back your hand (L e., give me no presents), I draw back mine." It means, as you behave to me so shall I behave to you. Mr. Kiis remarks, *' it is a peculiar feature of the Oji proverbs that they are often referred to animals." Cf. 27, .S3, 89, 90, 118, 120, 188, &c. The ** peculiarity " may, I believe, be extended to the proverbs of all semi-civilised peoples.


Obi enni ni yonko.

A poor man has no friend.



Obi imoa aduan, enko ta enkwanta, enfyufye menni.

Nobody cooks food and places it in the road to seek a


N.B. — Meaning, do not invert the order of things: begin with the beginning.

Yenim se mogya vo yen anom, na yefi entesu.

We know there is blood in our mouth, but we throw

out spittle.

N.B. — Though it is a fact that our mouth is lined with blood, yet we eject saliva only: we do not give away all, we keep the best things for our own use. Charity begins at home.


Obi nko tea hahinni vo ne bon ano, na onse nse; wo hn bon.

Nobody assails a Hahinni at the door of his nest, and

says to him, you stink.

N.B. — The Hahinni is a large black fetid ant. The proverb means " every man's house is his castle^" — a truer saying in Africa than in England.


Biribi ni wo ensem-a, emmna no. na mmofra ntiti eki.

If there is nothing in your hand do not shut it, and let

the children pick outside.

N.B. — The closed hand would denote that it contains a present, and thus cause disappointment if found to be empty. The proverb means, " Do not tantalise others: " " do not excite hopes or give promises which you do not intend to fulfil"



Efe, ne enye aniberre.

It is fine, but excites no deaire.

N.B. — Said of persons and things which, with brilliant qualities, unite so many drawbacks, that they become objects of aversion rather than of desire.


Wonim ta-a, tn wo dyon.

If you can pull out, pull out your own grey hairs.

N.B. — Attend to your own faults before you reprehend others; remove the beam from your own eye, before remarking the mote in your brother's.


Wanya wohn-a, to wo pon mn da.

If you are rich, always shut your door.

N.B.— In Ashante, Dahome, and Benin, the reputation of wealth must be carefully avoided.


Ea akeldre enni envaw enka-a, aiika otuo nto vo wn- ram da.

If there were only snails and tortoises, no gun would

ever be fired in the jungle.

N.R — Because snails and tortoises can be caught without a gun: ways and means must be proportioned to the object in view.


Oduacen se, nea *ko ne yem no, enni nede, na nea vo n'afonnom no, enye nedea.

The monkey says, that which has gone into his belly is hifl; but what is in his mouth is not his.

N.B. — Any external possession is uncertain, however well secured.



Biribi enkyen ogya koko.

There is nothing more red {or so red as) fire.

Obi nkyerre bi cse: to enkyienne di

A person will not say to another, buy salt {and) eat.

N.B. — It is folly to command or to exhort another in matters which his own necessities will compel him to undertake.


Wo ensa dam-a, vonni engyaw.

If your hand is in {the dish) they eat not, loave not.

N.B. — Meaning, they eat not so as to leave nothing for you; you are sure of getting your share. West Africans feed with their fingers from the common pot or dish around which they are seated.


Ohia na ma odece ye akoa.

Poverty makes a free man become a slave.

82. Asnm TO *' soa mi"

At the watering place they say, " Lift for (i. e, help) me!"

N.B. — The " Asum" is a place where water gathers: it here re- presents the Asiatic well and the English pump. The women fetch the necessary and each assists the other to lift the full pot upon her head, such being the usual way of carrying it home. The proverb probably means " In the every day afibirs of life the want of mutual assistance is felt."




Hwansana se: nea 'ka ekirri na, edoao.

Saith the fly, What is left behind is a great deal."

N.B. — This alludes to the fly trimming itself with its hind legs, wfaioh it continues as long as it oonsiders that something is left to be done. The proverb exhorts men not to weary of any labour, until they have carried out their purposes.


Akoko di wo ypnka aivu-a, pam no; dabi obedi wode. When a fowl eats your neighbour's corn, dnve it away; another time it will eat yours.

35. Wode kokrobeti ko ayi-a, vode sotorre buaw. If you go to customs with your thumb (stretched out\ they will answer you with blows.

N.R — " Ayi " is a public festival celebrated with processions, dancing, drumming, shooting, and drinking, which cause the -streets to be crowded. ** Customs" is the Anglo-African corruption of the Portuguese " Costume," way, habit. To stretch forth the thumb at a person is a sign of mockery and contempt. The proverb corre- sponds with the French " Le moine rdpond comme I'abb^ chante."


Aylsa vame ana, ose; woma mi se woma wo ba, anka mame.

The orphan (when asked) whether he hod enough, said, " If you had given to me as you gave to your {own) child, I should have had enough."



Wo yem ye-a, womfa wo yirre nkye.

If you are good-natured, you will not give away your


N.K — ^A good man should be thoroughly attached to his family.


Abofra eni anso panyin-a, ofre empopa bo haha. If the child does not honour the aged, it will call a palm branch '* haha."

KB. — " Haha" is a word of no signification. The proverb means that a child so perverse as to withhold respect from his seniors, would be capable of any absurdity.


Opete, wodi bi bin, na obi nni wode.

Vulture! thou eatest anybody's egesta, but nobody

eats thine.

N.B. — This is addressed to sycophants and parasites, who seek feasts and presents from others without ever making a return.


Hamma hamma kyirre ketebo.

String (added to) string will bind even a leopard.

N.B. — Meaning, that united strength and repeated efforts will effect great things. Gutta cavat lapidem. .


Obi nto akokonini, na onunon obi aknra. One does not buy a cock, and he does not crow in one^B plantation.

N.B. — Meaning, nobody buys a cock, and lets him crow in another man's field.



Obaifo rekoe! Obaifo rekoe! na wonye baifo-a, wontya wo enL

(When the cry is raised) " There goes a witch 1 There

goes a witch! " if you are no witch you will not turn


KB.—" Baifo,** from " bayi," sorcery, means wizard or witch: the sajingoorreBponds with cm* insinuation touching the cap fitting.


Onipa reba, wonse nse, bera. "When a man is coming, you will not say " Come! " N.B. — As we say, " Don't spur a willing horse.'*


Wo 86 enye-a, nea wota foro ekirri, ara nen. Though your teeth are bad, they are just what you lick.

N.B. — Though your friends and relations, or neighbours and fellow-citizens, are disagreeable people, do not drop all intercourse with them.


Sasa bonsam ko ayi-a, osoe baifo fi.

When the Rend goes to the Sabbat (or customs) y he

lodges with the sorcerer.

N.B. — " Sasabonsam," earth-devil, from " asase," earth, and "abonsam,'* a fiend,* is a moustroua being, living in the deepest

  • Missionaries translate Abonsam, the Devil, "conceived to be an

evil spirit living in the upper regions (oar popular heaven) and reigning in Abonsam Km (in Accra, Abonsam-dse) over the spirits (or rather the shades) of wicked men." It is probably some evil ghost who has obtained a general bad name, 'the Sasa Abonsam corresponds after a fashion with the Erdgeist, the Wald-teufel and the Kobold of the Germans.


of ihe forest, hostile to mac, especially priestlj man, but intimate with wizard and witch. The proverb means ^ Birds of a feather flock together," " Like for like, and Nan for Nicholas; " or, as the Persians say,

" Like flies with like, Pigeon with pigeon, hawk with hawk."


Cgya ni atodm nna. Fire and gunpowder do not lie together. N.B.— So we say of oil Sad water.


Osram emfi da korro, entya manm.

The moon does not appear on one dtLj, does not pass

over the town.

N.B. — Meaning, when the new moon appears, it does not pass over the town the same day, a work lb not completed as soon as b^gun. Rome was not built in a day. " Petit & petit I'oiseau fait son nid."


Osn to, na vonyiyi ade vo snm-a, enye von ni bo.

When rain falls, and they must remove the things in

the rain, it is not them and (or together with) the stones.

N.B.— Meaning, that you do not remove the stones with the things. The proverb is applied to those who o'erstep the modesty of nature, who, in doing a useful and necessary action, add to it what is useless and unnecessary.


" Vontu enkinoe! Vontn enkinne! ** na yereda entn.

"They shall pull us! they shall pull us!" then we

shall sleep without fire.

N.B.— Meaning, when they cry out, " Throw it away! Throw it {thi tmohing piece of wood) awaj! " we shall lie freezing. West


Africans who have scanty clothing sleep by the side of a fire daring the colder nights of the year. When troubled by the smoke, they order a slave, or some one handy, to remove the cause of offence. If, however, this be done too often, the fire will disappear, and the cold will become more troublesome than the smoke was. The proverb warns men to choose the lesser of two evils, not to incur the risk of a greater, for the purpose of ridding oneself of the smaller, trouble.


Obi ntya akoko ano, emma akye.

Any (person) does not get a-bead of the cock, does not

give salutation.

N.B. — Less literally, " nobody says good morning before the cock." t. e., no one will go out before cockcrow, and bid his friends good morning. Everything must be done in due season.


Ewaterrekwa se obema wo entama, tie ne din. When a rascal says that he will give you a coat, hear (i. e., inquire for) his name.

N.B. — Meaning, before you trust him, seek information about him. And generally, be careful whom you trust, particularly where there is just cause of suspicion.


Hi-a, mida-'yanya, minhu nyankupon,* na wo wo- bntu ho.

I who lie on mj back do not see the sky, and you are lying on your belly.

N.B. — Meaning, if one who has the best opportunities of effecting an object cannot succeed, they who have fewer advantages must expect to fail.

  • Nyankupon in Akwanim and Onyame in Aiihante, and equiva-

lent to Nyonmo in the Ga or Accra language, signify the Supreme



Obi mpra, na obi nsesaw.

When one sweeps another does not carry away {the


• N.B. — Literally, " A person does not sweep, and another does not take up/' i e,, the same person must do both. So the European pro- verbs, " Quod quisque introivit, ipsi est excedendum: " As you make your bed so you must lie. " Comme on fait son lit on se couche.'*

Being. The word is usually derived from " Yonku " and '* pon,* t. «., greatest friend. Such at least is the composition explained by Mr. J. Beecham (Asbantee and the Gold Coast, pp. 171 and 172). Of this Mr. Riis remarks, "there can be no doubt, that these derivations (allnding also to 'Nyame' being derived from *ye,' to make, to create) are futile, being based on a misapprehension of the proper phonetical form of the words: besides the explanations of Nyankupon by

  • greatest friend,' stand in direct opposition with the notions of the

Sapreme Being entertained by the negroes. What may be said with some degree of certainty is that Nyankupon is a compound of 'ny- anku'and 'pon.* *Pon' seems, from its occurrence in other words, to signify great or high. The derivation of ' nyanku * is uncertain, bat very probably *nyame' and * nyanku* are from the same root^ and but two different forms. Their root is perhaps * nyan,' to awake, supposing the original meaning of this verb to be to rise, to raise; so that ' nyanku ' and * nyame ' in their primary signification would be synonymes of * Sorro,' the high, that which is above. Pon is added for emphasis, so that the meaning of Nyankupon would be the very high, the Most High. This hypothesis vould easily account for the frequent use of both words in the material sense of sky or firma- ment, God being identified with the visible expanse of the heavens, as in English 'heaven' — so the Chinese use 'Tien* — is sometimes said instead of God." This derivation will appear to many as hard to swallow as Mr. Beecham' s.

Mr. Riis (sub voc Nyankupon) also remarks that this Supreme Being is conceived by the negroes of the Oji tribe as a great spirit living above, the author of all good, eternal and omnipotent, to whom the creation of the world and the natural phenomena of the atmosphere, as thunder, lightning, and rain, are ascribed, and by whom the spirits of good men deceased are conveyed to live under his dominion in



Akofliia mmo mnsa, na Akaa mfa.

Akosua does not mistchief, and Akua does not take (>Q.

K.B. — Leis literally, when Akosoa does nuBohief, Akua is not punished for it. Meaning, ** Ko one should suffer for the sins of another."


Okom di wo-a, womfk wo ensa abien nnidi

Though you are hungry, you do not eat with both


N.B.— Meaning, " However pressing be the necessity, it must be kept within the bounds of propriety."


Ba se 'nne enti na yaye aivnrow.

For the sake of a day like to-day they have made the nails.

N.B.— Leas literally, "for a day like the present the nails are made." This b a threat of future revenge. Meaning, '* I, too, have

Nyankuponfi or Nyankuponkm. On the other hand, however, he is considered too high above earth to care for the affairs of man, thus perfectly agreeing with Pliny, Lib, 2, chap. 5: — " It is ridiculous to suppose that the great head of all things, whatever it be, pays any regard to human affairs." The negro deity even has cummitted them to Bosom (vulg. Bossum), imaginary beings worshipped by the negroes and called "Fetishes" by Eurupeans. Mr. Riis concludes with saying — *'The idea of him as a supreme spirit is obscure and un- certain, and often confounded with the visible heavens or sky, the upper world (sorro) which lies beyond human reach; and hence the same word is used also for heavens, sky, and even for rain and thunder."

It is easy to discover the traces of a belief in the Deity, an idea doubtless derived by the West Afincan negroes in olden times from the Portuguese. I have elsewhere recorded my belief that their con- ception of a Qod is physical, not metaphysical.


the power of iDJuring, and will at some time repay you for my present injury.'*


Hai! hai! na *mina akroma 'nye kese. {ITie cry of) Hai! Hai! has uot suffered the hawk to grow big.

N.B. — " Hai," ifl an interjection used in frightening off birds of prey. The proverb means, if the hawk had been allowed to eat his fill of fowl and chicken, he would have become stronger and more dangerous: if evil were left unrestrained we should soon be over- powered by it.


Hea ogwan do na, ode ne fafii sie.

A sheep puts his white (jjoooT) on his favourite placea

N.B. — Literally, ** What a sheep loves {then) he puts his white.** The sheep is supposed to be spotted, and the white is considered prettier than the black. The meaning is, you will bestow your best upon those you love.


Obi ye ne biribi-a, muma onye, na own ben. When a person does his something (i. e., hu business), lefc him do it, for death is coming on.

N.B. — Meaning, let every one do what he pleases, as life is short, it is little matter how he acts, all will be the same a hundred years hence; it is a characteristic negro sentiment, showing their indo* lence, nonchalance, and improvidence.


Vakn kontromfi-a, ne yirr 'awn, na vasiw atimnn; na wo vansan de» wofa hn den?

I have seen a baboon (cjnocephalus), whose wife was


dead, and be wore long hair; but thou, antelope, what is

that to thee P

N.B. — The hair is allowed to grow long in sign of mourning, and the proverb appears to be directed against improper meddling with the affidrs of others.


Akwaiimiuem dew enti na vofi entesn to ensneni^i, aka befa ko.

When in consequence of good news spittle is thrown upon the surface of the water, the " aka " will snatch it up. N.B. — ^The " aka** is a river fish: the meaning of the proverb is obscure.


Wo nra tan wo-a na, o£re wo akoa deoe. If your master hates you, he calls you a free man. N.B. — Addressed to a slave: by the act of hating you, your master declares you to be free, for nobody hates his own property.


Hu m' eni so mam enti na atyo abien nam.

Por the sake of "blow upon my eye for me," two antelopes walk.

N.B.— Less literally, * that the one may blow upon the other's eye, two antelopes walk in company.*' It means, that in case of one of them getting dust into his eye, the other will remove it by blowing upon it. The general idea conveyed by the proverb is, that asso- ciations are formed for the sake of mutual support.


Obi nhu bi koaberan, encru nsL

Kobody jumps {for joy) on seeing a strong slave of another.

N.B.— Meaning, that you do not rejoice at an advantage in which you yourself have no Bhaie.




Obi nto nantyn namon. Nobody will buy the footprints of a bullock. N.B. — The footprints of a buUock here representing anything

thai cannot be turned to use.


Vose: manya,— na vonse nse^yaBya.

Tou aay, " I have,'*— not, " We have."

N.R — Meaning, that one man is master of a family, not several persons at once.


Obi do w'a na» oserre wo hu ade.

If any one loves you, he will beg of you.

N.B. — Begging is a sign of love, because, according to West African ideas, friendship consists in mutually giving and receiving preaeats.


Bna bata bo, eye tya na.

A piece of wood lying close to a stone, it is good to

cut (i.e., it mil hear a blow).

N.R — ^Meaning, that it is good enough, or strong enough, to bear being cut, to resist a stroke. The idea implied is, " Even the feeble may be rendered powerful by leaning upon those that can support them.**


W*agya akoa tya dua, ose; eye merow. When your father's slave is choppii]<^ wood, he says it is soft.

N.B. — If he said it is hard, it would sound like a complaint oflfouBve t his master, and likely to produce evil consequences.



West Afrieaiu are astute in pnctifling, regardless of truth, the rule hid down in this proverb, Tiz., "Accommodate your tongue to time and ciroumstance."


Wosen mi adidi-o, misen wo nna.

If you surpass me in eating, I surpass you in sleeping

K.R — Meaning, do not think that yon alone possess all the talents: if you surpass others in one respect^ you are deficient in another.


Wopata adaban abien ce gyem-a, baakon oew.

If you put two pieces of iron together in the fire, one

will be burned.

N.B. — This is addressed to a blacksmith: if he puts two pieces of iron into the fire at the same time, one will be burned while he is engaged in hammering the other. The mexming is, in performing a work, its dififerent parts must be taken in hand in due order; haste, instead of furthering, will defeat its own object.


Se nea atoa te na, boha te.

As the sword is, so is the scabbard.

N.B. — The idea to be conveyed probably is, that two persons associating together may be supposed to be alike in manners and principles. As we say. Tell me what your friends are, and I will tell you what you are. — *' Dis-moi qui tu hantes, je te dirai qui tu es."


Ayonkngorr' enti na okoto nnya ti.

In consequence of friends-playing the crab has no


N.B. — Friends-playing means feasting, drinking, dancing, gambling, and similar entertainments, at one's own expense. The

^ 4


crab is said to have no head, because that member does not project from the body, and the animal is supposed in the proverb to have lost it by " ayonkugorro," or junketing. A warning ia thus en- forced against dissipation, by pointing to its evil consequences. To comprehend the bearing of such admonition, it must be re- m^nbered that West Africans, besides being hard drinkers, are desperate gamblers, who will stake not only their property but their families and themselvea This probably was of more frequent occurrence than at present, during the old slave- trading days of the Qold Coast, yet I have heard of it throughout Africa: in Unya mwezi, during my visit there, a negro staked his aged mother against a cow.


Wohu koto eni-a, wose; eye dua.

When you see the ejes of a crab, you will say they

are spliuters of wood.

N.B. — Being placed on pedicles or stalks, th^ are compared to splinters. The proverb correnponds with our " Appearances are deoeitfuL" — " 11 ne faut pas juger les gens sur la mine."


Esonno afon-a, wongwa no berow so.

Though an elephant be thin, yet you will not carve it

on a palm-leaf.

N.B.— The idea to be conveyed is, that the great and noble, though in a fallen state, are different from those of mean and servile origin, and will not submit to unbecoming treatment.


Broferr'a nnya 'mmerre sorro, na nnya nye de. A papaw-fruit that has not yet ripened on high (i.e., on the tree) is not yet sweet.

}7.B. — Meaning, the good qualities of a person or thing cannot appear before going through the usual stages of development, which lead gradually to a state of perfection.

O 2



77. Wobo aberriki-a na, wohu ne ura fl kwan. If you beat a goat you will find his master's home's way (i.e., the way to its master* s house).

N.B. — Beoaiue, go«ts when frightened try to nm home. The mftani'ng aeemB to be, ** The farthest way about ia often the nearest way home; " or, " Ingenuity will devise many ways to attain its


Wope aka asem akyere Nyanknpon-a na, wokakyerre emframa.

If you want to tell anything to Heaven, tell it to the wind.

N.B. — ^The meaning of this saying seems to be the same as that

of 77.


Kea womferre no, okoto nea woferre no eki. He whom you do not respect, will seat himself behind him whom you do respect.

N.B. —In order to seek his protection when you are about to assiul him. The feeble lean for support on the stat)ng.


Eniwa fdfa nkum anuma.

A white eye does not kill a bird.

N.B. —A white eye means a glance of hatred or ill-will. The meaning is, looks may be menacing, but they cannot hurt you.



Aboa kokoseki kasa kyerre bonukyerre fo-a, ote. When the animal vulture speaks to the big drum he (the latter) hears it.

N.B.--The "kokoaeki," or"pote," is the turkey-buzzard, one of the most useful birds in West Africa, feeding on carrion, and, there- fore, most sacred to the Fetish. The "bonukyerre," or "boma," is a long but narrow drum, garnished with the skulls of hostile chiefs, and daubed with the blood of human sacrifices: its hollow sounds are heard on all state occasions, and, besides being sacred, it is supposed to be initiated in the mysteries of Fetishism. Hence the meaning seems to be, that members of the secret brotherhoods, of which many exist in West Africa, understand one another, and can communicate by means unknown to the multitude.


Tekrema kro cia tekrena apim-a, eto piti.

If one tongue meets a thousand tongues, it faints.


Obrofotefo na oma bronni ye aye.

The European-understander (i. e., he who oan speak with

the European) may induce him to do good.

N.R — Meaning, may persuade him to give presents, the object ever held in view by West Africans in their intercourse with white men. The proverb informs us, that to get all possible profit out of a person or thing, one must know him or it thoroughly.


Eti ntetew-a» wongyai ekyow soa.

If (jfour) head is not torn to pieces, you do not leave

off wearing a hat.

N.B. — ^As long as you live you follow the fashion. — " Out of the feshion, out of the world."




5i odidi me ose: ni odidi anadyo, oye baifo.

He wbo has done eating will say, " He who eats at

night is a sorcerer."

N.B.— Meaning, that a person out of all temptation, is apt to judge harahly the failings of his neighbours.


Obi mmaa n*ano oimifo.

Nobody shuts (or shall shut) bis mouth who is inno- cent.

87. Dua baakon gye enframa, ebiL One tree receiving (all) the wind, breaks.

N.B. — If the whole force of the wind shaking the forest were directed against one tree, it would overthrow it: collective strength will be triumphant in cases where single resistance would be vain. So the Esopian fable of the old man and the bundle of sticks. There is no people more keenly alive to the advantages of combination than the West African, and it has long served to defend the negro against more highly intellectual


Kontromfi se: oberan uu ne koko.

The kontromfi says, " A strong man dies only from his

chest being hurt.*'

N.B. — The " kontromfi," or cynocephalus, is the largest and strongest ape found on the Gold Coast; * in the proverb it repre-

♦ M. Riis translates "kontromfi " by "chimpanzee;" this, however, appears erroneous. M. Zimmermann says, *' a large kind of monkey (Himds-afife t)." The latter is more probable, as the dog-faced Ixiboon is a far fiercer and more dangerous animal than the troglodytes, and We6t Africa is full of stories concerning the attacks of these ferocious

puovi:ui;s ix thk oji tongue. 87

-uii- .\ ii;.'ai "■.■lH'Im.- j'i\ent i "-■ In tli.^ full .■iijiyitNi.- iivl cn- .-( -.nisiii'^-; 1.1 lii- .-tr<iut-li, win) in ImUI-' ilisdaiiis;i wi.im i, ii:;l.^>. liis I^rui-it, .sup[)u^cJ to be the seat ui lilc, i.s daiiQ'eruu.-ly hurt.


Kontromfl se, me siunan ni m' em.

The baboon says, '* My charm is my eye."

N.B. — West Africans are ever provided with " suman" — ** medi- cines for eye,'* charms or amulets to defend them from sorcerers, enemies, and dangerous ghosts. The proverb remarks that a brave man will trust for hia security to his own strength and vigilancab


Adarre bo bo-a, nankasa na tna. When a hook beats a stone, itself (mttst) suffer. N.B. — Compare with the fable of the earthen pot and tha iron pot


Hea oko asn na obo ahinna.

He who fetches water breaks the pot.

N.B.— When the water-pot comes to grief, it is more likely to be broken by the person who went with it for water, not by one who had nothing to do with it at the time.


Voton wo-a, wonto tuo.

If you {yourself) are sold, you do not buy a gun.

N.B. — Because one born a freeman is not sold unless he be deeply indebted, and unable either to pay or to prevail upon others to pay for him.

bmtes mpon women and even villages. As yet, however, we know so little eonoeming the anthropoid apes of Africa, that " kontromfi," like the ToralMUL Nake, may be some new and fierce species resembling the gorilla.



Oralcwafe annma nko di Krobo aivn, na Tonkyirre Santeni entua ekaw.

When a fowl from Osukwase eats the com of Krobo,

they do not seize a man from Ashante and make him

refund the damage.

N.a— Literally, " An Osukwase bird does not go to eat the Krobo com, and they do not catch an Ashante man, pays not the debt" Osokwase and Krobo are names of town& Like Na 5i, this means that no one should sufiiBr for the sins of another.


Woko asu amma, vommiBa ahinna.

When you go to (fetch) water and do not return,

they do not enquire about the pot.

N.B. — They ask after you: a trifling loss is not thought of when it is accompanied by a heavy calamity.


Ensn fa XranuKay vommisa n'adurade.

When water takes a Moslem (i.e., token he is droumed), they do not enquire about his dress.

N.B. — " Kramo ** and " Kramofo** are Oji words for a Moslem. The proverb has the same meaning as No. 94.


WofiEk abarrima kwanm-a, wo sekan yera.

If you make friends on the road, your knife will be lost.

N.B.— A warning against sudden friendships with strangers, who may prove deceivers and thieves: a neglect of this amongst the Asiatics doubtless fostered, if it did not create, the i^stem known in England as " Thuggee."




Vea n*eiii aberre, vommo n'eni an.

• He whose eyes are red, they do not beat upon his eyes.

N.B. — Red eyes signify rage, and the meanmg is, that to vex one ak-eady vexed is " oleum addere oamino " — to add fuel to fire. The Oji tongue has originally but three words for simple colours: '♦Tuntrum," black; .**fufu," white; and "koko," red, ruddy, yellowish* or brownish-red. Bru for blue has been borrowed from the English. See also No. 208.


Hea oknin Tabirifo na, o& n'entokota.

(The executioner) who kills Tabirifo, gets his shoes.

N.B. — Tabirifo" is the proper name of a man of note in Ashante, who was publicly executed. The proverb means, he who does the work should receive the reward.


Kea ovo aka no, osnrro sunson.

He whom a serpent has bitten dreads a slow-worm.

N.B. — Sunson is a harmless reptile, believed by West Africans to be blind. The meaning of the proverb ia substantially the same as our saying, The burnt child dreads the fire; " or, ** The thief doth fear each bush an officer;" but more strongly expressed, signifying that a person who has been injured will not only dread the identical cause or author of his affliction, but even the mere appearance of it. The Hindi proverb is, " He who is bitten by a snake will start at the sight of a rope; also, " The leaf crackled, and your slave fled."


Hea vahn bi pen^ se voki.

They who have seen a thing once, say they loathe it.

N.B. — Meaning, that you may have too much of a good thing — ** ne quid nimis."



Asafo eni-sa aknra.

Troops select farm-houses (yiz,, for attack),

N.R— " Akura " is a hamlet in a plantation, where the owner keeps hifl &mily and hia slayea. It is opposed to ** km * (croom) or

    • man," the town, which is the common centre of a number of planta-

tion hamlets, scattered over a large extent of country. The English eroom used for a Gold Coast village is an ignorant corruption of

    • kru-mu " or ** krum," " in the village." The meaning of the proverb

IS, the point of attack will be where there is the least resistance and the moat*' loot."


Wo ha eden-ai wonye ha enu adynma. Though strong you will not do the work of two.

N.B. — Meaning, that the strength of Hercules or Goliah has its limits.


Akoko eni so hrofda.

A fowl selects a single grain (viz., from a heap of rulh hish).

N.B. — Meaning, that what is good and profitable must be selected from the trash: the smallest thing useful must not be despised.


Atyo abien horro vn.

Two small antelopes heat a hig one.

N.B-— "Tyo" is a small aniuaal: "vu" or "bobiri" a larger species. The adage means, ** Union ia strength."




Opanyin due mante, mante." A grandee {or elder) practises, " I have not heard! I have not heard! "

N.B. — Meaning forbearance. The ** empanyin " {plur.) are the elders of a town, forming the council of the caboceer or chief, each having hiB particular charge, as the safohinne " or military chief, the " fotoeanfo ** or treasurer, the *^ kyami " or spy and speaker — king's mouth " — the "bofo/* messenger, and others; a system much resembling that of the village republics in Maharatta-land. The meaning of the proverb is, " It does not become the dignified and venerable man to notice every light word and deed."


Hea vode enkokonte se vobedi semmina, wongye n'akmgye.

If the eaters of enkokonte say they eat soap, you do not doubt it.

N.B. — ** Enkokonte " is a food resembling native soap: some- times a man eating it, says waggishly, that he is eating soap. If the person addressed took the assertion in good earnest, he would appear a fooL Hence the meaning seems to be, A joke must be under- stood as such, not as a serious matter."


Wo ni wo agya akoa tya abe-a, ofre wo ave. When you cut down a palm-tree with the slave of your father, he will call you friend.

K.B. — If you are intimate with your inferiors, they will lose respect for you. Mr. Riis observes that the saying is akin to, though not BO strongly expressed as, the English proverb, " Tou cannot touch pitch without being defiled." It is almost equivalent to our saying, " Familiarity breeds contempt."



Mogya mpa ten tirri mu da.

Blood is never wanting in the horsefly's head.

N.B. — ^Beoauae the horsefly's biumesB is to suck blood. The proTerb is eqtiiyalent to, " A robber's den will never be found empty of stolen goods.*


Aknra te se nantyn-a. ag^namo 'akoa nan. Though a mouse were (ai big) as a bullock, yet it would be the slave of the cat.

N.B. — A born slave, however he may rise in the world, will ever retain a servile mind.


Atodm asa, enye vonni Akowna entoam.

When the powder is gone, it is not that in Akowua's powder-case.

N.B. — Meaning, " When they say all the powder la consumed, they do not include the private store of Akowua," one of the Ashante kings: though others may be in want, he is probably supplied. — " Nulla regula sine exceptione."


Osunson se, obenyin ansa na vafi eni; onyini, na ode ne ti pempem.

The blind-worm said he would grow before he got his eyes; he is grown, but (jitill) be wriggles his head about (i.e., to find his way),

N.B. — He is still blind. The meaning is, that youth is the time for study, and if this be neglected, old age will rue it.


Otnmfo vro ka-a, ovro fa wo meti. When a strong man pushes your ring, he pushes it to the shoulder.

N.B. — "Ka" is a finger-ring, or, as in this place, a wrist-ring. The meaning of the saying is, that a man's character impresses itself upon all his actions.


Eni baakon enfye kra, enfye asibe. One eye does not look (at the same time) on a monkey and on a baboon.

N.B. —The <'krd" and the '* asibe" are different species of the Simiadffi. The proverb means, *^ Tou cannot do two things at the same time."


Batafo 86, enye n'ano, enye n'ano, na n'ano ara nen.

The hog says, " It is not my mouth 1 it is not my mouth! [that has ruined the plantation); " but still it is his mouth.

N.R — The word of a rascal must not be depended upon; one who will commit a crime will also deny it.


Wonim di-a, di bi, na nni 'niara.

Kyou eat, eat a portion, but do not eat all.

N.B.— ' Sit modus in rebus: * in the application of any power, obMTve moderation.


Eniwa nnim avirreho.

The eye knows nothing of grief.

N.B. — Meaning, it will cloee in spite of your Borrow: bodily wants must be satisfied, whatever be the matter with the mind.


Bna ananse adi awn, enteknma entra ase, entonkom. The entekuma will not sit down nor sleep imder the very tree, from eating of which the ananse died.

N.B. — " Entekuma'* and " ananse" are two di£ferent kinds of arachnida: the latter, as amongst the Qa people, is a mythic per- sonage, generally called " Agya Ananse," or Father Spider. Great skill and ingenuity are attributed to him, probably from observing the wonders of the web; and the people are rich in* ' anansisem " or Spider stories. The meaning of the proverb is, *' Tou will do well to avoid a thing, person, or step, which has been fatal to friend or relative."


Obusmaketew se: entem eye na ognm eye. The chameleon says, " Speed is good, and slowness is good."

N.B. — Meaning, each is good in its proper time and place.


Ohienni nya ade-a, oman bo.

"When a man becomes rich, the town goes to ruin.

N.R.— The parvenu becomes insolent under prosperity. — •' Honores mutant mored." — " Asperius nihil est humili cum surgit in altum." The Hindi proverb is, ** When he had filled his beUy he began to vex the poor."



Akikire se: obarrima mferr* agwan.

The tortoise says, A man must not be ashamed to run

away (i.e., when flight u necessary).

N.B. — So the well-known Hudibrastic lines —

    • He who fights and runs away,

Shall live to fight another day.**

In the African proverb the words are attributed to the tortoise — the slowest of all animals, and the least likely to profit by flight — in order to make them more emphatical.


Pani nim pam-a, anka ne to ima tokriL

If a needle could sew, it would not have a hole on its


N.R — This refers to the censorious, who, if really reformers, would begin by ridding themselves of their own defects.


Wotya wo tekrema so toto vi-a na, wonnya nam.

If you cut off from your tongue and roast and eat it,

you have no meat.

N.B. — Meaning, you have gained nothing by this proceeding; you have acquired nothing that you had not before. This saying is pointed at persons who carry on law-suits against members of their own family.


Wode wo ba to Wtutwu-a, owu.

Kyou call your child " Death," it will die.

N.B. — Because, so to call a child would be as it were a challenge to Death by marking it as his property. Hence, the proverb means, " He who wantonly risks a disaster will be visited with it ere long."



Odonko nya ade-a, obodaoL

When the Donko * becomes rich he runs mad.

N.R — Simikr to No. 119, and representixig the beggar on honebaek riding to the deviL


Esonno tia afiri so-a, enhwan.

When an elephant treads upon a spring-trap, it (the trap) does not spring up.

N.B. — But it does when a bird treads upon it. The proverb means, *' The same act performed, or word spoken, by different per- sons, may produce different effects."

  • Donko is the name given to the countries and tribes north of

Ashante, about the Upper Yolta — the so-called Kong Mountains— and the basin of the Kirara, or Western Niger. Thus it would comprise the mostly Moslem people of Hausa and Bomu, the Fulas and Mandengas, besides the Kafirs of Akyem, Akwamu, and Ayigbe. The land is represented as being well cultivated with wheat and com, and abounding in elephants, tortoises, horses, asses, and camels; more- over, the Sahara and the European natives dwelling beyond it are known to the people. The Donko slaves are captured by the Ashantes and are sold on the coast, where they are held to be an inferior race, being mostly caught when adult and unable to learn new tongues fluently. They speak, of course, many different dialects, so that "Donko ^' cannot be used as the name of any particular language. Some describe them as mild and industrious. M. Riis limits Odonko to '*a negro tribe in the more interior parts of Western Africa, which fur- nishes the Oji tribe with most of their slaves; the word is therefore equivalent to servile, with the addition, however, that a Donko is considered also as naturally doll and stupid. By a sudden change of fortune he would be so puffed up with conceit as to have his head turned by the emotion."



Okoto ba nvo annma.

The crab*8 daughter does not bear a bird.

N.B.— The oflfepring follows the parent. Cf. Matth< vii 10— 18, **Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?" The Accra proverb says, " The crab does not b^^t a bird."


Obi xn£a afetrefetre enko Hnam.

Nobody carries foreskins to Hua.

N.B. — Hua is a country lying east of the Volta River, and called Ayigbe or Aigbe, by the people themselves, who speak the Ewe dialect. The Huafo as well as the Andanme and the Enkranfo* or Qa tribes, practise keteafo, " cutting short," or circumcision, which may be derived from the Moslems, to judge from the age of the patients. It is performed by persons of a certain class, (not a priest) when the boys are twelve or fourteen years of age. The act does not seem to bear a religious character. Mr. Zimmerman denies the existence of cireumcision, viriusqiie texus, such as prevails throughout Islam — Egypt, for instance. On the other hand, the accurate Bosman (" Description of the Coast of Guinea,** Letter 18,) expressly asserts that " some girls are here liable as well as the boys." The rite is held in great disdain by the Ashante and Oji people, who call it Tyetia. The above saying, " To carry .foreskins to Hua," is equivalent to our ** Carrying coals to Newcastle."


Hea otya wo tyetia, enni wo adyom pa.

He who circamcises you will not {exactly) make good

carpenter^s work.

N.B. — Meaning, from skill in one branch of work, you cannot infer the same in another.

  • Accra caUs itself " Ga," and is known to the Oji people aa Enkrao.

The word also signifies, in Oji, a kind ol^ black ant popularly known as the " driver":thu8 it is an error to translate Accra — probably a cormption of Enkran — the land of White ante.


1 4

I II n l^^^^^^^^^^^^^B




Enkyienne use nehu nse; xniye de. The salt will not say of itself; ** I have a pleasant taste."

N.B.— Meftning, that aelf-pnise is no reoommendation. 180.

Aben enye de>a na; etna nip^aao. Though a horn has a bad soond, yet it is applied to a man's month.

N.R — Though one of your family be diaagreeable, yet do not break with him.


Has^um na knm dom. Beinforcement beats the foe.

N.B.— " Uunion &it la force." 132.

Ehwynnne nya na eniwa nya.

When the nose gets (a thing) , the eyes get (it tod).

N.B. — When one of a fiunily becomes rich, the others hope to share in his wealth.


Ekwai 'agye wo, womfre no akwaiwa. A forest that has sheltered you, you will not call a shrubbery.

N.B. — You will not detract from the merits of a bene&ctor.


Ohienni bu be-a, enoe.

"When a poor man makes a proverb it does not spread.

N.B.~On the Gold Coast, and in pagan Africa generally, poverty, aa in England, is not a misfortune, but a crime.


Obi nsoma bi afiri fye, na annma nlcasa no. When a person is sent to look at a snare, the bird does not upbraid him.

N.B. — Because the person does not come of his own accord: a slave is not culpable for what he does at his master's command.


Aberriki se: nea abogya bum vo no, eho na adidi vo.

The goat says, " Where much blood is, feasting goes on."

N.R — A feast is referred to for which eatables are collected: these attract to the spot goats, and the proverb is put into the hircine mouth because the animals are ever wandering about the town seeking fodder. The proverb corresponds with the Scriptural say- ing, ** Wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together."— Matth. zxiv. 28.


Hnipa iniara do anka gwarre^a, von hu ye, owam; na aboho se oko da so, na ne bn bon.

Everybody who washes himself with lemon juice, be* comes sweet-scented: therefore the Ahoho said he would go upon (the lemon tree) and live there, but still he stinks.

N.B. — These negroes wash themselves from head to foot at least once a day, and after washing rub their bodies with lime-juice to

H 2



remove the hauqud cTAJrique. The Ahoho is a red ant of peculiarly ill aavour, generally found in lime and orange trees. The meaning is, " No remedy Trill affect innate and inveterate vices." C£. " Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots?*' — Jer. ziiL28.


Voni yanom-a, vomfre yaaom.

If jovL have no comradeB, you do not call for (ifour)


N.B. — Referring to enterprises 'vrhich cannot be carried out save by the combined exertions of a number. Thus the meaning would be, Tou must not count upon mmtns that are not at your disposal,— cut your coat according to your doth.*'


Aboa no n* anom ye no de-a, onvi ne konmda. Though the beast is dainty-inouthed, it does not eat its collar-bell.

N.B. — This alludes to dogs: though fond of dainties, they do not eat the ornaments fastened round their necks. The meaning seems to be, Even greediness does not rush blindly upon evexy- thing nice and attractive."


Obi ntntn annma, enko kyerre panyin.

Nobody plucks a bird, which he is going to show to an

old man (i.e., in order to (uk its name),

N.B. — By plucking it he would defeat his own object, as the old man would no longer be able to identify the bird.


Oposko agyimi-a, nea ote no so, ongyimie.

Because a horse is a fool, he who rides it is no fool.

N.B.— Meaning, that the defects or vices of a dependent are not to be attributed to his master.



Vonam ba enu sum afiri-a, vonam ba enii na ko fye.

If you Iftj a snare in oompanj, you go in company to

look at it.

N.B.— If any one Bhares with you in a work, he should ahare with you in its reward.


Biribi nko ka empopa, enye knula. If nothing touches the palm-leaves they do not rustle. N.B. — There is no smoke without fire.


Bki Be obekon-a, o ni n* akomfodL

When Eki says he will not fight {he means) himself

and his party,

N.B. — Eki is the name of a man, famous prohahly as a hardy warrior.


Ohienni asomen ni batafose.

The poor man's ivory is a hog*s-tooth.

N.B. —A hog's tooth is as valuable to a poor m.an as an ele- phant's tooth to a rich man.


Ahine tew empanyin enim-a, enyera. If a string of pearls breaks in the presence of grown- up people, nothing is lost.

N.B. — The string of pearls is worn by a child: nothing is lost^ because those present will gather up the beads; but the child, if. alone, would leave and lose them. The proyerb means, " That if prudent people are at hand, they will take means to avert the evil consequences of a disaster."



147. Aboa bi do trade-a, osna prako. When an animal fattens, it learns from the pig.

N.E — Meaning, that wlien one is the author and inventor of an art^ thooe who practiae it do so in imitation of him, not by their own invention.


Okwan yarre-a, Tode von nanna tya, enye abonoa. When a way is long you shorten it with your feet, not with a hatchet.

N.B. — There ia a pun on this proverb; " tya " meaning to cut off aa well aa to pass over or througiL The meaning is, ** Your means must be suited to your ends."


Ano patiraw-a, esen namon.

When the mouth stumbles it is worse than the foot.

N.B. — A wrong word — " nescit vox missa reverti" — may be more harmful than a blunder in action.


Mmofra nko ta-a, vanhu tu; empanyin enko ta-a, ▼otiatia so.

When boys were to reap, they did not understand it; when old people were to reap, they trampled about (the land),

N.B.— The proverb is applied to the difficulty of settling a quarrel: some want the necessary prudence and experience, whilst others, from whom better things might be expected, side with one party and increase the evil instead of allaying it.



Yose: ko man ko to,— na vonse use; ko man ko sen. They say, " Go into a town to settle; " and they do not Bay, " Gt> into a town to boast."

K.B. — This is addreased to thoee who leave their natiye land, and settle in another: they ought to join the people with whom they live, and not pride themselyes upon retaining their own and customs, or attempt to set up new rules.


Wokon enkran na nko-a, wontyorre abe ngmn.

When you endeavour to drive the " drivers," and they will not give way, you do not peel palm-nuts and throw among them.

N.B.— Enkran, the ** driver ant," has been alluded to in No. 127. It is a small black ant, which marches in line, bites severely, attacks houses^ destroys all the smaller animals, and has, it Ib said, over- powered and killed himters when, torpid with fatigue, they have fallen asleep in the bush. West Africans oppose their progress by fire, and palm^nuts attract them. Hence, the meamng of the pro- verb is, ** When you are anxious to attain an object, you will not do anything that will have the opposite effect: you will not attempt to extinguish a flame by pouring oil upon it."


Hea okem gye, ni me.

What hunger desires is repletion.

N.R — ^The meaning is, that eyery want requires its particular ttaafaction.



Okwasia na ne g^wan tew empoi abien. {He ft) a fool whose sheep runs away twice.

  • K.B. — ^Because he was not warned by one mishap to ■ecure hut

proper ty. The meaning ib, '^ He la a fool indeed who cannot learn even from e^qperience.**


Osekanftxa na gye nehn abofra ensem.

The blade of a knife resists in the hand of a boy.

N.B. — It resists or defends itself, i.«., it will wound him that sports with it. The meaning is either " Let the inexperienced keep aloof from dangerous things, and not meddle with edged tools," or " Things useful in themselves may prove perilous to those who ignore their use."


Wotan wo ni-a, womfiei no mma dom

Though you dislike your relation, you will not deliver him to the army (of the enemy).

N.B. — Amongst West Africans the dislike to a relative rarely amounts to real hate, prompting hostility and a desire of destruction. This, perhaps, is one of the prerogatives of semi-civilised over a more highly cultivated society.


Dua kontonkye na ma yehu dyomfo. A crooked stick makes us know (i.e., betrays) the carpenter.

K.B. — It shows him to be a bad craftsman: by the quality of the work you judge the skill of the man.



Obi 86 obefro dunsin-a, ma omforro na; oko lo enim aba.

When a person says that he will climb up the .tree-

Btump (whose boughs have been cut off), let him climb: he

will go to the face (i.e., the top), and return.

K.B. — Another alluaioii to the laitaez oiler and nonchcJ<mce of the West African.


Hea Ota wo ommere-a, wo-a wogwan wonse; mabre. If he who pursues you is not tired, you who are flying will not say, " I am tired."

K.B. — Danger will stimulate a man to the utmost exertion.


Akokonini se: to tamfo enkn-a, anka mabon anadyo, na vaknmmi.

The cock says, " Suppose enemies only (i. e., if all were

my enemies), I should have crowed in the night, and should

haye been killed.

N.R — The crowlDff of a cock in the middle of the night Ib con- aidered by West Africans a bad omen, and the animal is forthwith killed. The meaning is, "A general hostile disposition towards a person who has no friends or protectors, will soon find a pretext for effecting his ruin."


Ese neia na, voire no gyaw.

When the teeth do not meet (i.e., touch), it is called a


N.B. — ^"Gyaw" is the gap which many people show between the two upper incisors. The meaning of the proyerb is obscure.




Okrol>om ba ngwaa kokotem kwn. The son of a Krobo man does not run through the com without cause.

KJB.— Erobo (Croboe) is a town buflt at the foot of a rocky mountain, with a steep and difficult ascent: it Benree for a fortress in time of war, and has preserved the people from a foreign yokeu Henoe, to see the son of a Krobo man flying through the corn-fields in the plain, would be an extraordinary event, announcing some great and unexpected distress.


Okro Toharre no afa enn.

A canoe is paddled on both sides.

N.B. — Measures taken to effect a purpose, in order to be clous must be complete.


Aginamoa wn-a, enkura yem. When the cat dies, the mice rejoice.

N.B. — The subjects rejoice at the tyrant's death; and^as we say^ " When the cat is away, the mice play."


Osncefa vommna.

A half-roof they do not put on (i.e., you do not put a half-roof upon a house).

N.B. — X work must not be left half done.



Ti kro nko aginna.

One head does not go to a standing (i. e., eotutitute a


N.R — "Agizma" properly meana the act of going apart, or, more ezactly, of standing apart from the general assembly. By im- plication, it denotes a committee, a consultation of several persons forming a particular party, who have retired from a greater assembly to converse apart. This would be wholly unnecessary where one person only is ooncemed. So the Italian, " Tre donne ed mi, oca non fanno un mercato."


Wo eni nkom-a na, wose: minnTa daberre. When 70U are not sleepy, you say, " I have no sleeping- place."

N.B. — When you ore sleepy, you will be content with any place. The meaning is^ " Necessity supersedes fastidiousness."


Adnan bi-a Tonni no, vonnoa. Pood, which you will not eat, you do not boil. K.B. — Tou will not work without an object.


Ohoho nBoa fnnna tL

A stranger does not carry the head of a corpse. K.B. — The chief place will not be given to a stranger.


Omamferenni nnyin kronkron. A foreign settler does not grow pure (i.e., never hecomeg a native).


m. Oliia *ka wo, na woti abete-a, edan fim. I^ when afflicted with poFerty, you eat Abete, ittamB to herbs.

N.Bb — "Abete" is a delicate food prepared from the flour of Indian oozn. The meaning is, that poverty embitters every enjoy- ment


Obi ngyai esonno elddi, enko di aserredua eM. Nobody leaves off pursuing an elephant in order to pursue the aserredua (a small bird),

N.E — ^You do not relinquish a great object for a trifling one.


Wo ti ben wo, na wonya wo twyerre-a, vode born hoara.

Though, when going to receive your blows (i.e., the

punishment you have incurred for some qffence), your head

aches, yet they strike you in that very place.

N.B.— The meaning seems to be, " Justice is executed without regard to circumstances."


Fa torn! Fa torn! na eye adesoa.

" Lay on! lay on! " makes a load.

N.B.~The repeated addition of small things will make at last a heavy load; many a little makes a mickle.


Anini abien enna bon.

Two males (viz., beasts of prey) do not live in one den.

N.B. — ^A house or a family has but one master.




Obi nso dai enko nea Tobeknm no. Haying dreamed, nobody will go where they will kill him.

N.B. — ^When a man dreams that he will be killed at a oertain place, he wH not gp there: wamingB must not be despised.

177. Sikaadynma biara nye aniwu. Gold work (i.e., any work for gold) is no shame. N.B.— Kather a shamefid saying.


Alnrntiuna knntnn n' afe, na onknntnn empanyin. A bully fights with his peers, not with grandees.

179. Anop* anom bon, na asempa na vom. In the morning the mouth smells, but there are good words in it.

N.B. — Morning is held the best time for deliberating on matters of consequenoe.


Anadyoboa nno aonwa.

Night venison (i. e., game caught at night) is not fat.

N.R — Because at such time you cannot judge between the good and the bod. The proverb means, Things got at random are rarely Taluable." It is our buying a pig in a poke.

^^^^^^^^H ^ I



Sika ye fe, na opegyafo ye na. Gk>ld 18 prefcty, but the heir is rare.

K.Bw— Where there are riohes, an heir is often wanting: earthly happtneaa la nerer ao complete bat that it haa aome drawbaoL


Wodi loa ema, tje wo enia.

When you eat a monkey's hand, look at your {own) hand.

N.B.— When you enjoy yourself at the ezpenae of others, remem- ber that you are liable to the same misfortune.


Okwasia na ose: rode me yonkn na vonne mi. A fool Bays, " My friend is meant, not I."

K.B. — Because he refers a warning, meant for himself, to another man, and n^lects to profit by it.


Ohimmone ni bebi, na obof6 bonne na vo bebi. There is nowhere a wicked prince, but there are wicked ambassadors.

K.B. — When, in a transaction between two princes, anything goes wrong, it will be laid to the charge of the ambassadora^ however much the fault is in the princes themaelyes. Quidquid delirant reges, plectuntur AchivL




Vnipa pa bi ko sa, Tanhu ano, na gyamakutrokn?1 Brave men who went to the war did not see the end

(i.e., could not bring it to a successful issue), and a coward?

( — what can he expected of him?),


Oman tya wo sama, vompopa. When the town ornaments your hair, they (your rela- fives) will not disorder (or efface) it.

N.B. — ^"Ornament" means, properly, cutting out figures on a person's head by the hair being removed unequally. " When the town," &0., i.e., when it is done by a public decree to confer honour on you, your friends will take pride in it.


Asom ni enkwanta.

The ear has not a double way (i. e., two ways),

N.B. — ^Tou can hear only one thing at a time. The saying is applied when a man is addressed by more than one person at once.


Okwadn se: wammere na wodidi«a, enye dL The antelope says, " When you eat without being tired, it has no relish."

N.B.— If a meal is to be really enjoyed, it must be preceded by exertion and fatigue — cibi condimentum fames est. The words are attributed to the antelope, because it is always running about.

^^ ^ ij* jA 370x100 betrebn.

.-....^^ i -'im *eavt»:fcs nest.

,^ ^.-^ > V. ■ •..uifiewu tc unce, but by repeated


,^^.^^ niiMW 3,0 SO ham ma.

„ ^ .ivi. ^oc the tortoise, you do not cut

».,>....*•. ciiu^ till you have it in your power.

,^ . . .wuiw ko ye adyuma, wococoro so ko to

»..«. luothor man's hoe to work with, you .... 'UL it back iu its place. .^ x'iiowt J mudt be carefully restored, and in good


vudeara, woto wo yonknde.

.. A-airoy yours, you join your friends.

.„ .11^. i»rol:»ably, that one who has sijuandered his own ..;a«.h hiui;$ulf to his friends, and subsist on their


ui lumm, enti em.

j^ ..oAa at something black, and steps into it.

\»)uu \.'u sro an impending calamity, which you may .V..1 i.i'L iu.-.h into it.



Wo eni rebo-a wonse nse: mild te.

When your eye is going to ruin, you will not say, " I

hate ophthalmia."

N.R— Tou will not reprove in another person a defect with which you yourself are strongly affected. Our " fellow-feeling," Ac.


Onya nya nehu-a, onom nyanknensn. When a slave hecomes a free man, he will drink rain- water.

K.B. — From laziness; because other water must be fetched from a distance. I commend this truly African proverb— showing that the emancipado is incapable of moderation in the use of his liberty — to the consideration of all real philanthropists. It is easy to see that if a man will not labour even for his own wants, they do him a service who compel' him to work.


Obi amma m* amo-a, mirema mehu amo. When a person neglects to congratulate me, I con- gratulate myself.

N.R — Trifling neglects of respect must not be taken to hearty but passed over in good humour.


Otam abirri-a, woncew yi.

Though your coat is dirty, you do not bum it.

N,R — ^When a thing has a defect, you will not destroy, but mend it.



Opitri memenne-a, omemenne ma oiira.

When the Pitri absorbs (the soup)^ he does it for his


N.B. — ^The Pitri is a river fiah, of whidx aoap is made. In ap- pearanoe, the quantity ci the aoup is reduced by being absorbed in the fish; but in reality it ia only a transfer, the part that disappears being contained in the soup. The meaning is, " What you spend in improving your property, is not losty though temporarily your means are diminiahed by it"


Ohinne nye de-a, fye nea osafohinne rekyere. When the prince does not please (you), see how the general appears.

NJB.^If you cannot agree with one person, go to another.


Obi ntn mere ensie siw so.

Nobody gathering mushrooms replaces them on the ant-hill.

N.B. — Mushrooms most frequently grow on ant-hills, the red- clay structures of the termites, conical heaps 8 to 12 feet high: there- fore the first person coming to the place would appropriate them, not thinking that they belonged to anybody.


Obi akoa di Abimma, vonhimma no kwa. Though a slave's name be " Flog," yet you do not flog him without cause.

N.B. — Meaning, perhaps, that, however vicious a man be, he may not be punished except for some special act.



Ankonani di atro.

Who travels aloae tells lies.

K.R — ^To establiah the truth of a statement, two witnesses at least being required. The Persian proverb ia, " Jehan dideh bisy^ goyad durogh " (" Whoso seeth the world, telleth many a lie "). So our "txaveUers* tales."


Obi bexna wo adnan adi-a na, ode ampesi di wo adanse.

When anybody prepares food for you, he testifies to

you by Ampesi (i.e., he gives you some Ampesi to try it

K.B. — By "Aduan" is meant the common food of the Gold Coast, called Fufu. Yams or plantains are cut to pieces, and boiled, in which prepared state they are termed " Ampesi." They are then pounded in a wooden mortar (vodru) till they become a tough, doughy mass (fufu). A roimd lump of this is put into the palm-nut soup {enkwan)^ popularly called " palm-oil-chop," and eaten with it. The meaning of the proverb is, that one who would benefit you, usually gives a foretaste of his kindness; or, more generaUy, that " coming events cast their shadows before."


Mosia kokwaw entem-a, vode wo kon anwam. If thou, pebble, hastenest to become smooth, they will fight the anwam with thee.

N.B. — ^" Anwam" is the name of a large bird that feeds on palm-nuts; and pebbles serve for buckshot when smooth and round. Many men have sufficient strength and talents to be useful, but for some defect or vice which prevents them from turning their powers to advantage.

I 2

116 WIT JlST> wisdom 7B0M WEST AFRICA.


Obea tenten so' abe-a, onwam dL

When a tall woman carries palm-nuts, the birds will

eat them.

K.B.^ — It is man's work to cultivate the fields, woman's to cany home the produce, whidi is balanced upon the head. The proverb aooounts for why the latter sex is shorter than the former: it is necessary for the station and occupation allotted to it


Adesa okoko bin.

In the evening (even) a red man is black.

N.B. — As in Europeans there is a difference between a blonde and a brunette, so the West Africans distiDguifih amongst themselves black {tuntum) and red (koko) negroes, the skin of the former being of jetty hue, that of the latter a ruddy brown. The meaning of the proverb is, that circumstances level inequalities.


Woferre-a, wofon.

When you pine (under disgrace and contempt) you fade. N.B.— Mental uneasiness will break down a man's strength.


Voseoma ba nimadefo, na vonsoma namontenten. They send an intelligent man (as messenger); they do not send a long-step (i.e., one who is able to walk fast).

N.B. — As the West Africans ignore writing, a messenger is always the negotiator of the object for which he is sent; hence, in selecting him, mental qualifications are regarded rather than bodily strength.



Apopokiki fl ensuase se odenkyem yarre-a, vongye n' akingye.

If an Apopokiki, from the bottom of the river, sajs that

the crocodile is sick, it will not be doubted.

K.B. — The Apopokiki is a river fish, whose statement will not be discredited because he comes from the very place where the crocodile lives. The meaning is, that the testimony of an eye-witness will be credited.


Wonnim asaw-a na, wose: akyinne nye de.

If you cannot dance, you will say, " The drum is not


K.B. — Ton pretend to despise what you are not able to enjoy: " The grapes are sour."


Aferr* enti na odomanin ti bo akyinne hn.

On account of shame (i. e., bein^ ashamed to flee)y the

war-chief's skull sticks on the drum.

N.B. — The skuUs of hostile chiefs and war captains, who are taken prisonera or are killed in battle, are fixed in trophies to the big drum. The proverb points out the dangers of ambition.


Akoa nkyerre nnannna.

A slave does not show the timber.

N.B. — The " timber " here means the forest-trees fit to be used as timber. A slave will not point out where they are, because, when they are found, he will have the trouble of cutting them down, and


of canying them home. The meaning of the proverb is, that a penon will not prosecute an undertaking from which he expects more trouble than profit.


Akoa mpaw nra.

A slaTe does not choose his master.


Obaakon enye barrima. A man alone is no hero.

■N.B. — One person alone will not effect great things: to accom- plish an object, the united efforts of many are required.


Abe berre-a, woso fa miso fa.

"When the palm-nuts are ripe, jou carry half, I cany half.

N.B. — Each of us must take an equal share of the trouble as well as the produce.


Adi ama ni adi ama na agorro.

Mutual entertainment is (fair) play.

N.B. — More literally, " To eat and to give, to eat and to give, («) a play."



Onyansafo na tya akwamio.

• An expert man cuts the roots in the road.

N.B. — "Akwamio" are the roota of trees running acroes the road, and cut away to render it more level. Some superstition attache to this act, which must be performed according to certain rites, and by a man acquainted with them, otherwise evil would result. The meaning of the proverb is, " A business of importance must be performed by a man of skill and experience.'*


Eniwn na tan onipa, na aso de entan onipa.

The eye envies — not the ear.

K.B. — The eye gives the ocdasion for envy and hate; even a good and affable man is often disliked, his kind words being disre- garded, and jealous looks being cast upon his talents or his pos-


Yepe-na yebehu entl na yekekyirre boa. To find (a thinf) when we want it, we make a parcel. N.B.~Showing the necessity of order and arrangement.


Eontromfi se: voce m* afonnom-a na, meyi asem pa ma ka makyerow.

The baboon says, "If you put something into ray

mouth (i.e., give me something to eat), then I will produce

a good word, and tell you."

N.B. — Probably meaning that good advice deserves a recom- pense; also, that no man does anything gratit for his neighbour.



Boa bevo wo eni no vobn to, na vonsen ano. When a piece of wood threatens to pierce your eye, thej will blunt it, and not point it.

N.B.— You will endeavour to oountenct, not to increase, an impending danger.

Onantefo na odi ade, eye de.

What a foot-trayeller eats, tastes well.

N.B. — ^Because he is hungry, and hunger is the best sauce. 223.

Skrn ntntn afa enn.

A wound does not pain at two halves (i. e., on both nde$ of the body),

N.B. — A calamity is felt only in the quarter visited by it^


Wo sika ye wo yaw-a, na wokon-a, wonyi dom. If your gold pains you, and you fight (i.e., if in war you grudge your gold), you will not conquer the enemy.

N.R — Gold must be spent in gaining friends and confederates. If a great object is to be accompli^ed, you must put to work all your means and energies.



Own adarre nnow fa akon.

Death's sickle cuts not in one half only (hut univer^ satfy).

KB. — The " Adarre " is a kind of bill-hook uaed by West Africans for cutting down the bush. We must Anglicize it by "sickle" or "scythe."


Etna WO yonkn hu-a, etua dua.

If another suffers pain, (to you) a piece of wood suffers.

N.R — You are not affected by it: it is as if a piece of wood had the pain. This is a characteristic saying, showing the practical selfish- nem and feeUnglessness of the wild West African, who, when tamed by slavery, becomes one of the most tender of men. Dr. Johnson's favourite dogma was, " Everybody is indifferent to another's pains and pleasures: '* but his practice was diametrically opposed to his preaching.


Anka bene ko, enye de.

A lemon that grows in ripening, is not agreeable (i.e., does not taste well).

N.B. — A thing must be mature before all its good qualities appear.


Obi nsen fasn okotokn sen. No one excels a wall in bearing bugs. KB. — In coarse work the most stupid may be the best



Yoknra w* a, wo virr* afi enkekaw. When they hold you (Le., when you are eaugU), you forget to bite.

N.B. — ^At the critical momeiit the boaster hangB hiB head.


Hea YO dom exuem na oyi ma. What is in his hand, the enemy {can) give away. N JB. — He cannot dispoae of what ia not in hia power.


Obi mfa enkodasem ensisi kontromfl.

Nobody will deceive a baboon by tricks.

N.B. — Because the beast is a master of tricks: you cannot defeat a man on his vantage-ground.


Ese tenten enni ese akotia edidi baakon.

Long teeth and short teeth eat the same food.

N.B.— Though there are different states and conditions amongst men, their ultimate lot is the same.


Aberrewa, w* ano ye den-a, gye wo ban.

Old woman! if jour mouth is (so) hard (i.e., if your

tongue ie so sharp), make your fence {yourself),

K.B.— " Ban " is the fence separating the house-yard from the street: it consists of palm-branches, and often require repair. Old women, who cannot do that themselves, have it done by the kind- ness of others. The meaning of the proverb is, " Those who claim the assistance of others, should at least be civil to them."




Woto pra, wato nam.

If you have found an armadillo, jou have found meat.

N.B. — ^The meat being in the annadillo: bo, if you sit by a well, you will not search for water.


Ete vopirre no mmaakon mmaakoiL

A head tbej defend it one by one.

N.R — Or, leea literally, " Each man defends his own head: ' every person must take care of his own concerns.


Abofra anhn' gwadl-a na, asia nyera. If a boy does not understand bartering, he does not (at least) lose the gold-weights.

N.R — When bartering, West Africans use cowries and gold- dust, and, for the latter, scales are carried by traders. " Asia" is one of the gold-weights. A boy {or slave) who understands the work^ may be a source of gain to his master, but it may also happen that he loses some of the valuables which he carries with him. If he cannot be employed in trading, there is no chance of either gain or loss. The meaning of the proverb seems to be, that everything has its light and its dark side.


Wo na waye akoko den, na dyonso abo no?

You, what have you done to the fowl, that it is affected with strangury? "

K.B. — Mr. Riis remarks, " The application of this odd proverb IB dijffiicult to guess.** It is doubtless a wise saying, but somewhat too dark.




Okekyefo ade enkura na di The mice eat the miser's goods.


Annma niflrifo vode emposai na yi no.

A sharp-sighted bird is caught by Emposai.

N.R— "Empoflai" is the withered bark of the pkntain-tree, which is spread over to hide the mare. The meamng ia, ** By strata- gem eyen a canning man may be caiight."


Hna abete vodi n* abusuam.

Huaabete they eat at home.

N.B. — ** Abete" is a delicate food of Indian com: the best is made by the people of Hua (No. 127), who keep it for home con- sumption. Thus, the saying means, " You keep the choicest thmgs for your own use and enjoyment."


Aduanfyem enti na Obronni ta ko AbrokirrL

On account of food-looking-into (i.e., intrusive cu-

riositi/)f white men went off to Europe.

N.B. — The West Africans naturally suppose that man was created in their country, and that at first whites and blacks all dwelt together. The former, however, were so much molested by the negroes, who were ever looking into their food and prying into their actions, that they emigrated from Africa to Europe. The proverb is a warning against over-curiosity, which may annoy others beyond endurance. Some of the converted negro^ thus explain the differ- , ence of complexion: — Gain was a black man, but when rebuked by the Creator for murder, he turned pale with fear: hence the white colour. This is indeed ** tit for tat"



Obofo mmofra hn nye fe.

A miscreant's fellows are not pretty.

K.6. — Meaning, that people do not like to look upon them: they are unwelcome, and are dreaded wherever they appear.


Woknsa ode bebrebe-a> eprim. If you roast the yam too much, it will be burnt N.B. — Omne nimium nocet: ne quid nimis.


Kokoseki mpe fl aba, anka onsisi snmana so.

If the vulture did not wish to come into the town, he

would seat himself upon the Sumana-heap.

K.R — ^Sumana^is the huge heap of sweepings found at the end or outskirts of every negro town, and turkey-buzzards often perch upon it. The meaning seems to be, " If you constantly ap- proach a thing, it is a sign that you have some design upon it."


Obi mfa ade koko, ensisi baifo. Nobody will deceive a witch by anything red. N.B. — Because her craft will prevent her being deceived.


Akoa nya nehu-a, o£re nehu Sonneni.

When a slave is emancipated, he will call himself a

Sonneni (i.e., a nobleman).

N.B. — Amongst the numerous families with which the Oji- tribe is divided, the Sonna is the highest When the freedman

126 WIT Xin) WISDOK VROU. intBT Af rioa.

oalls hinuelf Sonneni ^e., one of the Sonna), the meaning ib, thAfc he ifl 80 much elated by his new condition, aa to lose all power over himaelf , and to daim the most exalted rank. Onr '* beggar on horse- back."


Obi deoe ko bhhhi na, Tofre no a&ima. When a (free) woman takes Benrioe, she is called a fllaye.

NJB, — ^Meaning that a penon is estimated by what he is, not by what he was.


Obi tan wo-a na, obo w' aboa.

When a person hates you, he will beat your animals.

N.BL — Hate extends to the relations and all belonging to the person hated. Conversely we say, Love me, love my dog." Qui m'aime, aime mon chien.


Ohantani na ki nipa.

A haughty person hates man.


O&tyafo, ebeka wo enkn.

Tou, traitor! will be left to yourself.

N.B.— Knowing that you cannot be trusted, nobody will have anything to do with you.


Wo emfefo som asra na wansom bi-a, ete se w' aivnro w awn.

When your comrades take snuff, and you do not, it

looks as if your nails were dead (i.e., foiled).

N.B. — ^Meaning, you must follow the fashion: by opposing it, you excite suspicions Injurious to your character.


Odokonno bodam-a, onenam senni.

When the bread runs round, it dances it in the pot.

N.B. — " Dokonno " is bread of Indian com, not baked, for that is forbidden by Fetish law, but boiled, according to the usage pre- valent in Akwapim. The proverb probably means, " In a state of excitement the staidest person will behave wildly."


Okwankyen make se: wobebn mi-a, bo, na meyaw mi.

The roadside pepper-bush (i.e., pepper-hush hy the road- side) says, "If you will break me, break; but do not abuse me."

K.B. — If you are resolved to ruin a man, do it at once, without tormenting him by reproaches: do not add insult to injury.


Aboih ba na, abebu ba.

When the occasion comes, the proverb comes.

N.B. —Occasion, i.e., the incidents of life which call forth the proverb, and to which it refers.



Ehia nipa, ma vomfit no nko.

When a man is in distress, let them take him.

N.B. — ^The di atTMB referred to is captiire by enemieep tnd the proTerb meens, " The diatreis of othera is no oonoem of yours; do not trouble yourself about it" Truly phDosophkel I


Yodi WO yonkn hn asem-a, daaki Todi vode bi.

If sentence is (now) passed on your neighbour, another

time it will be passed on you.

N.B. —Do not triumph at the distress of others; your time may also come.


Annma te afirim no, esonno ne kasa enkn. When a bird is in a snare, its cry is peculiar.

K.6. — A man*B behaviour in distress will be different from what it is at other times. ** Every season has its reason."


Ade-a nye no na voye n' iye. You mend (on/y) a thing that is not good. N.B. — A thing in good order requires no repair.


Wo ba sisi wo kora ba, enye; nanso wo kora ba sisi wo ba, enye.

If your child deceives the child of your siater-wife, it is


not right; and also if the child of jour sister-wife deceiyes jour child, it is not right.

N.B. — So the Hindi proverb, " A fellow-wife may be good, but her child is bad." When a man has several wives, they mutually call one another " me kora." The child calls all his father's wives {except his own mother) '* little mother." *


Wodi M ade-a na, woferre no.

If jou get presents from anj one, jou respect him,


Abofra be mnsn ankron-a, ofa mn annm.

If a boj does nine mischiefs, he shall suffer for it five.

N.B. — And the father of the boy, who should keep his son under proper discipline, shall suffer the rest


Wotan wo sapo-a, w' anom bon. If JOU hate (i.e., if you shun it, so as not to use it) jour tooth-brush, jour mouth is of ill odour.

N.B. — "Sapo" is a bunch of plantain-tree fibre, the "lif'of Egypt, which West Africans use as sponge and tooth-brush.

• In West Africa the mother is loved far more than the father; the negroeB have many proverbs corresponding with the Hindi. ** The milk of the sixth daj is still sensible," and '* A mother's love is best ofaU."



Wo ni wa4t, wonwn, na oferre-a, wo enso waferre.

When your relation dies, yon do not die; but if he is

disgraced, yon also are disgraced.

K.B.— DiqgnuM i« worse tliaa death: the latter befalls a siiigle person only, whereas the former extends to his whole family.


Teteasoe vonsoe ho bio.

On an obsolete resting-place they rest no more.

N.B. — "Asoe" is a place by the roadside, generally iinder a tree, where porters put down their loads, and rest awhile: " Tete- asoe " is one that has been abandoned. The meaning is, " What is obsolete you will no longer use, but follow the * mode ' and do 38 others do.**


Wo tamfo asem ba, wodi ma no; na oda w* ase-a na, wongye so.

When your enemy is entaogled in a quarrel (literally, when your enemy* 8 latosuit comes) ^ assist him to settle it; but when he thanks you, do not reply.

N.B. — The meaning is, "AssiBt your enemy in his trouble, if you like, but maintain a proud and cold demeanour." An expres- sion of thanks is courteously replied to by '* ya abraw," to equal or inferior; " ya ura," to Europeans; '* ya naado," to a wealthy and respected man of his own people; "ya ahinna/' to a personage of the chiefs family, and so on.





X 2

• k.


The Ga or Accra Language is confined to the eastern portion of the Gold Coast, between the Volta Eiver on the east and the Akwapim mountain-mass to the north and the north-west. The number of the Ga- speaking people might amount to 100,000; it is, therefore, one of the tongues which will die out with the advance of civili- sation. At present it is divided into two dialects, the Ga Proper and the Adanme; the former being used by 40,000 to 50,000, the latter by 50,000 to 60,000 souls.

Of these two, the latter — ^being the more primitive and the less mixed with foreign elements — is held to be the mother tongue. The area extends from the vicinity of Christiansborg to Ada, or Adda, near the mouth of the Volta Eiver, and in the north it is spoken by sundry of the towns of the Krobo Highlands.

The Ga Proper is used by the people of Jamestown (British Accra), Dutch Accra, Christiansborg, and sundry adjoining villages. On the east it is bounded by the Adanme; on the west by the Oji, Ochi, Otye, or Ashante tongue, with which it is intimately connected.

The language is rich in proverbs and legends: the mis«  flionaries have taught the people to commit to writing the

^^^^^^m ^^^^^^^^^^^^^m

134 WIT Aim WISDOM rsoM west afbica.

rude begiimings of annals. The stories are numerous and remarkable. There is even a particular name for a class. In Ananu, or spider, is the subject of many superstitions, injuring children that sleep in the same room with it.* It is represent^ as speaking through the nose, as the local demons are said to do; and its hobbling gait is correctly imitated hj the relator with voice and gesture. Finallj, it plays a principal part in fables, where the actors are mostly animals; and thus these tales are locally known as Anan- sesen. For a specimen I must refer the reader to the work of the Bev. J. Zimmermann, from whose pages these proverbs are extracted.f

  • Oq ibis part of the Gold Coast there is a large species of spider of

bright yellow and black colours, spiiming a silk-coloured thread, which may one day be utilised. Bosnian (Letter 17) thus alludes to the animal: — "Going to my chamber at night, in order to go to bed, I found a hideous great spider against the walls; on account of the strangeness of the spectacle I called my sub-factor and both my assist- ants to see it. We found his body long and his head sharp, broader in the fore than hind part, but not round, as most sorts of spiders are. His legs were as large as a man*s finger, ten in number, being hairy, and the thickness of a little finger. The negroes call this spider Ananse, and believe that the first men were made by that creature; and, notwithstandiug some of them by conversation with the Europeans are better informed, there are yet a great number that remain of that opinion, out of which folly they are not to be reasoned. This is the greatest piece of ignorance and stupidity that I have observed the negroes guilty of."

The West Africans probably look upon the animal as the ancient Egyptians did the scarabsous.

t A Grammatical Sketch of the Akra, or (Ja, Language, with some Specimens of it from the Mouth of the Natives, and a Vocabulary of the same, with an Appendix on the Adanme Dialect. By the Bev. J. Zimmermann. In two vols. Stuttgart, 1858. Printed for the Basel Missionary Society by J. F. Steinkop.

I have adopted the orthography of the reverend gentleman. Most of



Alomte efon miau bo.

The cat does not cease to cry " miau." *

2. Xa foo loflo.

A crab does not beget a bird.

3. Silafo etsoo filafo gbe. A blind man does not show the waj to a blind man.

Kole nya nson.

The Kole (River) flows into the sea.

N.B. — Thia is quoted as we say, "Walls (or winds) have ears," warning people not to speak out their secrets.

Nme kome fiteo nmei fe. One (had) nut spoils all.

Ihe sayings explain themselves, or hare heen explained hy the Oji pro* ▼erhe: in some cases a short interpretation has been added. Nothing can be more distracting than the misprints of the work— too much, however, should not be expected from the printing-house of M. Steinkop, of Stuttgart — and nothing can be more Teutonic than its learned and copious disorder.

186 irvr aitd wisdok rsoic ^test apaica.

Tso&tse enuu tso& eliaa hdatse.

A physician does not diink medicine for the sick.

7. TntsollBi ke la yee. Gunpowder and fire do not agree.

Sikpon ko enyee gbonyo.

Ko land hates a dead body.

Blomo dsee nma ni ayeo.

Quarrel ia not a food which is eaten.


Wiemo kpakpa dseo mlifa.

A good word removes anger.

N.B.— The natives of the Gold Coast have borrowed many of their sayings and not a few of their ideas from Europeans, with whom they have had intercourse for centuries. Compare with Proverbs XV. 1.


Xe dse na le, gbomei fe die.

If it ia dark, all men are black. N.B. — So the French say, " Tous lee chats sont gris** — at night




Ke okpongo edsim le, moni ta eno le hu edsimko.

If the horse is mad, he who sits upon it is not also mad.

13. Nu ni ake-bagbe la le, ataoole kronkron. Clear water is not wanted for quenching fire.

14. Ke Okplom ye nil le, Ohwam hu yeo eko. If the Okplom eat something the Ohwam also eats something.

N.R — The Okplom and the Ohwam are both animals. The meaning of the saying is, " Suum cuique," " live and let live:" no one should take all to himself.


Ake hinmeii enyo kwee to mil.

Not with both ejes people look into a bottle.

16. Xe lilei kome ke lileii akpe kpe le etoo biti. If one tongue meets with a thousand tongues it faints.

17. Ke onaa lo le, oyeo komi. If thou find no fish, thou eatest bread.



Eimii egbee flo gbemo.

A quiet man makes not the noise of an elephant.

19. Dare kome gnonii yee kpainkpawo wo. One dollar's (worth of) wares does not allow a man to eat a fowl worth sixpence.

N.B. — Gut your ooat according to your doth. 20.

Adudon ni kpa gbonyo hewo le, ekele ate.

A fly which hovers round a dead body will go with it.


Kg ni ake-tfo dfeian kolo le, ake tfaa sia no.

The stick with which people strike a beast in the grass (i.e., a least of the field), they do not strike a house-thing (i.e., domestic animal) with.

22. Nu hie ye feo si ehii mli wo.

The face of water is beautiful, but it is not good to sleep on it.

Ke ona le, no obio mliwo.

If thou get, thou askest to put more to it.



Ke ofo olilei osa okpe le, onan kolo ko osa okpe. If thou cut off thy tongue and roast and gnaw (it), thou wilt not get an animal to roast and gnaw. N.B.— See Oji Proverbe, No. 122.


Voni ake-feo Taki, le ano-fee Ba. What a Taki is made with, with that thej make no Ba N.B. — Taki and Ba are figures on playing cards.


Xokonte taoo holu. Dried cassava wants sun. N.B. — Otherwise it spoils.


Akpokplonto taoo ela elee le, no dsi noni esuo ekue ewoo enono mli le.

The terrapin wants not to know its blood, wherefore it contracts its neck (and) puts (ii) into its sheU.

28. Moni taoomi nakai le, emi ese ehe. Whoever wants mo as I am, is content.


Mei fia yakwoo tso: akpokplonto tekwo le, amane eba.

Everybody goes and climbs a tree: the terrapin went and climbed; trouble has come.



Ko enyee mo yaka.

Nobody hates anybody without cause.

81. Bo le, oke, ona nanyo kpakpa, si olee noni ekeo ye


As for thee, thou sayest that thou hast a good friend; but thou knowest not what he saith behind thy back.

32. Obomo etaa lo yaka A man is not lean without cause.


Xe Enadsi nyie le, Ktiblii ye xnli

If the Enadsi wander, the Ntiblii are among them.

N.B. — The Enadsi are yellow "palm birds," and the Ntiblii are their oompaoions, the red oriolee.


Xedsi tso fata tei amli le, efo midsra.

If wood mix with stones, its cutting is diiEcult.


Moko fee Hatso sisi, si Nokotso sisi afeo.

No one plays under the Hatso, but under the Noko

people play.

N.B. — ^The Hatso, or torch-tree, ia full of thorns; the Noko bears sweet berrieo.



Xedshomo, miye gbo le eke-dse eman.

If hunger eats a stranger, he brought it from his town.

37. Ohiafo ebuu man. A poor man does not watch over the town.

38. Nudso ekwoo gon. The brook does not ascend the mountain.


Obomo tsio koyo.

A man moves the wind.


Hokome efee man.

One makes not a people (or town).

41. Ohiafo ble egbee. The poor man's pipe does not sound.

42. Adeda kukn ekun see enyo. A curtailed bill-hook does not break twice.



To gbonyo Bee kakla.

A dead goat does not fear the knife.

ii. Bai enyo ehii bn kome mli. Two crocodiles do not live in one hole.


Beni Oda ka akpakai mli, bele Tsnnye mibo ** Awo! "

When the Oda lies in the basket (Jbr carrying men\ then the Tsunye {or home-mother) cries " Awo."

N.B. — The Oda is a large lizard living on walls; the Tsunye (literally, house-mother) is a smaller species inhabiting rooms. None but Europeans, mulattos, kings, and nobles are permitted to be car- ried in the local hammock, or basket, upon men's heads. Awo! (i. c, " eitalted! **) is the cheer used by bystanders to the rider.


Ke sasabonsam te ya no le, aye we etoo. If the devil comes to customs (the local worship), he lodges in the witch's house.

N.B. — " Sasabonsam " has been explained before.


tfantsebii edsoo foi kwee yitso.

A prince does not run to look at the (cut off) head.

N.B. — Because every head cut off in execution must be shown to the king.




Alomte ke "mlikpamo no:" hewo ni ehee nyon. The cat says "stretching (i.e., repose) is sweet," where- fore it does not buy a slave.

N.B. — BecauBe alavea make the master's hours bitter.


Moko ke kploto haa klan sito.

No one gives a pig to a hyena to keep.


Afi ke: moni gbemi edoomi, ake moni fa mitsere. The partridge says, " He who kills me does pot grieve me, as he who plucks my feathers."


Moko ke enadsi enyo siisuti fa.

Nobody measures the river with both his feet.


Eedsi sisa mita ode le, onine osuo.

If a ghost shake thy hand, thine arm shrinks.


Batafobi bi enye ake: Awo, meni yo ohie kpoikpoi le % " Ekele ake: " Wo se le ona momo! "

The young wild hog asked his mother, " Mamma, what are the warts in thy face?" She replied, " By-and-by thou wilt have seen it already."


Kb IMdei die fa mli ni eke ake; bahe miye le, bele ehe miye lelen.

If the Didei leayea the riTer and says that the crocodile is sick, then it is truly sick.

K.B.— The Didei is a sweet-water fish. 65.

Alanmali fee kpoi amli.

The Alanmali does not play in rocky places.

N.R — ^The Alanmali is a small lobster {praum!) which prefers the Bea-sand.


Ofbi yitson etaa la.

The horse-fly's head does not lack blood.

67. Eedsi obe floto le, oyaa Wei.

If thou haat no bag thou does not go to Wei. N.B. — Wei is a i^lace vrbero grain Is bought.


La ye lilei sisi, ni atseo ladso. Blood is under the tongue, and people spit saliya (Le. not blood).




Moko lee moni fo Okaikoi.

Nobody knows who bare Okaikoi.

N.E — Okaikoi is the proper name of a person whose parents were unknown.


Moko enoo Sadso emaa abono.

Nobodj takes the Sadso and builds a barn with it.

KB. — The Sadso is the monkey-bread, calabash- tree, or Adan- sonia digitata, whose timber is too soft for building purposes; more- over, in many parts of the Coast there is a superstition that it attracts lightning.


Oda le, ake muBimko ko ye, nohewo le ebu si etc. The Oda (lizard) knows that there is a belly-ache, there- fore it lies on its belly (i.e., prepares) for it.


Ani ke ake "Tni! " le to egbo?

If people say, " Tui! " is the sheep dead?

N.B. — "Tuil" means "flee I " and is used when driving away smaller animals.


Bonso da kpetenkple mon; si nsonkotoko gbeole. The whale is truly very big, but the sea-porcupine (the sword-fish?) kills him.




Se lilei ke, eke ahu le, eke dsen yee he gbo. If the tongue say it be very very long, it cannot vie with the boa constrictor.

66. Heko enmee tso he, ni eyaye koyo abo. Nobody lets go a tree and swings in the air.

66. Anyiee flo se, ni adu tsone.

Nobody follows an elephant and falls into a trap {which his cunning would avoid),


Eedsi noko bi oden le, kamia ni gbekebii mititi onine se.

If nothing is in the palm of thy hand, close it not lest children pinch its bock.

N.B. — Meaning, be in a rogue ivbo gives more than he has. " Ein Bchelm ist, der mehr gibt, als er hat." See also the Oji Proverbs, No. 22.


Man kokn ake sa Tsile.

With a piece of herring they catch the Tsile.

N.B. — The Tsile is a Un;e fish caught in numbers off the €k>ld Coast during the months of August and September. In the Oji dialect the wo: d is " Sire," which resembles in sound the " Shir" {-jUK) East Africa.




Vine se ke koko ten yee he gbo.

The back of the hand and the palm do not unite.


Toil enyo d ennn sadsi enyo.

Two ears, hut they do not hear two stories.


Moko etsoo gbeke Nyonmo.

Nobody shows heaven to a child (because the child itself sees it),

N.B. — Nyonmo is translated by the missionaries " God," whose face or outside Heaven is considered to be; hence Nyonmo ke Sikpon, Heaven and Earth, are both deities, and personal entities. Sy- nonymous with Nyonmo are Nanyonmo, Mawu, and Nyonmo Mawu, also Tse or Ata Nyonmo, i.e., Father God, and even Wotse, Our Father, and Wofe Wotse, Father of all {AUvater). As with the classical Jupiter, atmospheric phenomena are connected with Ny- onmO| thus they say, Nyonmo rains, lightens, drizzles, knocks, i.e., thunders. Cf. Oji Proverbs, No. 62.


Gbo hinmeii kpleikplei, si enaa man mlinii.

The eyes of a stranger (may he) very large, but hd doos not see the inner things of the town (or nation).

L 2



Ta fee ye Abrotdri, ni ebamomo ye Ga*

A gun does not bunt in Europe and wound (jfeopJe)

in Gku

N3. — ^AbrotBiri or Ablotnri is land of white pec^le: Europe Amwica, and even Siem Leone,-— «11 indifferently called "Oibo" inToruba.


Anmoo knnta kpo.

A blanket (lit, woollen Huff) is not made into a knot.

75. Afl efee nmotse.

The partridge is not greater than the planter. N.B.— It may also be understood the partridge makes not (or iff fiot) the planter.


Yitso taa si, ni nakntso bu fai

The head does not sit down and the knee put on a hat.

N.B. — In Weet Africa people dt upon their knees, not as in England.


Tonye akweo abeo tobi.

The mother of the goat is looked at (i^) the kid is bought.

78. Dun foo To. The Dun does not beget the To.

N.B. — The Dun is a dark-grey antelope about the size of a goat; the To is smaller and prettier.




Blo momo hi fe bio he.

An old broom is better than a new one.

N.B.— Because sharper. We say the contrary— new brooms sweep clean. " Neue Besen kehren gut." And the Hindi proverb, " A new servant will catch a deer."


Sic yee Tamii

An elephant does not eat small berries. N.B. — The Tamii is a sweet berry, not unlike that of ripe coffee.


Dsn baa Dsa kome.

Monday does not come one Monday only.*

82. Ghomo taa si ni ano tso aye odase. A person does not sit (or exist) whilst they take a tree to witness.

83. Fa tsio fa yi se.

A river moves a river on.

  • The Ga week has seven days, three pairs and one single. Thus,

Monday (the first day) and Tuesday are Dsn and Dsofo, Wednesday is Sho, Tharsday and Friday are So and Soha, Saturday and Sunday are Ho and Hogba. Neither can the signification of the words nor can the reason of the peculiar arrangement be discovered. Hogba, or Sunday, is kept as a day of rest by many of the heathen, who hold it to be the seventh or last of the week— doubtless a neo-Christian idea.




Ke oke tso wo bn mli ni onaa noni yo mli le, ke oke onine wo mli le, ona noni dsi.

If thou put a stick into a hole and dost not see what is Id, if thou put thj hand in thou knowest what it is.

85. Ee atere ni onaa le, ke akpo na si le, ona.

If something is carried on the head and thou seest it not, if it be put down thou seest it.


Ho lei ano fio ho.

With the He's long tail the Ho is bound. N.B. — The Ho is a very small monkey with large head and long



Nine lakaa mo.

The hand does not deceiye one.


Abni ni he do la le, esaa kpa.

A hot needle burns the thread.


Gbomo fon hi fe sia flo.

A bad person is better than an empty house.

N.B. — Shows the extraordinary sociability of negroes, who hare a positive dread of solitude.




Woni ke Eno" le, ayee asiile.

People eat not without him that saith '* it is good.**

N.B. — Literally, " him who says it is sweet, people when eating do not leave" — ^meaning, that it would be shameful (according to native ideas) if he were not asked to sit down.


Ke olee onanyo se le, okaa to ohaale. If thou kaowest not what is behind thy neighbour's back, thou dost not venture (to buy) a sheep for him.


Mantsesei dsee lai kakadan ni mei enyo ta no.

A thorn is not a long piece of wood that two persona may sit upon it.

93. Moko hamotsomo dsee mo simo. To precede a man is not to leave him.


Snie be ni ayeo Lolowa.

There is no cabbage, therefore (lit. then) people eat herbs.

N.B. — The Lolowa is a herb eaten only when vegetables are scarce.



Ee ofii nme le, eko ya omama mlL

If thou pound palm nuts, some will stain thj cloth.


Tio ni te la mil le, ena nala.

A stick that goes into fire will begin to bum (lit its end hums),


Lo ni no le amane ye he. About a sweet fish there is danger.


Moko enoo sigbemche efee wohe.

Nobody makes a falling place (i.e., a place where people fall) his sleeping-place.


Habn lee, ake etse mife fei.

The mouth does not know that its master is afraid.


Moko ke mnma he taa mama momo ten.

No man puts (a piece of) new cloth into an old garment.

N.B. — Cf. Matt iz. 16, " No man putteth a piece of new cloth unto an old garment," &c From this it is probably borrowed.



Awoo ni alaa. No sleep, no dream.



Soro kwe, soro kwe bie.

It is one thing to look, it is another to look here.


Hine abekn ahiisi ni gbonyo sio mo.

The left hand remains not (js[uiet)f when a dead body

strikes at one.

N.B. — When a man dies under suspicion of poison, they carry about his corpse, which strikes at his murderer.


Moni homo ye le ni egbo le, abii edeka si Whom hunger ate and he died, people enquire not after his box.


OdomirifiEt ye noko ni eyeo dsikule etsan kfk. Had Odomirifa aught to eat, be would not dig for crabs.

N.B. — Odomirifa is a proper name.


Moko enaa tso ni eke ebinmeii tsre na. Nobody sees a stick and rubs his eyes at it.


107. Mo hie-wiemo ke tsomo le, edsee mo dsemo. To warn a man is not to scold him.


Be nun wiemo.

The back does not bear a word.


Ke odsa mantse he le, oke eko dsuo ohe.

If thou wash a king, thou washest thyself with some {of hi* 8oa/pf Sfc),


Moko ke Asamaniikpa daa tetfa.

Nobody vies with the Asamanukpa in stone-throwing.

N.6.~Aiiamanukpa means he&d-gbost, or spectre-elder; it is described as a chimiiaDzeo, or a baboon, living on the islands of the Volta Kiver, where the Sisai, or shades of the departed, have their Gbohiadse, Hades, or dead-world.


Hye be tsofa.

Hate has no medicine.

112. Heni gwanten snmoo le, dsei enoo eyen etaa. AVhere the sheep likes, there it places its white (spot).




Hoko naa tamo Opale na. Nobody sees as Opale sees.


Hienmalo be ni afeo ebii ahe.

The Hienmalo is absent, so they play with his cubs.

N.B. — Hienmalo, " f orehead-ecratcher," and Kotse, "lord of the buah,'* are epitheta of the Olowo, or leopard.


Koko enmoo kpo ni esi eg^onti. No one makes a knot and leaves his thumb (i.e., wiih' out his thumb).


Ha tamo oblan.

A wife is like a giant.


Honi nmo kpo le, le ele fenemo.

He who makes a knot, knows to loose it.


Soro moko yitson, soro moko yitson.

Different one man's head, different the others.

N.B. — Meaning, that everybody has his own head, hia pecu- liariUeB.

156 wrr avb Ituboh tboh wist atbxo^


Ga se gbe dd gbe.

The waj after (the people) Ghi, that is the way.

N.Br— The Rev. Mr. S&mmeniuum here remarkB, that " the Oa people ootuider themeehee a leading people." I should be thankfol, aa an amateur anthropologist, or comparatiTe-anthropologuit^ vul- gvly called ethnologist^ to know the name of the raoe that does not.


Uwo tin mfliao, li ote mikpaL

I thatch for you^a house, you hide my strings.

N.B.— The houses are thatched with grass or palm-leaves, which are bound on with strings.


Gbeke edfaa akpokplonto, si gbeke le wao dfa.

A child does not break a land tortoise, but a child knows how to break a snail.

N.B.— The Hindi proverb is, ** Boys* play is death to the birds.**


Beni omia onanyo ko le onanyo hu mi miao. TV ben thou pressest a friend of thine, thy friend also presseth thee.


Ohwam, kedsi ote ni bai le eha ten le hewo le, dsemo; si wose le, ke nme le tsu le, owaye eko.

Oh warn, if thou go (and see) that the leaves have covered the palm-tree, remove them, for by-and-bye, when the nuts are ripe, thou will eat some.

N.B.— The Ohwam is an animal that lives on palm-nuts.




Honi bako da le, eye nso se. What has nofc come before, is behind, the sea. N.B. — Meaning, that you can say so, as people have not i


Hoko enaa moko oblan, ni ehnrn eyi si.

Nobody sees the giant slave of another and jumps for



Kele mli ye nii kale, onufa ye noko ni eyeo.

If in length there were aught, the serpent would have something to eat.

N.R— On the contrary, the Somal of Eaat Africa say, " Length is honourable even in wood."


Abe mama ni able yo si.

He has no cloth and calls for a woman.

N.R — The Mama is the native garment, a square of calico, worn as a toga by day and used as a sheet at night. The want of it shows extreme poverty.


Suilafo fee mlu mli.

A blind man does not play in the dust.



Tim tim dra amada teomo» si elie saomo mli 70.

To brag is not to plant bananas: in clearing the ground about them, it (the work) consists.


Ahio man ni oheo ben.

Do people dwell in a town where there is no warm (food)?


Hoko ehoo nil eyamaa nmanmasa, ak^ ectao eweknmei abaye.

Nobody cooks food and puts it on the dust-hill, to seek his relatives that they may eat.


Ee otso kolo tsokpemo le, ke ewo hn ema ena. If thou teach a brute stick-chewing, even if it sleeps, it sticks in its mouth.

N.K — Tsokpemo, or stick- chewing, alludes to the use of the which in these regions answers to our tooth-brush.


Eokote wonn ekpa efie si: si masro sika Dsosm? The Kokote soup is poured out— should I regard the sovereign?

N.B.— The Eokote is a sea-fish of delicate flavour, and the Dsosru is a measure of gold-dust worth about £1.




Oknkuba ke elei ke le, sone efa. (No sooner) the Okukuba said his tail was long, than the weasel boasted.

N.B.— The Okukuba is a small field animal with a long tail


Tso ni aklonto be he le, ekwo dsra.

A tree which has no fork, its ascent is difficult.


DsQ ana ni ase woke.

It will get dark and a sleeping-place will be found.

137. Babi gboo fa.

A young crocodile does not die in the mer. N.B. — The river being its proper place.


Ke oke wo nkpla able le, ehie sooo. If thou huskest corn with the fowl, it will not esteem thee.


Atfiaa mo te, ni awo snkoknli atso ehie. Nobody (intending to) cast a stone at one, takea up a clod and shows it to him.


Honi eto ke moni himo yeole le: namo aho aha. One is fiill, the other is hungry. — ^to whom do people fldlP


Voni tsuo nil hao le, eyaa ke emiua flo. He who works* for thee, does not go with an empty beUj.


Blofo-okpo ke: Moni yeo niiehaao le, le ogbeo la ohaa.

The European pigeon says, "He who eats and gives {food) to thee, for him thou quencliest the fire."

N.R — Blofo, in the Ga language, meaning anything European, from the radical "Bio," com or maize, because, when the first strangers came to the coast, the women were grinding, and said, '* These men are white as com."


Hoko enoo adeda etoo lema he.

No one takes a bill-hook and cuts an axe with it.


Wonu no kolo le na, si nine enaa eke-fa. Soup is sweet to an animal, but the animal has no hand to take it up with.


Ke dsnlo ke ele dsn eyadsu okplem. If a thief say he knows how to steal, let him steal a cannon.




Moko ke ennmo etoo nyomna he. No one puts (down) five for ten.


Ke odi adudon se le owuleo ofia mlL

If thou care (Jo.kilT) the fly, thou wilt hurt thy boil.


Ohi lo, si oye mlebo.

Thou hatest meat, and — thou eatest liver!


Ke akpokplonto hewo knle at&a tn.

If it were for the land-tortoise*8 sake, no gun would be fired.

150. Fieholo ko ehoko ba da. A cabbage-dealer has never sold (mere) leaves. N.B. — If you believe him. Our " No one criea bad fiah."


Easolo yeo nil kakn mli.

The potter eats out of a potsherd.



Ke oye lale ml! le, odsieo mli no.

If thou art in a yessel tbou takest out the water.


Oben ni ayaa hewo le oke, nso le nme. Thou art not on (it) when people go (upon U), therefore thou saidst '* the sea ia cahn."


Ke fio ke: eta lo le, dsee tsokpo kome ne enau. If the elephant say he is thin, he has not only one tray fuU.

N.B.— But much more.


Obo edsaa konolo. A stranger does not divide Ko-meat. N.B. — Ko is a festive food.


Ga weku tamo mampam fo, ke okpa le, bele ohe gbla.

A Ga family is like crocodile's fat, if thou anoint thy. self (with it) thy skin cracks.

N.B. — Warning the world not to meddle with bo great a people astheGa.




Tsebi ke, Dse na: si nyebi ke, Dse nako.

A father-cbild says it is night, but a mother-child says it is not night.

N.B. — Tsebi ia a half-brother by the same father but another mother, often contrasted with Nyebi or Nyemi, a half-brother by the same mother, which is held to be a nearer relationship than the former. Mr. Zimmermann beHeves that the proverb relates to family quarrels springing from polygamy.


Homosa le Kwaw Mensa; mitao Fete aya, si mibasro ni atsnle Qua.

Kwaw Mensa once wished to go to Fete; it was different when he was sent to Gua.

N.B. — Kwaw Mensa is the name of a man; Fete is distant from Accra ten miles, Oua, or Cape Coast Castle, sixty.


Xe otao nme le, ya Tutu. If thou wish for palm-nuts, go to Tutu. N.B. — Tutu is a town in Akwapim, where palms abound.


Moko enoo nine abeka etsoo emangbe.

No one shows the way to his town with the left hand.

X 2



Tsina wolo lee tuna.

A cow-herd does not fear a cow.

162. Obeko gbe ediee.

A dog doeB not bite a dog till (hlooi) comes out.


Wo ni edsoo le, akokobesa eke-yaa.

A fowl that is not good, with spices it goes (i.e., w eaten),


Gbobilo lee kolo helatse hewo ni etfiole ta.

A hunter knows not sick game, therefore he shoots it.

165. Loflo ni edsen tsere le, mra ekaseo flikimo. A bird which does not get feathers, quickly it learns to


K.B. — Said of the preoodouB.


Fioflo adndon ye gbe toL

Little by little a fly eats a dog's ear.




Ke lo ko ke, ewo fo ahu le, eke kploto yee he gbo. If an animal say it be very fat, it does not nval the



Sisi ke nwei yee gbo.

Earth and heaven do not come together.

169. Oia gbii fa fe to gbii.

The days of poverty are more than the days of super- fluity.


Osumo nyontsomei nyonma ke kpawo. Thou wilt serve seventeen masters. N.B. — CI Matt VL 24: " No man can serve two masters," &c.


Obi ni axno kploto le, batafo atso hamo. The day when the pig will be caught, the wild boar will lead the way.


Ke akpokplonto ke; wa hewo, dsiknle awoo tako ye sikpon ne no.

If the land-tortoise would say (it is), for hardness* sake people would take up pads upon this earth.

N.B.— Meaning, if it depended upon the saying of the land- tortoise, that it is too hard, &c, because of its hard shelL



ABantemei wonn no, si no fo mli tso. The soup of the Ashante is tasteful, but there is too much Bait in it.

N.H. — The people whom we call Aahaa'tee, ftod BomeUmee Ashantee', are known upon the Gold Coaat aa Aahante, at Aahinte. The proverb aUudea to their cmeltiea. The Hindua aay, " The role of Harbhiim, a pUce (Ilah&bad) celebrated for is juatice.

174. Ehe wa tamo ba.

He is as hard as a crocodile.


Homo yele take klan.

He is as hungry as a hjffina.

176. Hoko yee yele na ye an mli. Nobody buys yams in the ground.

N.B.— Somewhat like No. 179.

177. Obeke ma koi ni onukpa hio tisi. A child builds a second story and an old man dwells down-stairs.

N.R— Belatea to the changea and chancea of life.





Tantra dsiini, dsa no mifo ye.

I am a Tantra (-fish): in the market I bear (children).

N.B. — Fo means also to beget. So a common wedding Baluta- tion is, " Okele afo bii nyonma ke enyo! " — Mayst thou beget (or bear) twelve children with her (or him).


Ahoo alomte ye floto mli, si adsieole fan. A cat is not sold in a bag, but openly produced.


Aaye Koko enmore dsiknle aaye yekose. If people would eat Koko raw, they -would eat it so be- hind the bush (i.e., in the country^ not in the toum).

N.B. — Koko is the smaller yam, which \& eaten roasted or boiled. In Oji the proverb is, " Vobedi Koko amonno-a, anka vodi n'afu so; " and the meaning is the same.


Wa ke, ehewo dsiknle tn egbee ye kon. The snail says, for his sake no gun would go into the bush.


Anana taa si, ni abe gugo akase le. A spider does not sit, that people may teach it to speak through the nose.

N.B. —Because it can or is supposed to be able to do that already.

168 wrr Aim wisdom fbqm wjlbt afbioa.


Ee niyenii ye sia le, akee ake ayadsn bayele ke-ba sia.

If food be in the bouse, people do not saj, " Yams sball be stolen and brougbt."


Klan kplaa tdna.

A bysBna does not driye a cow.


Ee gbe ke edseke aha le ehoo man be. If a wag sajs it is yery long, it does not pass the town (i.e., it leads to it).


Dede mife kolo si eke Eokon. Dede is a fool, but she says it is Kokon. N.B. — Dede or Kokon ore women's name&


Xakraka fee gbele nil si egboo.

Thecockroacb seems to die (lit. makes things of deatK)^ but does not die.

N.B. — The "roach" is very troublesome in the Gold Coast houses. Mr. Zimmermann translates Kakraka or Kaklaka " chafer.**




Wo nane egbee ebi

The foot of a fowl does not kDl its chicken.


Onnkpa boo madsi ano toL

An elder hearkens not to the thing (i.e., the gossip)

of towns.


Ee okakla foo le, obon oke-woo.

K thj knife cut thee thou sheathest it. N.B. — ^Meanisg, thou dost not cast it away.


Ohenyelo ke: otaoo egbo.

Thine enemy saith, " Thou wishest my death."


Lebi dan dseo fa men, si wiemo kpakpa dseon.

In the morning the mouth hath an evil savour, but a good word comes out of it.


Kiiatse foo dsoi fe, si efoko yafodso da.

A rich man composes every dance, but he has never composed a dance of weeping.

« ■



Ke owye 70 adlaman le, onaa mliftL If thou many a harlot, thou do8t not wax wroth (ai what may itq^pen)*


Sane fon ni 70 dsen hewo ni ke afo bi ni awieo atioole.

For the evil that exists in the world it is, that thy child when born is instructed.

196. Ke owe mama ni esaao le, ni atseoo oblafo.

If thou wear a cloth that fits thee not (it happens) that thou art called an executioner.

N.B. — ^The criminal's dothes being the African Calcraft's per- quisites.


Kyomotse naa mlifo.

A debtor does not get angry.

198. Hyon edsee gbi kome ni efo kpen. The moon does not appear one day (only) and cease to shine.




Ke ohe waa oke: Tako ehii.

If thou art weak, thou sayest the pad is not good.

N.B. — Men and women carry load-pads on their beads. The proverb is our *' Bad workmen complain of their tools.**


Dsee noko, si noko dsi no.

    • It is nothing! " — ^but that is something.

N.B. — " Dsee noko " is a general evasive answer to enqniries; the proverb is the reply of the man who will not be put off. In the Oji dialect the precisely similar saying is, " Enye biribi, na eye biribi ara nen.


Ee batafo ke: dsee enan ena non.

If the wild boar say it is not his foot-print, still it is it.


Hoko efee kolo sii enyo. Nobody is twice a fool.


Eto tso egbe eno.

He cut a tree, and fell over it himself.

N.B. — Cf. Proverbs xxviii. 10: "Whoso causeth the righteous to go aetray in an evil way, he shall fall himself into his own pit."




Xoko hie gboo ni enyo. Nobody is twice ashamed.


Xoni ena da le, eke ehl

He who has wine sajs it is good.

N.B.— See No. 150. The Hindi proTerb is, " No one oaUa hia own butter*milk sour."


Mlikpamo dsi nil dsiknle alomte ye eko.

If stretching were wealth, the cat would be rich.


Yitso kome eyaa adsina.

One head does not go a-counselling.


Ohia ni ehia Aknamnnyo hewo ni eke Ayigbenyo nio.

On account of the poverty that affects the Akwamu- mau, he calls himself a man of Ayigbe.

N.6. — Akwamu is the name of a tribe on the Volta River, about fifty miles from its mouth. The Ayigbe is part of the people known to us as Krepe, or Eipe people; they call themselves Ewe and their tongue Wegbe. They live on the east and west of the Volta River, and, being near the sea, are wealthier than their inland brethren.



Ke ofie kolo le ni o liaale gbe, etsoono.

If thou drive a beast and give it no way, it turns upon thee.


Koni gbekebii fe ye klotia le, no onnkpai le feo ye ma le mli.

What the children do at the ends (of the toum), that the elders do in the town.

211. Hoko ke sisai gbaa ta. Nobody wars with ghosts.


Moko den dsee oden. Somebody's hand is not thy hand.

213. Hoko ni ayee le, ahoo.

What is not eaten is not cooked.

214. Fio ebe kose dsiknle knle wo kolo wnln dsile.

Were no elephant in the jungle, the buffalo would be a great animaL




Opaiafo ke: Midaaefo ye Akyem. Saith the liar, " Mj witness is in Akjem.

K.B. — ^Akyem is here used for any far place. 21«.

Tin moko nwei ni hwan esisi atfere. To send some one up and to draw away the ladder from under him.


Abolo fio ehii yeli.

Dry bread is not good eating.


Koko eko onuf a!

Something has bitten the serpent!


Adum ke: Ewon dsi ehinmei.

The Adum {monlcey) saith, " My eye be my fetish '* (or protecting charm).

N.R — Under the word '*won ** Mr. Zlmmermann thus explains "African theology." According to the people of Accra, on the Gold Coast, God {Nyonmo) is the highest being, the only Creator of Heaven and Earth. The "fetishes" (u;o(/*i), heaven, earth, sea, rivers, trees, and similar objects, are sub-deities, spiritual and per- (tonal, who direct and govern the world. There are also demons.


male and female, good and bad, common to all the fetishes, or con- fined to a part, to a tribe, a town, a family, or a single person. A person may possess a fetish, or demon, or be possessed by one. '* Besides which, there are innumerable things, consecrated to, belonging to, or made effectual by, a fetish— as cords (loonkpai) to be tied about the body, or the house; teeth, chains, rings, &o., worn, and the like, which gave rise to the absurd belief, that the African makes every- thing, even a bottle or a cork, his god: and hasty travellers and other people, not having time to ask and to learn, have sustained this saying, whilst a comparison with religious things and super- stitions in the very heart of Christendom would have fully explained the matter without casting the African together, no more with men, but with brutea"


Akeo ekome dani akeo enyo.

People say " one " before they say " two.**


Toi ni gbaa nabu na.

It is the ear that troubles the mouth.







Thb Yoruba, popularly called the " Aku " language, is spoken by at least two millions of souls, inhabiting a country whose area is not less than 50,000 square miles. This area is bounded on the north by the tribes speaking Barba or Borghu, by the Takpas * (Tappas) of Nufe, and by the other races accolent to the Kwara (Quorra) River: to the south is the Atlantic washing the Bight of Benin; eastward are the various tongues of the Niger Proper, especially the Ibo (Eboe); and west- ward lies the Gold Coast family of languages.

The Yorubas — though, like all other pure Africans, they have not attempted literature or science —speak a tongue tolerably rich in abstract terms, showing that they are not deficient in a certain power of thought. It is asserted by missionaries that of late they have " begun to feel the aspirations of intellect." Having no ballads, no songs, and but few popular stories, their language abounds in " Owe," or proverbs, which are at once the ethics and the poetics of the people. Many of

  • The Takpa or Nafe people are considered the swiftest of men;

hence the Yorabas say, A'sa ni Takpa eiye, ** The falcon is the Takpa of birds."

H 2


them are sententious observations on the nature of things; others are designed to inculcate the rela- tive duties of men; and a few are simply riddles, or an ingenious play upon words, called Alo.* The following 124 specimens are extracted from the work of the Bev. Mr. Bowenf: —


£te i mo ete ni iko oran bs ereke.

Mouth not keeping to mouth, and lip not keeping to lip, bring trouble to the jaws.

N.B. — Talk is silver, Bilence is gold.

Amoran mo owe, i ladza (or ni ilaju) oran. A wise man (or councillor), who knows proverbs, (soon) reconciles diiBculties.

  • Hence ** Apalo" is a riddle maker or enigmatist: Apalo patita,

" be who makes a trade of telling riddles," reminding us of certain civilized diners out, vbo keep a ** riddle book/' There is another form of language, called *' Ena,'* which somewhat currespunds with our "costermongera* slang," or ** thieves* Latin." It is an " inversion of the order of letters, syllables, words, or sentences, under whieb the seii^e is concealed or changed: occasionally employed by those who wish to communicate privately, and to disguise the sense from the by- standers; e.g., De mi, babba, * cover me, father,' employed to signify, Babba mi de, ' My father is come.'"

+ Grammar and Dictionary of the Yoruba Language, by the Rev. T. J. Bowen, Missionary of the Southern Baptist Convention. Ac- cepted for publication by the Smithsonian Listitution, May liJ5S.

I have not changed the author's orthography, necessarily oiuittiug the diacritical points and tone^marks.



Nikpa ise owo ti wah. By labour comes wealth. N.B. — "Labor improbos omnia vincit."

£2ii aba ko to bi eni ore: eni aba ko se ika, rirun ni i run womwom.

A grass mat does not last like a bulrush mat: a grains mat will not bend; it breaks to pieces.

Abaiyedze ko se ifi idi oran ban.

It will not do to reveal one's secrets to a tattler. N.B. — A common sentiment.

Aba (abba) ko se ikan mo ni 11 ese, bikose eni ti nse bubnm.

The stocks are not fastened on the foot of one, except of him who does evil.

N.B. — The African aba (abba), or stocks, called in Zanzibar

    • Mukantala/' are formed by a large iron staple containing the

ankle, and with ends driven into a heavy log. Mr. Crowther's translation is, " The stocks are not pleasant, but thev are good for a rogue."



Abata takete, bienilqie ko ba odo taiL

The marsh (or pool) Btands aloof, as if it wepe not akin to the stream.

N.B. — Said of people who are proud and reserved, or who pre- tend to be what fhey are not^

Bi odzamo mo, olowo gbe owe, iranwn a gbe, keke, adzagnn a gbe akpata, iwonso a here gbe asa, agbe a dzi ti on ti aroko, omo-ode a dzi ti akpo ti oron.

When the day dawns the trader betakes himself to his

trade; The spinner takes her distaff (or spindle) j the warrior

takes his shield; The weaver bends over his Asa, or sley (i.e., stoops to

his batten); The farmer awakes, he and his hoe-handle; The hunter awakes with his quiver aud bow.

N.B. — This has been noted by both Messrs. Vidal and Bowen as a correct and picturesque description of the daybreak scene in every Yoruban town. It also means tu inculcate that no one should re* main idle.



Ebi ko kpa Imale, o li on ki idze aya.

"When the Imale {Toruban proselyte to El Islam) is not

hungry, he says, " I never eat monkey-flesh.**

N.B. — Meaning, that when he is hungry he is not so scrupulous about a food ceremonially forbidden.


A ki irn eran erin li ori ki a ma fi eie tan ire ni ile.

One never carries elephant's flesh on his head that he may dig in the ground with his foot for crickets.

N.B. — One who has plenty of elephant's flesh, in Yoruba con- sidered good food, does not put it on his head and go about searching for crickets, poor man's diet, to eat. This proverb is applied to the " riehard'* who stoops to mean actions for the sake of saving.


Spikpe ni yi kpe, eke ko mu ara.

A long time may pass before one is caught in a lie (lit., a lie mil not ^o to oblivion), N.B. — But detection comes at last.


Amu ni le esin; ete ti imu ni li agogo imo.

The slanderer brings disgrace on one, like a leprosy which attacks one on the point of the nose (tohere all can see it)'.

N.B. — Said of one who tells another^s faults in public


wm Aim wjsdoimj

inew AxsxoA.


Abaniae mah bft ni le jno. Hie is a hdper that helps no more. K.Bw — ^Mauiiiig^ thafc he Ib a penon do longer to be depended


Aknko gagara ni idadio fii ni li aiin ogandso.

A krge oock * decides for us in the midst of the night (as to the time of night).

N.B. — Persons are supposed to be disputing about the time of night, when the crowing of the cock shows that it is very late: the proverb may be quoted whenever a dispute is suddenly decided by unexpected evidence.


Akobi ni ti eleran.

The first-bom is the shepherd's.

N JB. — When a woman takes a she goat or a ewe — both <A. which are termed " Eran " — ^to.feed, she claims from the owner the first- bom kid or lamb. Curious to say, Mr. Crowther tianslates this «the first-bom is due to the owner " {ml to the shepherd who takes care


  • Literally, a oock of largwess—so Ohon didara," a thing of

goodness, Le.j a good thing; **igi ulanla," tree of bigness, i.e., a big tree; and many other instances. The reader may thos judge of the justice of Mr. Gooley's remarks — " * Mountain of whiteness' for ' white moun- tain* is a piece of affectation, of which we believe the honest African incapable.'* ("Inner Africa Laid Open,*' p. 107.) Had Mr. Cooley learned a little more of the Afdcans and their languages, he would have



Ibaluwe gbe He, le bi aki^ro.

Although the bath-room {or scullery) is in the house, it is as wet as a garden by the water side.

17. Ologbon ogbon 11 a ro idzanu; okokan 11 a mo Iwa enia; a ba mo Iwa enla, a ba bun o, ko fe; a don nl bi abadzo.

On various plans (bridh-) bits are made; one bj one we learn the characters of men: the character of a man being known (to be had), if it were given thee as a present, thou wouldst not desire it; it is painful to one as a calamity.


Tl Idzo 11 ayo nl Ise Idin, wnye wnye nl Ise igongo: a ndzo, a nyo: omo banabana nre oko Igi.

With dancing and joy moves the maggot; wriggling about to and fro (with pleasure) moves the worm: they dance, they rejoice; but the child of the Banabana is going to the wood farm (or toils on at its wood cutting).

N,B. — The Banabana \b an insect that carries a bit of wood in its mouth, and this is an emblem of the poor, who must fetch fuel from the farms. The proverb will thus mean, " others may amuse themselves, but the poor man has no holiday."

found that in many of the dialects the almost entire absence of adjec- tives necessitates a phraseology so distasteful to him. In the Isubu, for instance, the only way to express a rich man is "motu a bori " — a man of riches; a good man becomes " motu a bwam " — a man of goodness; and so on.

  • ^^^^^^^^^^^^^1



A Id iwa alaio ala ni iao elekpo. We do not look for a man clad in white doth in the quarters of the palm-oil maker.

N.B. — ^We should not expect any result from incongruouB or inadequate meuia.


Okete ni, odio gbogbo li o mo; on ko mo odio

The rat says he knows every day; bat he does not know another day (go as to lay up something for it), Mr. Crowther renders it — " The Okete says, * I understand {what you mean hy) a specified day, {hut, the indefinite eofpression) another day I do not understand.* *' N.B. — Said of the spendthrift and the improvident.


Odzu kokoro baba okandzua.

Covetousness is the father of unsatisfied desires.

Ologbo babu arokin.

The ologbo is the father of traditionists.

N.B. — " Ologbo '* is the title of one of the king's privy coun- sellors, who also acts the part of chronicler or narrator of ancient traditions.



Alagbara {or agbara) mah mo ero baba ole.

A strong man who is destitute of forethought is the father of laziness. Mr. Crowther translates, " A strong man who is a spendthrift {may he called) the father of idleness.*'


Eni ti ko gbo ti ega, a 11 ega nkpatoto enu.

One who does not understand the yellow palm-bird says the yellow palm-bird is noisy (i.e., a mere chatterer: hut the hirds are supposed to understand one another),

N.B.^Tliia proverb means that men are prone to despise what they do not understand.


Eleda eda li Olomn da ni.

The Lord of Heaven has created us with different natures.

N.B. —We must not expect to find the same qualities in all men. 26.

Bi alagbara dze o ni iya, ki ofi erin si i.

If a great {or powerful) man should wrong you, smile upon him.

N.B. — Because resistance would bring upon you a still greater misfortune.



Alakpata ko mo irn eras.

The batcher has no regard for the breed of the beast (which he kiUi).

N.B.— He attends to his own busineBB, and doee not meddle with matten which do not oonoem him.


Igbo biribiri, olnmknii biribirl; oknnknii ni yi o tete igbo.

The forest is (very) dark, and the night is (very) dark; the darkness of the night will soon conquer (or is deeper than) that of the forest.

Bi ko le obon enia, tani iba dzi li onro ki o mah bo odzu re mo sasa.

Except a sloven, who is wont to rise in the morning without washing his face nicely?

30. Emu bale agbede.

The tongs are at the head of (or governor in) the blacksmith's shop.

N.B. — Because they control the hot iron, which without them would be unmanageable.



Oso onibudze ko kpe isan, oso oninabi ko dzn odnn loh.

The osho or tattoo- painting of the Buje- woman lasts not nine days; the tattooing of the Inabi-woman lasts not a year.

N.B. — Osho means the deep black stripeB with which profes- sional women ornament the arms and faces uf maidens. Buje is the fruit of a small tree of the same name, and when green it makes a pretty stain on the skin. According to Mr. Bowen there is a fable of a beautiful jet-black girl who refused in marriage all the great men of the country; at last a worthless fellow enticed her into his house, and detained her all night. She escaped uninjured, but the community thought otherwise, and she fled to the woods, where the violence of her grief metamorphosed her into the bush that still bears her name — Buje. The Inabi is a plant whose acrid root blisters and buras-in a durable dark mark, and therefore rarely used in tattooing. The moral of the saying is that no advantage or possession is permanent.


Bi adza ba li, eni lehin, a kpa obo.

If a dog has a man to back him he will kill a baboon.

N.B. — Showing the advantage of sustaining and encouraging people in their efrort49.

Adza ti ko li eti ko Be idegbe.

A heedless dog wiU not do for the chase.

N.B.— If a person will not take advice, no one will employ or trust him.


wrr AXD wisiK>x fboic west apbioa.


Oagalo inlm, owo te al^ako.

If a man let fall his Gkigalo (itUtt, made from the midrib of the akpako^ wine^qlm, or B. vinifera) a hand will be stretched out to seise them.

N.B.— That IB, so soon m one man loses offioe or position another is ready to take his place. Mr. Crowther says it is applied to any aspirant who monopolises for awhile some desired object) Whieh, on his oyerthrow, falls into the hand of some one else. So wessy, "Pride will have a &U."


A ki da owo le ohTin ti a ko le igbe.

We should not undertake a thing which we canuot hft (i.e., perform),


Onile ndze eso gbingbiudo; aledzo ni ki a se on 11 owo kan ewa.

{Though) the host may be living on wild beans, the

guest expects a handful of boiled corn.

N.B.— Mr. Crowther translates "Gbingbindo" by a " tree, found near the water, whose fruit is eaten only in time of famine," and says that the proverb applied to those who are unreasonable in their demands.


Hah gbiyele ognn; ti owo eni ni ito ni.

Trust not to an inheritance; the produce of one's hands is sufficient for one (or what one gains hy industry is sufficient).

N.B. — Said to those who neglect industry because they expect to inherit projHjrty.



Akoseba, eye ti idze odun.

He who waits for chance may wait a year.

N.B. — Said to those who are ever looking for "something to turn up."


Eni ti ran m m ise li a ibern; a ki ibern eni ti a ran ni si.

We should fear him who sends us with a message, not him to whom we are sent.

N.B. — Applied to messengers sent from one king or chief to another.


Ero-kpeBekpeie; ko mo bi ara nkan igbin.

(Tou may say the blow is) very light — you do not re- flect that it hurts the snail.

N.B. — Said to those who excuse their maltreatment of others on the ground that it is no great matter.


Eflin ri ognn, dzo; okeo ri ogon, o yo. "When the spear sees the battle, it dances; when the lance sees the battle, it joys.



  • 2.

OhTm ti a fi MO mn Id badie; oliim ti. a fl ag^bara mn ni ini ni li ara.

An afl^r which we conduct; with gentlenesB is not marred; an affair which we conduct with yiolenoe causes

OS vexation.

N.B.— Said to imfcabl* aad impetuous men.


  • Bi eya ba di ekun, eran ni ikpa dze.

When the wild cat becomes a leopard, it will devour large beasts.


Afedzu toto ko mo okonn. Frowning and fierceness prove not manliness. N.B.-DogB that bark don't bite.


Oko nla se alamgba kpensan; o ni, behe 11 eni ti

dzn ni hlo ise ni.

«  A large stone {fidng throum) crushed a lizard. It said

So he who is stronger than one treats one.**

N.B. — Alluding to the otrong oppressing the weak, " C'est le pot de terre centre le pot de fer." Mr. Crowther translates " Alambga," *'the male lizard."




Alantaknn bi yi o ba o dza, a ta ka o li ara.

When the spider would attack thee, it extends its web

to entangle thee.

N.B. — Applied to the intrigues of men who endeavour to ruin others. The spider is not in Toruba, as on the Grold Coast, symbolio either of Creation or of the Evil Principle.


Alasedzn kpere ni ite.

A self-willed man soon has disgrace.

N.B. — Meaning, that pride goes before destruction. Deus perdere vult, prius dementat."



Esn yi o dze, e&u ye o mo, esn yi o loh; nibo li alatamkpoko yi o wo.

The locust will eat, the locust will drink, the locust will go; — M'here shall the grasshopper hide? N.B. — Describes the effects of war.


Eo 8i alasara ti ita igboka; gbogbo won ni ita oyin.

No {she) snuff-dcaler sells stale snuff; they all sell the

best (literally, all of them sell snuff honey.)

N.B. — So Oti or beer of the best quality is called by the street- girls ** honey-beer."



Alaradze ko mo odnn; abi isa ita bi igL

The buyer does not consider the seasons; he thinks,

perhaps, yams grow as big as logs.

N.B.— But the grower and seller does. Mr. Gnmthtr trane- latee the proTerb thuce: an Oibo or white man died there.

.N.B — Historical and other facta are often thus transmitted to posterity. Oyo, pronounced Auyau, is the ancient capital of the Yoruba Empire, destroyed by the Fulasin 1835. The word Oibo, or "Eibo" {Ambo in the Ikelu dialect)^ from Bo, to greet, means a white man; hence " Orombo," an orange — literally, White man's fruit.



sure ikn, o bo si ako ida.*

He fled from the sword, and hid in the scabbard (into tehich the tword will return).


K.B.— The aame as our nying, " Out of the frying-pan into the


A ri ti eni mo iwi, i fi akpadi bo ti re mole.

"We see that one knows how to speak (the faults of others), although he covers his own with a potsherd.

N.B. — '*Tu vols uDe paille qiii est dans roeil do ton frhre, mais tii ne Tois pas ce qui est dans ton ceil."


A ki igba akaka lowo akiti; a ki igba lie baba lowo


We cannot prevent a baboon squatting (because it is his nature); he cannot take from a man his homestead (because it is his natural riffht.^f

  • Mr. Crowther also gives, Mo sa osa iku, mo si bo si akko idas.

t Mr. Crowther giTes, besides this one, another version of the first clause: Aki igba Agballe lowo Arabi, i.e., ** No one can separate the Agballe from the Arabi *' — two insects always found together.




Ase oran ikoko sebi on li a mbawi, abi ara ifd bi eni 16 ohun.

The perpetrator of a secret crime supposes it is he thej are tdking about (if he sees men in conversation); his face being pale as one who has done something wrong.

• N.B. — " Stultd nudabit animi conscientiam."


Asorokele bodznwo igbe; igbe ki iro; eni ti a ba so ni ese iknkpanL

A whisperer watches the bush {if he hears a noise); a bush never tells secrets; he to whom one speaks is the traitor.

N.B.— If a man wiah his secrets to be kept, he should not con- fide them to others.


Odo ki kon ki o bo edza li odzn.

The river is never so full as to obscure the sight of the fish.

N.B. — No scheme or purpose is too deep to be confided to a friend— somewhat contradictory to No. 102.


Baba bo baba mole.

A great affair covers up {or puts out of sigM) a small matter.


irjx AJQ). msDou jrsoic wxbt itbioa.

105. •

fiagadail igi dn oloko sa,

By the staiff of Egngiml the tree fell and startled the fiffmer.

N3. — Bigifdai is |^ oommon otAh. Bgim or Egngim— <litt haom) 18 the MumboJumbo of 7onil»n mythology; The proverb " Fntuiiuiit monteB naaoetur ridkraloB m W


Ebo alakoto.

" The sacrifice in the basket ** — a euphuism for human sacrifice; probably because, as at Dahome, the victim, placed in a kind of baskefc-work canoe, was precipitated from a high platform and beheaded. In Toruba a sacrifice is sometimes offered for the whole nation, when the victim is either killed or is kept alive in chains to sweep the idols' temples.

107. Eleknn, or Isokon.

A weeper, a mourner, and figuratively a daughter, who in Asia is called the "domestic calamity." So the people say " bi isokun, o bi iwale," he begat a mourner and a grave-digger (i.e., a son).



One who has breath — a servant; so called, because his master's life is in his bunds.



• 109.

Bi enia enni ba ku li okere akpa eta re wo ille.

When a relative dies at a distance, a small fragment of his remains is brought home.

N.B.— Eta ifi a fragment of a corpse (such as his hair or nails) brought home to the family, who perform over it funeral rites.


Idi baba akosa.

The eagle is the father of birds of prey.


Odndna, igba nla medzi a de i sL

Heaven and earth, two large calabashes, shut not to be' open.



A person sitting daily at another's door, to shame him into payment of a debt.

N.B. — Equivalent to the well-known custom, " dhama bait'hna," of the Hindus.


Aditi wo ni li ena sun.

The deaf look surprised on people's mouths (when speaking).

p 2





AMBgon oliiri uowo mah de odsa.

A long slender tarading waauuif who nerer zeacbee the market.

ir.B.— A riddk^mMniag » eaaoe, whioh ii ItCb at tiia kading- piMe whiii the owimt goes to th« mastkt/^ So Iq Hindi^ThAfc irfiieh lonom evBiy one^ ie^ a ahadow.


Ognn knn Osa kon o knn tirin ko kpade.

There remain the " Ogun " (river), the " Osa " (lake), and the slender, which you have not met (i.e., crossed.)

N.B. — Meaning the nose.


Ag^bongbere kpete igara.

The snatch game (of children) resembles (lit., thinks of) robbery.

N.B. — ^Agbongbere ia a child's play of snatching vegetables from one another.


Onibaba ni itodzn orombo, onide ni itodzn awede.

The owner of copper ornaments looks for (the fruit qf) a lemon, the owner of brass looks for " Awede."

N.B. — Awede Ib a herb used for cleaning brass. The saying means, " Each man for himself."



Ena awoB.

Fire of tortoise — i.e., mirage, the flickering appearance of the atmosphere in hot dry weather. It is supposed to he an underground fire made hy the tortoise to kill the trees, by burning them at the roots.



A liver of foam — i.«., irascibility. Among Africans, as Asiatics, the liver is the seat of the passions and affec- tions; hence " Gbodo *' (i.e. yJa edoy to receive liver) means to dare, to be courageous. So, in olden England, the spleen, and in modern times, the heart, usurp the func- tions of the brain.


Fnn le fo lomn.

Freely, of one's own accord {lit. , for the earth and for Qod).


Odzn, re wah He.

He came to himself (after being mad or drunk; lit., his eye came to the ground).

122. Bafin, or Ibafin.

Eunuchs, of whom there were six in the palace of the King of Yoruba: they are also called Iwefa.

214 ms AJtD wiflBOM wmou wist jutbioa.




If glMm li «wo mo gbon lease tend tan. My hands and feet aie shakfiQ (Le., lam poverty).

in BaPiTOine


lyo Oyibo.

White man's salt (i.e., refined 9ugar.)

The following proverbs in the Yoruba language are from the Yocabularj of the Eev. Samuel (now Bishop) Crowther.* That excellent divine has kindly assisted me with sundry explanations which do not appear in the latest edition of his book. Many of them will strike the reader " like the maxims in ' Poor Eichard's Almanac,' which pass for deep wisdom with the vulgar of all nations.*' t Others are neatly expressed and ingenious in application. There are many also which even Mr. Crowther could not well explain, though on occasions they become exceedingly d^(7po«. The people are at

  • A Yocabnlary of the Yomba Language. Comiflled by the Bev.

Samuel Crowther, Native Missionary of the Church Missionary Society. Seeleys, Fleet Street, London, 1852.

f China. Being the Timt^ Special Correspondent from China. By George Wingro?e Cooke. G. Boutledge & Co., London, 1858.



once noted for speaking in proverbs and are remarkably " toucby " — " thin skinned " — sensitive. Such a saying as *' the monkey's grandmother was a fool " would raise a storm of wrath if addressed by one Yoruba man to another.

Abanigbele ma mo ojn enni.

An inmate which cannot be tamed, i.e,, fire.

Olrnn abapade ko jo ohiin ti ari telle. An accident is not like an expected result


Abo fiinfim on abawon ki ire.

A white cloth and a stain never agree.

N.B. — Said when a drunken man, for instance, is brought, or intrudes himself, into the society of the sober.


Bi oran ba sn oknnkan abe e wo li abbe.

If the matter be dark, dive to the bottom. N.B.— Equivalent to our ** Look before you leap.

din mr USD WIBDOM wboml wmt avbioa.


Qhut ti akQ f e ki enia ki oiqp li ase 11 abbelle. What 18 not wished to be known, is done in wecnocj.

6. Bidi ni imn abe imiL

Wrapping up a raxOT preseiTes its Bbarpneea K.B.— Meuiiii& that a derer man ahould conceal his taleniai


Enniti mbe abeiyannn yio ri oban ti nfe gba lowo olnware.

He who begs with importunity will get what he wants.

8. Abiamo abehin jija.

A mother with a kicker (i.e., a struggling child) on her bacL A playful expression used in addressing a woman with an infant.

9. Aso abila gbogbo li o 11 omko.

Each coloured cloth has its name.

X.B. — Meaning, that everything has its meaning and its use. 10.

Enniti ko fe oran enni ni ise ablnoknenni.

He who does not love his neighbour acts maliciously.





Bi aso kpelli abo a hn.

If clothes remain long in the bag they rot.

N.B. — So the Arabs say, "Standing water stinks" in opposition to oxir " Rolling stone gathers no moss." It is also applied to the miserly, who waste their wealth by hoarding it.


Enniti o ba mo idi oran telle on ni ibu abi^a eke. He who knows a matter beforehand confounds the liar.

13. Bi aba ba igbe li abuka ari eranko ino re pa.

If a bush is surrounded the animals in it are easily kiHed.

N.B. — Meaning, that everything may be accomplished by the force of numbers.


A ki isipe inaro fa abake. A hunchback is never asked to stand upright N.B. — We are not to order impossibilities.


Abaro ki ipa egbon ni itan.

The young cannot teach tradition to the old.





Adaba kekelnke ko fi qja ti ko na teiL There is no markefe in which the dove with the promi- nent breut has not traded.

K.BL— The cowAi, on ftoooant of its cinmlatioa as oaxreocgr, is with the dovob


Xi adalMHnum Id owi fii jediedie, kLeiye ki owl fa

Let the white pigeon tell the woodpecker, and bird tell


N.B. — ^ItmeaoB, let the matter be spread abrc»ad; also that friends must support one another. ,


Bi opo enia ba knro 11 egbe ofo adanilaraya ni ifo ni jojo.

Though manj guests are absent, he only who enliyens the party is missed.

N.B. — Said m company.


Adaniloju ko se ifl ebin ti.

He who disappoints another is unworthy to be trusted.


Adaniloro fi agbara ko ni.

He who torments another (only) teaches him to streugthen himself.




Adape oro Id ^'e ki amo itumo ornko. Contraction of words conceals the sense.

N.B.— Opposed to our *' Brevity ia the bouI of wit."


Aji bo wa iba li aba ila 11 atellewo, awa ko mo exmi ti ko 0, igi bo wa iba li owo adasan, awa ko mo eniii ti o je e.

We wake and find (i.e., we find as soon as we have con* sciottsness) marks on the p^Ims of our baud; we do not know who made the marks: we wake and find an old debt, and we know not who incurred it.

N.B. — Shows how easily man " runs into debt"


Obba ko ni fiUa ade li oni.

The Obba (or king) has no cap, but a crown.

N.B.— The "Filla"ifl the " Kantop " of India, a cap with the flaps for the ears. The *'Ade" is a kind of crown studded with beads. The proverb means, that a king must not use common things.


Adebipani ki ise ore enni.

He who causes one's starvation is not one's friend.




Adiredo, ko w ibo Ipori

A waterfowl ia not fit to worship the tutelary god


K.a— Ipori 0.6., Itpo 0n) fa the Ug toe wonh^ped by the Torabeo. The nying touehee the fitneaa of things.

2e. Adize-izaanft ni inju okn. The fowl ia the forenumer of the dead.

N.B. — The Adire-iraima is a fowl beheaded at the death of a person, and the blood is sprinkled over the corpse, as its passport to the invisible world. This saying is constantly used at funerals.


Enni ti o p% afe-imojo, ki oma re Oyo, eda li ara oko ije.

Whoever kills an Afe-imojo must bear it to Oyo (the

capital of Toruba); the Eda ouly is due to the people

of the province to eat.

N.B. — The Afe-imojo is an animal of the rat kind, whose tail — a royalty— is used by the King of Yoruba, in sign of distinction: he generally holds it before his mouth when he waUbs abroad, a euatom followed by his subjects with meaner articles. The Eda is a oommon rat, which breeds very &8t.


Afeno ni ti iyangbo.

Chaff is to be fanned away.

N.B. — This is a superstitious saying, a curse acting as a charm: " As the chaff is blown away, so may your evil intentions against me be dispersed."



AfinoBajere afehin se ikoko.

The faithless man {receives your words) in a perforated vessel, but keeps behind his back the vessel {which tcould retain them), or turns his back instead of his face.

30. Oirnn ti afojn fi oju re ri ki oto fo, an 11 ori xno» ko ton omiran ri mo.

What the blind saw before he was blind, is the last sight he ever shall see.

N.B. — This would be said, for ioBtance, of a fallen Tisurper.


Agadagodo ko mo ino ara won.

One lock does not know the wards of another.

N.B.-^Meaniiig, he is a reserved man whose secrets are not known.


Agbada ya li oron o baje.

An Agbada torn at the neck is spoiled.

N.B. — The Agbada is a kind of loose garment The proverb means, that a slip or a blunder ruins action.


Igba dodo 11 agbado IgbanL

Indian corn is the true support of a people.



Agbari ko ni modTrnmodim,

A mefe a kail haa tto brains {moixiure) in it* (This would be said of a morose, an unfriendlj, or a miaerlj m&n,)


Agbassa babba okuta

A bouldef ii the father of rocka,

N.B.--Thifl iEi the firet sample of many similar sayings that will occur. It is said by way of compliment, praise, or flattery either to, or of, a *' superior person."


Agbatan li agba olle.

You must help an idle man thoroughly {if you help him atalX).

37. Agbe ni ^e egbin omi, agbalagba ni ijiya oran. As a calabash receives the sediment of water, so an elder must exercise forbearance.


Bi apon omi bi o dano, bi agbe ko ba fo aton omiran pon.

When one is carrying water and happens to spill it, if the calabash be not broken, you can get more.



Agbe ni ida aro, Alnko ni ikosun, Lekeleke li allala funfon.

The Agbe is the dyer in blue (i.e., has hluefeathers); the Aluko is the painter of red dye (i.e., has red), but the Lekeleke is the owner of the white cloth (i.e., is white).

N.B. — The Agbe and the Aluko are different species of jays; the Lekeleke is the crane, called in India a paddy-bird.


Iwo ba agbebo adire li oja iwo ntagere si i ira, iba se rare oluwa re ko je ta a.

You met a hen in the market, and hastened to purchase

her; had she been worth keeping the owner would not

have sold her.

N.B.~Often said, and justly said, of those who purchase adult slaves.


Agbeje ko koro ni ille nla.

The squash is never bitter in a large family.

N.B. — Agbeje is an early pumpkin, much eaten before other vegetables are in season.* The proverb means, that in an extensive household there should be no wastefulness.


Agbo meji ko mo omi akoto kan. Two rams cannot drink out of the same calabash. N.B — There cannot be two suns in the same sphere.

• See Mr. Bowen's CollectioD, No. 83.

Boko aglM ni imn aglM niyin, oUa til babba ni jba

A ram's mane giTes him a noble appeanmoe; a firfiher'a bononr makes a son proud.


• Agbon ko le iije flm elje Id eije.

  • Agbon (the cocoa tree, and ite nui) is not good for a

bird to eat.

N.B. — Said of or to one who undertakes something beyond his powers. So ^sop's fable of the frog and the bull.


Mo mo tan ko je agbon ki o li oro. Self-conceit deprives the wasp of honey.


Bi bojn bi o bonn isalle agbon li a ipari re si.

When the face is washed, jou finish at the chin.

N.B. — This is a proverbial saying when a dispute is ended. " It is all settled, and the child's name is Anthony."


Aid ifa eran ikon gbon eran agbon yin no.

No one will throw awaj venison for squirrel's flesh.




Enniti npe* o ko sunkonn, iwo li ogbo agboya. He is going on calling you, and you pretend to bo deaf.

KB. — Meaning that a wilful man will have his way.


Agidi ti on ti iyonnii, aknrete ti on ti iya. An implacable person is always a source of trouble, a pliable person is sure to suffer.


Agiliti abi ara yiyL

The Agiliti (or iguana) with a rough skin. N.B. — Applied to those with cutaneous disorders.


Akisa aso li afi isa osnka: Illu kai mbe nwon ama pe illn na ni illu alagisa.

" Bags make up a pad: '* there is a town called " Bag- Town."

N.B. — This is one of many explanatory and memorial sayings — it simply illustrates the meaning of the words Illu alagisa.


Agoro ti gbon sa^a ebiti pa a ambotori malaju. The Ago is caught in a trap: how much more the Malaju? •.

N.B. — The Ago is a striped rat remarkable for its craft, and care of its young. The Malaju is a kind of water rat noted for stupidity.


Siyelle ko li agogo kiki arnpe. Thefre is no tallness among pigeons: the;f aie all dwaxfii.

ir.B.— Metaln^ tiut where tiiere Ib no hmd, ell an masfcen: nid whan tiun ii too muoli of 4gaUti in a aoeietj.


Aja ti ire re ba danilojn li ade si agoro. The dog which is known to be rerj swift is set to catch the hare.

N.B.~-Thi6 is said of a confident man.


Bi ako ba le itete koUe ago li apa na.

If one is not able at once to build a house, a shed is first erected.


Ago won de ara ibin.

An Ago (sufers his dependents to he slothful), till some one shall come (who shall awaken them).

N.B. — The Ago is the opposite of our " martinet." The saying means that if one king be over-indulgent to his subjects, his suc- oeoaor will change the aspect of affidrs. Oiur King Log and King Stork.




Aguala mba osu irin nwon sebi aja re ni iae: Aguala ki ise aja osupa.

Tenus (the planet) travels with the moon; they sup- pose it to be her dog: Yenua is Dot the moon's dog.

N.B.— This is a saying difficult to illustrate. It might be ap- plied to two men who travel together independently, whilst one is taken to be the servant of the other. Aguala, or the planet Venus, is called in Toruba the " moon's dog." The Oji tribes call her Kekye, or Eekyepevarre, ie., Kekye who desires to marry. The negroes say it is betrothed to the moon; the Hindus believe the nymphsea lotus to be enamoured of the '* lesser light," and constantly pursuing but never able to catch the object of its desires.


Ahere ni yio kehin oko, atta ni yio kehin ille. The farmhouse remains to the last {upon the ground), and the ridge of the roof completes the building.

N.B. — This proverb means that a man will be compelled to seek a shelter at last.


Ahon ni ipinle ennn. The tongue is the end of the mouth. N.B. — ^A compliment like Ko. 35.


Aigboran babba afojadi Disobedience is the father of insolence.

Q 2




Bi ako li aija mdo xindo, aU $e ayaxL

If the fitomach be not strong, do not eat oockroaebes.

68. life H Oknn, enia U (huA, aid imo dve Id ako aiya ja. The w(»ld is (or mojf he eampared to) an ocean: man- Idnd is the Ossa Lagoon (Jtehoeeii^ Lagot and Badagry):

however well a person swims, he cannot cross the world.

N.B. — It ifl presumptuouB for a man to attempt all things — Non omnia poBsumnB omnes.


Aja egbenin ko gbo omko.

A dog Talued at half-a-crown caDnot be taught.

N.B.— Meaning an old dog; balf-a-crown being the price of a fuU'grown animaL


Okipa iga li afi ibo Ognn. An old dog must be sacrificed to Ogun. N.B. — Meaning that Ogun claims the best.


Aja ti ko leti ko se idegbe.

A stupid dog will not do for the chase.




i^jabo ni ti Iwe, bi Iwe ja abo lowo oloko.

The Iwe {or little edible frog^ also used in charms and

philtres) is sjjre to slip from the farmer's hands.

N.B. — A Buperstitioiis saying of a good omen. " If I am made prisoner in battle (or e. g.y when thieving), I am sm-e to escape."


Ajadi agbon odi olara.

A basket with its bottom burst is useless. N.B. — Equivalent to our " ne'er do weeL"


Ajagajigi enniti o mi kakate mi 'ra re. He who tries to shake the trunk of a tree, only sbakes himself.

69. Fansa ille o 11 ariv^o nino ajaille ba agba li eiu When a grave is made, there is a great deal of noise

(Jirom the labourers who loathe the task); and the sight

of a vault makes old men tremble.

N.B. — Ajaille is the roof of a grave, or a pit-fall with thorns, to trap thiei^es, like the " Ogi " of India.


Ogbogbo awon ni bi Ajako.

He who kills an Ajako (a dog-like animal) is sure to suffer for it.

N.B. —A popular superstition.

28ft wet ASB mWDOK VBOir wxst ambxoa^


ns *

OgvoL ja aglwra otte loiio.

The ensmj pulls down the fortifications.


Oku ijaoiiaka li ayo ogbo li, ta li qje yo ojn agada il eraa, alabo owo.

It is easy to cat to pieces a dead elephant; but no one dares attack a Hto one.

73. Ko ae elm ko se eiye ajao. The bat • is neither rat nor bird. N.B. — Meaning that a person is neither one thing nor the other.


Ki Ajinde olla ki oje.

May a future resurrection answer (my hopes)! N.B.— Evidently borrowed from El IsIanL

75. .

Bi ille ko kan ille ki ^o igoran.

Houses not contiguous do not easily catch fire.

N.B.— Meaning that if we are not over familiar we shall not quarrel

  • This appears to be the meaning of "Ajao."




Eana li akparo ifl ipe ora, ani kiki ora, kikl ora.

With the mouth the Akparo {partridge) proclaims its fat, crying *^ Nothing but fat {kika ora)! nothing but fat!"

N.B. — Said of a person that pmaea himself.


I WO li ojnti bi aka. Tou are bashful like the armadillo. N.B. — A common saying.


• Bi oku ba ku laiye akala amo 11 oran.

The vulture sceutd the carcase, however high in the air he may be.

N.a— Said of a " Paul Pry."


Ko gbino eni« ko ra edo ommo. He is not angry on accouut of slaves, nor peevish on account of children.

N.B. — Said (and pointedly too) of one who has the patience of



Bi ba gbo ogun mi, ki idnro din akaraka.

Whenever he hears of my war, he never waits to make provision.

N.B. — Said of the malignant, who rejoices at another's trouble.

wot jksno



Akftra babba eUo.

Jikasha ia the fi^li«r of ofeber loaTes.

Agidi at ffiom Leone, and in Yorabai Ekka* The n>ying that he Uug^ ai eouni who never felt a wound.


iikatanpo ko to ^a Qa, ta It o mn iggi wa iko kjn?

A cross bow is not enough to go to war with (since

the introduction ofjire-arms) i whom do you dare to face

with a stick?

N.B. — The Akatapo, or Akatanpo, is the cross-bow, probably introduced by the early Portuguese, now obsolete in these regions, but still used amongst the Mpangwe or Fans of the Gaboon river, and other tribes lying to the south of them. The saying is applied contemptuously to a weak opponent


Alakatanpo fi oju woke.

A cross-bowman is obliged to look upwards.

N.B. — Meaning that to effect certain purposes certain steps must be taken.


Akede ko jiyan gbigbona.

The Akede {or public crier) does not eat warm food.

N.E — He is liable to be called away at any moment from his meat. This is said of men of business.

  • Mr. Bowen's collection, No. 88.



Akeke ojogan fl id ya ara, ille fl ojn di ni, akeke ko se idi ni ibo.

A scorpion stings with his tail; a domestic is apt to be insolent; one cannot hide a scorpion in the hand; N.B. — Said of elaves who do not fear their master.


Akete kekere ko gba enia meji.

A small bed will not hold two persons.


Aki iti ehin akisalle iwnre.

One cannot bless the gods without using the word

" Akishalle."

N.B.— Akishalle is a running plant with a pealike pod« This ia a peculiar saying. The syllable " sha " {as in ori-sha) often enters into the names of the gods, and thus the meaning would be, we can do nothing without aid.


Akisa ba enni rare je.

Bags disgrace a handsome person.

N.B. — " Fine feathers make fine fowls; " or " Qod makes and apparel shapes.'^


Iwo iba ri, iwo ko gboddo wi; ni ipa akoni.

You may see but not dare to speak (of the danger): it

is that which is the death of the strong man.

N.B. — Meaning that the strong man often perishes for want of warning.

234 im AXB wmsou wmam mftv Aiaicuu


^omin ko li elaglw.

Hie amger Iim no one to take part in the ebonu with


l^iSb— Said when then ii hot one ** base «zioeplaoa;" whan no yoiiri


Akndiii Afapft ko i^'^wn o ake.

The heart of the Ashakpa tree fears no axe.

N.B. — The Ashakpa is a bard-wood tree used for roofs and joists, posts and rafters. The wood makes good charcoal, and the leaves cure the small-pox. The proverb is applied to a '^ heart of oak/' — a strong and brave man.


Aladngbo ki Ida olla;

A near neighbour need not take (ajinal) leave till to- morrow.


Alafia babba ore.

Peace is the father of friendship.

N.B. — "Alafia" is an Arabic noun and article iJ^{: in Yoruba it means *' peace " or " health," and is a common salutation.


Alagbe ko ku li Oyo.

A beggar never dies of want in Ozo (the capital).

N.B. — {The same cannot be said of London) — The beggar says the above proverbially, wherever he may be, " Some charitable man will surely feed me."




Akgapa ko li eraa li aiya.

A petty trader has no flesh upon her bosom.

N.R — Meaning that the Alajapa-woman, who buys at one town and sells for some small profit at another, wears herself to a skeleton. Thus the proverb somewhat resembles our " Care killed a cat.**


Alakatanpo oja ko le ita eraa pa. He who has only his eyebrow for a cross-bow can never kill an animal.


Papa li assa awonso bi alakele.

A noisy weaver, who imitates his master weaver (i. e.,

the one who cuts off the lengths of cloth).

N.B. — " Papa * expresses the sound of the sley. The saying is addressed complimentarily to a weaver.


Alari babba aso.

Alari ia the prince of decorations.

N.B. — Alari {which alto means scariet) here alludes to a kind of red cotton grown in Hausa. The saying is complimentary, like Nob. 35 and 59.


Alia fanfan otta Orisa.

A white cloth is an object of hatred to the gods.

N.B.— Because it is worn out in their service. The saying ia ironical, *' A willing horse is worked to death."

^6 Wtt AH]) IrifBOM TBOM mtST A7SI0A.


Egbon iwajn alagbon hMuu An elder brother is a resemblance to a father. K.E— The " aooryamk" ia not known to this stege of dviliafttion.

101. Aliikembu babba assa. The stirrup is the father of the saddle. K.B.-<-Complimentai7.


Bi ica jo abowo fan alnki.

When fire burns up the bush, it respects the Aluki plant.

N.B. — The Aluki is a slender prickly plant.


Amodnn ko riri, je ki amnra ki asise.

The coming year is not out of sight; let us be up and


N.B. — TLese people have not yet been forbidden to take any thought for the morrow. The saying ia addressed to the indolent and the dilatory.


Amokun ni em on wo, ki ise lori, ni ille 11 o ti wo lo.

A lame man said his load was not upright, and was

answered, " Its unevenness began from the ground (i. e.,

fram your lame foot)."

N.B. — Meaning that bad workmen complain of their tools; and addressed to the sluggard and the spendthrift



Amgbadu obbe onse.

The Amgbadu is the sauce of messengers.

N.B. — The Amgbadu is the " Crane-crane " of Sierra Leone: messengers, who are many in number, are usually entertained with a sauce made of this cheap and common vegetable. The saying might be used by one about to give a large " dinner-party."


Antete o da yanpan yanpan sille. The Antete cricket causes a stir and confusion. 1).B. — Said of a backbiter who bites and backs out.


Bi ommo da ori kan apa, apa a: bi o si da ori kan iroko, iroko ako o li onna.

If a child treats the Apa tree insolently, it wounds his

head; if he treats the Iroko tree civilly, it welcomes him.

N.B. — The Apa is popularly called African mahogany {Old- JUldia Africana); it is used for drums, and is believed to become luminous at night. The Iroko is a tree used for building, and thus becomes an emblem of refuge, whilst the Apa is that of vengeance. The proverb contains a play upon words, and means also '* do not be insolent."


Apadi U to iko ina loju.

Nothing but a potsherd can face fire.

N.B. — A calabash cannot The meaning would be, it is only a tough man that can weather this storm.

H^ inr Aim wra^lc nov ifmvt ajthioa.


Aptni ki Qe ki amu ida lo ni ipako on. The ezectttioner never lets the Bword be passed across ys own neck.


Apaxi ftjndi abbe.

A bsld-headed man does not csze lor a rasor.


Apata ri ikn kehin si, apata ni ig^ba ni li ognn.

When a shield sees death, it {does not fiy from it, hut) turns its outside (lit, hack) to meet it: a shield is a pro- tection in the front of battle.

N.B. — MeaniDg that a shield is lueful in war; also aa the Pearaians say, *' the left arm is brave," beoause raised to defend the head from a sabre out.


Apq'nre li agbedde iro or Apejnre li onna ise. The smith (or artisan) always follows a pattern. N.R— We must learn of others.


Ma fi ti re ko mi li oron li oda fd apena on own.

(The pin says to the cotton) y " Do not hang your trouble

on my neck." This is always the dispute between the

cotton and the pin.

N.B. — Apena is the pin upon which spun cotton is wound for sale. The saying would be applied to one who, like the " fox that lost his tail," wants to involTe others in his own troubles.



Die die li amo apere.

By degrees one understands a sign (or pattern),

N.R— Meftning that in all things study is necessary; there is wisdom in roasting eggs.


Qf^'e ema ko di ennn apo.

A rascal never closes the mouth of his bag.

N.B.— A spendthrift cannot cease from spending.


Ibaje apo ni ibaje apa, bi apa ba ja, apo aballe.

The injury of a bag is caused by the injury of the pack-rope; if the pack-rope breaks, the bag will go down.

K.B. — Warning men not to rest on things insecore. There is also a play upon the words " apo " and " apa."


Araba nla ommo agbem gbake. A large Araba receives (into its substance) the heft and axe together.

N. B.— The Araba is the bombax, or cotton-tree; and the saying means that the greater power overwhelms the leas, — the weakest goes to the wall.


ins jam irmwm twnr


U8. .

bo towo AgMle. o knn Axabi

When the Agballe ib oT<arpowered, there remaiiis only

the power of the AiM (to he Mubdued).

K3.— Tlw AgbiOA and Hie Aimbi an two imeeli ilwajs loand together. The niing a <mt Divide el inq^enL


Araiye aid qju-peto.

Mankind presents a circnmscribed countenance (i. e.,

N^ — Meaning that tiie nature of thinga human ia limited.


Aran ni ipari cso.

Velvet gives a finish to dress.

N.B. — Used peculiarly: when a matter is decided, the proverb would be quoted comparing the peaoe-maker to velvet.


Enniti o fe arewa o fe iyonnu. He who marries a beauty marries trouble. K.B. — So the Spaniards say, a handsome wife brings no fortune.


Denge tutu lehin ino re gbona bi arifi. Though the pap is cold on the back (i. e., surface), yet the inside is very hot.

N.B. — Still waters run deep.




Aro ni idena Orisa.

The Aro (man toith withered limb) is the porter at the gate (i. e., stationary servant) to the gods.

N.B. — Mr. Crovrther quotes Milton's Sonnet on his blindness: — " They also serve who only stand and wait."


Ijo ba bi oran ikunle ba aro. The matter is to jou what the task of kneeling is to one of withered limbs.

125. Aro ki im eni ki o ma so.

The Aro does not always bear its load: it will be put

down (sooner or later),

N.B. — "Aro" is a native hearth, three clods or stones supporting the pot over the fire. The saying is consolatory, " Things at the worst will surely mend."


Asinwin Ika, asiwere Iluka, nwon darijo nwoa 11 awon iiBore.

A fool of Ika (town) and an idiot of Iluka (town) meet

together to make friendship with each other.

N.B. — So the French proverb, '* Ceux qui se reasemblent s'as- semblent." .


Aso babba ija.

Wrangling is the father of fighting.



Aaa gbe mi 11 adire ko diiro nitori ti o, mo ohim ti se.

The hawk having caught my cliicken will not atay, because it kuowa it \m^ done {a^rong)*

N.B.-^Sa wa my, ** ^ crimo eat quelquefois en sAret^, Jftmali il timt tniQqtiille;."

^sawi eje ennikan se are.

Words selected in a dispute (i. e., a one-sided statement of the case) always appear right.

N.B. — Confirmed by the dictum of a certain Welsh magistrate.


Aaaya ki ye ki ommo oya ki o gbon.

(The dog) playing with the young {and inexperienced) hedgehog, does not suffer it to be wise (i. e., throws U off its guard),

K.B. — Said when an unwary man is deceived by rogues. 181.

Oju oloJTi ko jo \JTL enni, asehindeni ko wopo. Another*s eye is not (faithful) like one*s own: agents are not numerous.

N.B.— So said Mr. Elwes of servants.



Asisori ko ni iknn bi agba, otosi ko lowo bi oloro. A pistol has not a bore like a cannon: a poor man has not money (at his command) like the rich.

N.B. — So we advise men to cut their coats according to their doth.


Enniti o nsape fan asiwere jo on asiwere, okan. He who claps his hands for the fool to dance, is no better than the fool.


Auwere li o bi iya obbo. The monkey's grandmother was a fool. N B. — This would be an insufferable insidt to a Yoniba man.


Aflorin babba iggi.

The Asorin is the father of trees.

N.B. — "The Asorin," says Mr. Bowen, " is a tree to which the natives ascribe the properties of the upas. Mr. Crowther remarks that it is "a very large tree. There is a superstition that as soon as any one begins to cut the Asorin, he is chased by tiie spirit that dwells in it. The woodman accordingly drops palm oil on the ground, that the spirit may lick it up whilst he mikes his escape. This tree is worshipped at a distance." The saying above quoted is merely superstitious.

B 2

24li wtt ijfD wrsDOU feom tvest ij-itiCA,



Ajorin ko da osuail

Aeoritt treea never form a grove.

Aaorin olodo.

The A&orla tree commanda the brook « 


Aso lowo ko lekanna, enia ko si ni iballe.

Cloth has hands (i. e., length, the measure used being hands or palms) but no fingers: so a man (has hands) but no flowing train {like the cloth),

N.B. — This is said of one that coveta hia neighbour's goods.


Ko ka ikn atabapsrua ti ije larin asa. Eearless of death, the pigeon feeds among the hawks. K.B. — Said of a reckless man.


Hi \jo ti ina ba jo ataba-susn ni ilo larin igbe, bi ina ba palo, elebn ama ire eba.

When the bush is on fire, the pigeon removes from the grass-field: when the flame is extinguished, every one returns to his home.

N.B. — Said when, after a quarrel or an altercation, the contending parties part





Atampako ko se \jiire okankan.

The thumb cannot point straight forwards.

N.B. — This ia noat and expressive: it is said when quibbling or unfairness is detected. So we say, ** Speak the truth and shame the devil"


A^basi mu atan gele.

Continual sweepings make a high rubbish-heap.

143. Ate peiye mu eiye kn. Bird-lime is the death of a bird. N.B. —Said of those who court danger or destruction.


Atellesse ni ije egbin onna.

The sole of the foot is exposed to all the dirt of the


N.B.— Said of a leader, who is expected to put up with all manner of troubles.


Atellewo ki itan* ni je. The palm of the hand never deceives one. N.B. — Our proverb is, " A bird in the hand is worth two in the




Ora atojomffjo ka le isml li eti Iri oro tit ton. An old story does not opt'n the ear as a new one doe a. N.B. — We aha bare Iu)iu«licild vfot^ toucLiog » twipfr-told


Si Olonm ki o fti m li atabotan rere.

May God gire ua a happy end J N.B>— This \3 ao eipreaaiuo HMOjiieaUy borrowed fnna Kl


Awiye ni Ife ifo gbangba li oro iperan.

(A/) the Ife people (the forefathers of the Yorubas) speak without disguise, (so) a poisoned arrow kills an animal in the sight of all.

N.R— WamB a preraricator to speak the truth.


Bi amba mbn Etta ori ama ra Awo.

If you abuse the Ettu you make the Awo*b head ache.

N.B. — The Ettu and Awo are varieties of Guinea fowl. The proyerb means, that people feel acutely any reproach cast upon their relatives.


Awodi nra ino aladire baje.*

When the hawk hovers (over the yard), the owner of

the fowls feels uneasy.

N.B. — So Horace, " Nam tua res agitur mums quum prozimus ardet"

  • '* Awodi" is a hawk, in Tomba: the Somal call an eagle





Li ojn awodi ki ako adire re apatta. No one would expose fowls on the top of a rock in the eight of a hawk.

K.BL — A warning to the imprudent.


Awodi oloJTL ina.

The Awodi has eyes that can bear the fire.


Ho kon igba lalle, mo kon igba li oro, mo kon igba li ossan ki mto fi ayindayinda lu u.

(Sai/s the Awoko^ or mocking-bird) I sing 200 songs, ia the morning, 200 at noon, and 200 in the afternoon (a«  my ordinary task), besides many frolicsome notes {for my own amuse ineiit\

N.B.— This is elliptical. The modcing bird has been accttsed of speaking evil of the king. He replies, " I may have done so with- out knowing it: did not I sing hundreds of songs/' &c.? The flaying is that of a man who is charged with slandering ius neighbour, and who cannot deny it.


Bi aba gbe aworan, aki isa ima ft, owo re te nkan. However well an image be made, it must stand upon something.

N.Bw— There must be a reason for everything: there is no smoke without fire.

Kle osono a ya yo ta ni je ya ilb awon ki awoa.

One may cull at the houte of the generous and be filled: who will call at the houa^ of a niiier and salute him?

N.B.- A won means both a land-tortoise and a miser.


lUe awon ko gba awon, odedde awon ko gba olojo, awon ko ille oyo odde lI ibadi.

The house of the land-tortoise is not large enough for itself; the verandah (i. e., the carapace overlapping the tail) will not accomniodate a guest.

N.B. — The tortoise having built its house, makes the verandah behind it.


Aya be sille o be si sille.

When a monkey jumps down from the tree, he jumps into the house (of hie pursuer).

N.B. — Meaning, that he is sure to be caught. The proverb is applied to those who ineur danger without reason.



Ay an ko gba edon.

The Ayan-tree resists an axe.

N.B.— -The Ayan is the tree of whose wood ia made the olub of Shango, god of thunder and lightning; and the saying means, " Do not undertake an unnecessary action."


Ayo ki ije ki aye e.

W hen the Ayo-gaine is won, it canuot be disputed.

N.B. — Ayo is the game called in Sierra Leone ** Warry ": it is played with counters and a board with cups. The proverb is our " Fair play is a jewel."


Aynn ni mo ri cko ri abo.

I saw the departure, but not the return.


KnB ynn knn* wa bi iko era.

To be busy here and there, like the messenger of the


N.B. — So the Hindus say, " Dhobi ka kutta, na ghar ka, na ghat ka" — a washerman's dug, neither in the house nor at the ghaut {where linen u tccuhed). The proverb is applied to a " busy-body."


Baba bo, baba moUe.

A great matter puts a smaller out of sight.



^H Agba ko bI iUu baje, balle ku ille di aboro.

^H When there are uo elders, the town is Tumed; when

i the master diea, the house is desolate,

^^m Gang an ko m e a wore.

^^^^ The QaDgan {war drum) b destitute of beUs (I. e.f orna- ments).

N.B. — Said sneeringly of the indolent, untidy, and badly dreaeed.


Batta li a ifl ise agbnra li arin egun. With shoes one can get on in the midst of thorns. K.B. — When confident in yourself you may confront difficulties.


  • Bebbe ki o ri okose, aagbe ki ori awon.

Beg for help, and you will meet with rebuff: ask for alms, and you will meet with misers.


Aki Ida owe le ohim ti ako le igbe. A thing which cannot be lifted (i. e., accomplished) should ne?er be undertaken.




Oudngudu kan li egbo kanrinkanrin. The Gudugudu (a poisonous wild yam) is very acid at the root.

N.B. — Said of a difficult matter, a thing best left alone. So our common injunction, not to stir it, for fear of graveolent con- sequencee.


Obba ni igba owo bode. It is the king who receives custom. N.B. — Said to those who meddle with politics.


Hobu! Iho ti ohu li esin akun u.

Eh! The grass field which grew up last year is burnt


N.?. — A play on the words Hohu {expressing surprise) and Iho (a groM field burned every year by huntsmen), which Mr. Crowther pronounces untranslateable. He thus, however, explained it to me. One man says, " Qiye me your reasons for this or that." The other answers by the proverb, meaning, " What is the use of your exclamation? If I had a thousand reasons I would not give you one — the matter is settled! "


Ijo kan ojo o bori oda.

One day's raiu makes up for many days* drought.

N.B. -A saying of many applications: in a good sense, of a generous man; or vice versdj of severity after over-lenity; also incul- cating earnestness of action — " Age quod agis."

WIT anh wisdom feom west afeica

173. Otta enia nl iba omko re j«. He ia nn enemy who slanders one's name. N.B.--'* Who iteskk mj purse atesili troiti " tc, ka.


Oro batiboti ka je fun agbilagba.

Mucb talking U unbecouiing iii an elder.


Bolla fan agba: awon ni babba enni.

Eespect the elders: they are our fathers.

N.B. — We may remark, that whereas the Proverbs of Solomon dwell earnestly upon the respect and obedience due from children to their parents, the Torubans are more careful to inculcate reverence for their elders. This is intimately connected with their system of poUtics.


Om mode ki iwo scso ni bnjoko agba. The younger should not intrude into the seat of the elders.

177. ^ti iran di iran babba wa ko bo iru orisa wonyi ri. Prom one generation of our fathers to another, we never worshipped such a god as this.

N.B. — Said when a strange god is proposed. The Hindu saying is, " The Adam of this place is a strange being."



Kokoro di labalaba.

The grub becomee a butterfly. N.B. — Said sneeringly of a parvenu,


Egbo ke, ina ke, ohnn enia ke.

The sore is spreading; the fire id glowing; the throat

is hoarse.

N.B. — There is here more of sound than sense, " ke " (to grwo wxrte) being repeated in three several significations.


dajn dann, o ko mo essan mess an.

{ThougK) you {seem) very clever, you cannot tell

9 times 9.

N.B. — The Torubas, from their practice of counting cowries, are generally good accountants.


Dasa mn abbe ni iyin, enni nla 11 opon iye. {Though) a small covered dish gives the stew a neat appearance, a bowl answers best for great men. N.B.— Because it is larger.


Dubballe ki apa igbonwo mo o ni 'hnn ti ise fan ni.

To prostrate oneself and keep the elbows close, does

something for one.

N.B. — Meaning, '* booing" is sure to bene6t a man; also incul- cating modesty, that he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.

25lt WIT a:kp wiasoM f boh yfmt ^fi^ca.


^H ITa ae gba dulumo enni kan,

^V Do not receive a alamier agmnst mky one to occmbq

I him fiilaeij.

I H.B.— M^JMiinffj do not eknder auy one. TUe saying is popular

^^P Szuiiti aEe 11 ore ti ko dope aba se e m ibi ko don o.

V He to T^'hom kindnesB ia sliowu and doea not rettirn

  • thanks, if evil ia done to bim he ^vill not feel ttiat either.

N.B. — ^Meaning, that he is devoid of feeling.


Ebi ko je ki apa owo mo, ebi mu ino se papala.

Hunger does not allow saving of money: hunger makes

the body lean.


Ore Agbe se li 0& odi egbe.

The good which Agbe did in Offa town is wasted.

N.B. — Agbe was a well-known Yoruban philanthropist: his good deeds were wasted, because the Offa people did not appreciate them. The proverb is applied to one unappreciated — undeveloped greatness.


Egbon so mo ayinrin 11 enna ani ki adire ki o wa iyan a je, adire mo pe ontikara on oige ayinrin.

A tick having fastened itself on the mouth of a fox, a fowl was desired to remove it; but the fowl well knew that she was food for the fox, as well as the tick (was food) for her.




Ehoro ni ti Oloffa 11 o soro.

The Eboro said, " I care for nobody but the arcber. "

N.B. — The Ehoro is a hare, or rabbit, whose fur is used by the Torubas as a charm against fire. This saying is used to defy rivals or enemies.


£jo ommo oniwere» bi o ti wn ki ase titi ako le iba ejo re, iggi ni gbogbo araiye iyo si L

However much a snake may try, no one will be friendly to that child of writhing (i. e., creeping thing): on the contrary, all mankind will take up sticks to {strike) it,

N.B. — Said of a person or thing thoroughly " antipatico ** to us. " I do not like you, Dr. FeU," &c.


Eleke li eke iye, ohiin ti aba se ni iye 'ni.

(As) anything which a man is (tfi the habit of) doing is natural to him, (so) a lie is natural to a liar.

N.B. — Habit is a second nature.


Omko ti aso ommo ni imo ommo li ara.

The name given to a child becomes natural to it.




Ag^ba metta ki isi ekoln ipe, l>i akau pe ekiUu, ekeji ani ekulu, ek^U^ aai ek\ilu.

Three elders cannot all fail to pronounce (the word) Ebulu: one may aay Ekdlu, another ELulu, but the tbircl will aa^ fikulu-

K.B. — ^Tlie Ekiilu ii a epeciea of deer, irntl Ulq prorerb ine)UU9|

  • ' In the multitude of couiueUors them m wis^ium^"


Alejo bi okete li a ifi ekuro ilo. A stranger, like the ground-pig, is entertained with palm-nuts.

N.B. — Palm nuts are but poor fare.


Ate yon ate wa li a ite ekuro oju onna. To be trodden upon here, to be trodden upon there, is the fate of the palm-nut Qying) in the road.


fon mi 11 oron bi Eknm. He chokes me, like Ekuru.

K.B.— Ekuru, or Kuduni, la a very dry cake, made of the Ere or white bean. The above ia said of a " bore."




Erin ntu eknni, efon ntn ekarn, tita eknni ajannaku bo ti efon molle.

The elephant makes a dust, and the bufiklo makes a dust, but the dust of the buffalo is lost in that of the elephant.

197. Eknte ille ko fi ibi iga ji ban *ra won. The house-rat does not show its companion the hole in the ceiling (into which it may fall).

N.B.— The rat has escaped the danger, and leaves his friend to find it out. Chaeun pour sou


Eknte ille ko ri ennnba ologbo w^o. The domestic rat has no voice (i. e., power) to call the cat to account.


Elnbo se ogbodo ri, era se ommo ni ille babba re. (At) the Elubo was once a soft unripe yam, (so) the slave was once a child in his father's house.

N.B. — Elubo is prepared yam made into flour.


Emirin ige 'ni ko ti iga.

The (stinff of the) sand-fly is not so sharp as poverty .




El emo ki ma ni XbesCi Id omase de Ijanna.

Let the wonder fitojj at Ibese, and not proceed to Ijaima.

N.B. — Tbeee and Ijanum now dertrofed, vwre two frtmtiar townB at which traveHore entering tho Yoniba country auMeBftvely paid tributo. Mr, Crowtber espUiTW it by 'Met the matter proceed no further." It iomewbat anggeatfr—

  • ^ De par h Htji I MleaBe k Dieu

De faire miracle en c^ lieu."

It would also be applied, for instance, by the Abeokutans to the English at Lagoa, wishing to force new manners and customs upon them.


Bi iwo ko li owo o li ena, bi iwo ko li ena o li ohnn rere li ennn.

If you have no money (to give to one in distress), you may pay frequent visits; if you cannot yisit, you may send good words of the mouth (i. e., kind messages).

203. Enitere cgitere li oja ifi ikon. One here, two there, (so) the market is filled up. IS.B.—" Many a little makes a muckle.**


Enitere ejitere opo womn.

One here, two there, (so gathers) a vast multitude.




Bi ino ibi ajanaku abi Era.

If the elephant can be angrj, ao can the Era (a small black wood ant).


Enniti ko le igbe era, ti o nkusa si erin, yio te ara re.

He who cannot raise an ant, and yet tries to raise an elephant, shall find out his folly.

N.E — Straining at gnats and swallowing camels.


Ero ko jewo imota tan, bi o ba bi i, ali o feri die.

The trader never confesses that he has sold all his goods; but when asked, he will {only) say, ** Trade is a little better."

N3. — So Proverbs xz. 14, '* It is naught, it is naughty saith the buyer," Ac.

Enniti o da en li em ito.

Ashes fly back in the face of him that throws them.

N.B. — We say the same of ouiMt.

8 2





Owo 11 owo Ikft, opo li opo Emit.

Order is the order of the Ika^ multitude is the multi- tude of the Erun.

N.B.— Ikaa is & wbite ant; EniD a general term £or the ant tribe. The Hajring meaiuf, thai tJm Ika work^ m ranks, whilst all othenB more m irreguUr »wanQa. Thu ia eald when duorder appean in JUL ana J, companj, tawu, &:c*


lyan ni imn, ni ije eso iggi ki iggi. famine compels one to eat the fruit of all kinds of trees.

N.B. — Trinculo says, " Miaery acqiudnts a man with strange bedfellowa."


Esinsin ko mo ika, j^e ni ti re.

The flj heeds not death: eating is all to him.


Esn ko ni iwa ako ille re si ita. As the Eejected one has no (kindliness of) disposition, his house is made for him in the street (htf itself).

K,B.^Ebu (lit, r^ected) is generally translated *' devil/ Satan.



Ei esu ki yin eiye, esu fo ni ^o kan soso iye re re.

The white ant may well admire the bird, for after flying one day it loses its wings.

N.B. — The termes aasnmea its perfect form about the begiiming of the ruDB; after a few hours, however, it loses its wings, and falls an easy prey to man, birds, and reptiles.


Eo Bi oliim ti po to esn, bi o ba 'o ni ille a ba li oko.

There is nothing so numerous as the locusts: they meet you in the town and in the field.

N.B.— Somewhat like our "good folks are scarce; " but used In a deprecatory sense. n


Ete li egbon, ero li aburo, ogbon ino li o se eketta.

Consideration is the first born, calculation the next, wisdom the third.

N.B. — So we say, " Take heed will surely speed."


Aimete aimero ni imu enia mefk isingba egbafia.

Want of consideration and forethought made six bro- thers pawn themselves for six dollars.


Eti, gbo ekeji ki o to dajo.

Ear, hear the other (side of the question) before you decide.

N.B. — The same as our Audi alteram partem.


Iwnre je o re me, a^tan je ore iUe, ige iwa ille ba eledde je.

Wten the goat baa fed, it returns home; when the iheep has fed, it returoB hame; not returniag home after


feeding rums {(he character of) the pig, 1




K.B. — TMb eaying me&ntt, that a mjtn bhoald kiTe the loom 1


Ada ebo fan g^ngnn, o li on ko rn, ada ebo ftxn Akalla o li on ko rn, ada ebo fa eiyelle, o gbe ebo onibo.

Sacrifice was prescribed to the turkey-buzzard, but it refused to offer it; sacrifice was prescribed to the Akalla Tolture, but it also refused: when sacrifices were pre- scribed to the pigeon, it offered them.

N3. — This tradition explains to the Torubft why the two former birds remained unclean, whilst the latter is domesticated, and used for sacrifice.


Iwo ko ri akasn o npata si efo. You have not yet obtained the loaf, and jou began to prepare your stew.


Didon li o don li a nba ore je efo ti ille enni to ni


Because (Jriemkhip) is pleasant, we partake of our



friend's entertainment; not because we have not enough (to eat) in our own house.

N.B.— This saying is ever in the mouth of an Asiatie of the middle classes.


Agbara to efon ma la iwo.

A man may be as strong as the buffalo, yet he has no horns.


Egge ko so old, enniti o bo li abbe re a pa a kn patapata.

The Egge-trap never fails, whatever comes under it is struck dead.

N.B. — Egge is the common African trap made with a bent tree.


Enni egnn gun ni ise lakalaka to alabbe. He who is pierced with thorns must limp off to him who has a lancet


Asare nino egnn ko se laasan, bi iwo ko le ejo, ego li nle 'a

A man does not run among thorns for nothing; either he is chasing a snake or a snake is chasing him.


jkMH viaiKiM rsoM wxmr atbioa*



lict ^ m

^ bm iOi, i(ia 0|;ia Ha w d« 

It was the death of the fish that introduced it into the

town; what else would haTe brought it from the Ogun

Birer to the palace?

K.B.— Show* the e&cte of poTcrty, mufdrtone, and aimOar «j«dgmenta."


Okui gbogbo li adiyele, sogbon ko si emiiti o mo iye ant c^je aia enni; ejje ko fi oju rere jade.

Ereiy thing has its price; but who can set a price upon blood? Blood does not willingly leare the body. N.B. — Am the Asiatic pro v e r b jm, " Musk, Vare, aod murdflr will



Bi ekke otod ko to oko li ore ato li alle.

If the poor man's rafter (i. e.,the plan proposed by a

poor wum for Ungiheming the rafter) does not reach the

top in the morning, it will reach it in the eTcning.

K.Bw— A poor man it snppoeed to be looking on at the erectioD of a booBfl^ and zeoommBada apUdiig two raften together; hia


advice ia at first despised because he is poor, but is eventuall j adopted on the failure of all other plans. So EccleeiasteB is. 16/* Wisdom 'is better than strength: nevertheless the poor man's wisdom ift despised, and his words are not heard."


Akamo eknn o ni iyonnn.

It is difficult to encompass a leopard.


Imado iba se bi eledde abilliye, eni iba jobba enia ko kan.

A wild boar, in place of a pig, would ravage the town j

and a slave, made king, would spare nobodj.

N.R — Equivalent to our beggar on horseback. So Saadi some- where says, "If a Derwaysh were to head the armies of £1 Islam, they would soon reach the ends of the world."


Eleri ni iwajo, eleri ki ise elegbe.

A witness speaks the truth; a witness does not take (the liar^t) part.

N.B.— Inculcates the virtue of truth in testimony, the people being '• awful liars." Cf . Proverbs xiv. 5, " A faithful witness will not lie," &c.


Ei Olonm ki ofii 'o li emmi gignn. May the Lord of Heaven give you a long life! N.B. — ^A popular form of blessing.



^^r ^-^-^ — MeAubg, that by the aid of the great yon maj oSTdct

r flometbing great.


I ht


£mmi abata ni imu odo isan.

The iuJueuce of a foaiitnin makes the brook flow.


Bi aba soro tan em li a irin, bl aba yo taa onui

  • ni ikon *ni,

Wben a joke ia uttered it creates laugliter: wben one has eaten to the fullj he falls a-doziiig.

N.B.->TbiB iB somewhat in " low-life/' and cuts many ways: it would always apply when a man has had a ** belly-full" of a thing.


Aki ipe e li era ki ape e li oso.

What is {realh/) a load should not be called an orna- ment.

N.B. — Inculcates earaestness— Age quod agis.


Ereke ni ille erin. The jaw is the house of laughter. N.B. — The jaw is here compared with a happy family.


Mo 80 awo etta mo idi, o ki yi ota mi.

I have tied the leopard skin round my waist; you

cannot sell me.

N.B. — Meaning, I have the protection of powerful friends: you cannot ruin me with law expenses.



Afloiuno di ette, okere ni idon.

Familiaritj breeds contempt: distance secures respect.


Eya oibo ni Pulani.

The Fula are a tribe from over the sea {or white men).

K.B. — An ethnological adage connecting Fuka with Europeans.


Eyin ni idi aknko. The egg becomes a cock.


Ako le ifa 'ri lehin olori.

You cannot shave a man's head in his absence.

N.B. — You cannot settle a matter unless those concerned in it are present.


Okete ni ojo gbogbo li on mo, on ko mo ojo miran. The Okete says, ** I understand (whai you mean by) a speciGed day, (but) another day I do not understand.*'

N.B. — The Okete is a large rat that eats palm-nuts, and is therefore dedicated to Ifa. The saying applies to an undecided man: it also implies a suspicion, " Tou should explain your in- tentions."


Arm fa 11 oju akegaii, aj&n kasa 11 oju abu 'nI, abu

  • ni ko 11 okowo ni lUe.

A man walks at bis ease in the presence of his &buB&r; a, maQ st^pa proudly ia the preieace of hia aboaer; (when he knows that) the abuser hm not twenty cowries in his house,


Padaka babba oje, wiira babba ide.

Silver is the father of lead; gold is the father of brais.

N.B. — The alchemists invert these propositions. The Yoruha word for silver is Fadaka, evidently the Arabic fizzeh, which shows the metal not to have been indigenous. On the other hand, " Wura," gold, is a vernacular word. The saying means, that one thing is better than another.



Bi nwon ko ba fe o ni Iso nwon fatl si apakan. If they do not want you in their company, go aside.

"S.B, — The Yorubas are naturally intmsive, and are not to be expelled a room by hints; these truisms of advice are therefore neoessary for them.


Ipon ri iku ferlbo o.

The spoon seeing death, ventures its head into it (L e., is not afraid of scalding water).

N.B. — Said of a dare-devil, one who runs his head against a waU.




Piyesi ohim ti o nse.

Mind what you are doing.

N.B. — So we say, Moyennant Taotivit^ on fait beaucoup avec peu de peine."


Obogbo agba mo bem nyin, ilia mo bem nyin, Oyo misi mo bem nyin.

I present my fear (i. e., my respects) to the elders in general; I present my respects to the whole town; I pre- sent my respects to all the leading elders of Oyo.

N.B. — ^A complimentary saying addreased to the elders of Oya


Aki igbelle Id ama fohnn si 'ra enni. We cannot dwell in a house together without speaking one to another.

N.B. — Inculcates mutual dependence.


Enni ti fonna po ko le ise nkan. He who boasts much can do very little. N.B.—" Chien qui aboie ne mord pas."


Bi at! rin li ako *ni

As one is walking, so is he met. N.B.— Meaning, that the world takes you at your own valuation.





I where) ii & low fellow: if you luk Mni, "What am you selling?"

I he at once auBpecta simAter intentions. These tra^le-UluBtratioiifl are

I comraoQ. So tba French saj; £1 ment comme un arracbeuf de

nfnra bi elefo Tette.

He ie as auspicious a» the seller of the herb Tette* N.B> — The Tendor of Tette (a oommoo berb picked up Bv&ry-


Hase gba enniti o yo obbe mn,

Do not lay hold of a man who has a drawn knife.

255. Ekute iUe ni ti enniti o pa on ko don on to ti enniti gbe on sanle.

The house-rat said, "I do not feel so much offended with the man who killed me, as with him who dashed me on the ground afterwards."

N.B. — Thifl is our " Adding insult to injury.'*


OhuL elege ki igbe ibaje.

A delicate thing is not difficult to be injured.


Bi ake iggi ni igbo gbohnngbohon agba a. When a tree is cut in the forest, the echo repeats the sound.

N.B, — Said of actions done hj noteworthy men.




Enniti o gbon ju *iii lo ni ite *ni ni Ifa. (The priest) who is more crafbj than another, induces him to adopt the worship of Ifa.

259. Oudngudn ko se ibe elubo.

The Gudugudu (a poisonoui wild i/am) will not do to be made into flour.


Ibig'e isn ni ibige obbe: enniti o se ibaje enia, o se ibaje enia, o se ibaje ara re.

The badness of the yam is (laid to) the badness of the knife: (but it ii soon found out that the yam i* in fault; io) he who injures another injures himself.

261. ni ika nino bi ibaka. He is as stubborn as a mule.

262. Salala babba ibante.

The Salala (a euperior ttuff) is the father (i. e., the heit) of aprons.

N.B. — A compliment

IbcftUyoldeiiiiildoiiima. Imii ti ko to Ibtce

Jaqniiy aayei > man from mtitaiVfii. HewiioiiiakMiio inqiiiiy, geto himtelf mto trouble.

OliaiiiaraM ibepe.

He eneombera bimeelf like the pftpaw (n^m Men wiih frmt.)


Enia ki ise 'ni ni rere ki afi ibi sn tl He who has done you a kindness should never be ill- used*

Ibino ko se nkan fa* ni snrn babba iwa. Ibino ni iyo offa li apo, ohon rere ni iyo obi 11 apo.

Anger does nobody good: patience is the father of

dispoBitions. Anger draws arrows from the quiver: good

words draw Kola nuts (i.e., presents) from the bag.

K.B. — So the Hindi saying, " Aflsociate with the gnod, and eat Pan: associate with the bad, and lose your nose and ears."


Ibon ko soro ira bi eta, ijo kan li ara ibon igba gbogbo li ara etn, etn ko si ibon di opa.

A gun is not so hard to buy as powder: a gun is bought one day (i e., once for all) — powder must be



bought again and again. Without powder a gun is no- thing but a rod.

N.R — When you undertake a matter that will ever want- some- thing, you must look to your ability to keep up the expense.


Ibubu 11 atu Okun, ododo li atu Ossa, ibi ti a ba li atu Oyan.

Along shore jou must navigate the ocean: down chan- nel you must navigate the Ossa: where you please you may navigate the Oyan.

N.B.— The Ossa is the lagoon between Lagos and Badagry. The Oyan is a small stream running into the Ogun or Abeokuta river. The saying is a kind of lesson in matters maritime.

Ibokon ille, ibokon oja ki o ba o. May the increase of the house and the increase of the market befall you!

N.R— A popular blessing in the mouth of priest and priestess.


Idi babba eiye, idi babba akosa. The eagle is the prince of fowls: the eagle is the prince of birds of prey.

N.B. — A compliment.


So idi re fan mi.

Tell me the rump of it (i.e., the reason).



Ih nla m lya olawa re 11 apo. lu ordinate gaia makes a liole in the pocket. 1?,E — HaggKi i 6, " Ye h&vn sown much, and hrmg in little/' Ac.

^^r Bi ife fo oa U amo 11 akko eiye.

^^M The ife is noted bj its fli^bt as the bravest of birds.

^^B K.B.^^A compllmemt^ The Ife is a amall bird with bdglit

^^1 plume.


Apadi ni isajn ifonna.

The potsherd (on which live coals are carried) goes in

front of him who has taken the fire from the hearth

with it.

K.6. — The potsherd is an emblem of courage, becauBe it stands fire, and the proverb means that a hazardous enterprise requires a bold leader.


Igba li apa akipa awo.

A calabash maj be cut into halves, but not an earthen


N.B. — Said of a thing which does not commonly occur: this we have been accustomed to do, that not.


Aka Igba ta o nawo iku.

He who gathers Igbfl-fruit spends the money of death

(i. e., money which he has risked his life to get).

N.B. — The Igba is a kind of locust-tree (acacia), whose wood is yery brittle. So the gathering of locust fruit is called ikujare (iku-je- are), " death ia right," or - may be jxistified."



Igbako sanno, eleko ko sanno, igbako iba si, awamn eleko ko je.

The spoon is liberal, the pap-seller is not: the spoon would have given plenty, the stingy pap-seller would not let it.

N.B. — A taunt to the miserly.


Enia lanan po o jn igbe enni rere won o jn ojn lo.

Ordinary people are as common as grass, but good people are dearer than an eye.

N.B. — So we say, Qood folks are scarce.


Igbin ko mo ije ato okowo.

Had the snail not known where to feed in safety, it would never have grown so large as to be worth twenty cowries.

280. Bi igbin ba nfo kawon re ate le e.

When the snail crawls, its shell accompanies it.

N.B. — Meaning, that if the chief seta out the tail will follow him.


Bi ati yin awon 11 ayin igbin. As the tortoise meets with due regard, so should the snail.

T 2

N,B.— The IgW IB n bird that feed« oa the tiggs of other birda. It ii the cuckoo of Toruba sayings.


Oran ko ba ojngon o li on ko li eran.

When the skin is not hurt, it says that it has no flesh

(to protect U),

K.B. — ^Meaning, that when circumstances do not call forth a man's resources, he is apt to think he has none.

285. Ignn ti ogvm mi ko jo ti egun. Piercing ^^^ mth a lance) is not like pricking me with a thorn.


Ignn iyan ko jo ti elnbo, mimn ni iyan imn kiku li elnbo iku.

The pounding of Iyan is not like the pounding of Elubo: Iyan becomes more adhesive, Elubo separates into powder. N.B.— Iyan ia yam-paste, Elubo yam-flour.



Emi ko ri aye woUe nitori ihagaga. I have no room to go into the house, because of the crowd.


Ihalle ba oso enia je.

Povertj destroys a man's reputation.

289. Li ennn onihin ni ihin idon.

News is interesting from the mouth of him who tells it first.


Iho odo bo iho ^0 enia moUe.

The noise of the river drowns the noise of the people.


Enni ti o nsure kiri ni papa on li o wa nino ewn ati ji si iho.

He who runs about the fields is in danger of falling into a pit.


Ti ossan ti om iho imo^o gbe ille li aise, bi o ba dake aje pe o pin.

Daj and night the nostril is always at work: when it stops (lifi) is at an end.



^H Qa ni ije pe illu npe 'o ^bogbo won H o ni omko.

E?erj one in the assemblj baa a name; bat wben you are summoEed ** m the name of the assembly " {not in the name of some member of it, yaw «Joy he sure that) evil awaita you.

129*. Qa ko bimino ki o to. Strife never begets a gentle child.


Awa ko ri ese he, ^adan li ansa kin labbe iggi. We had no shea-butter nuts to gather: we were obliged to seek about to pick up the remnants eaten by the bats.

296. Bi aba ndije ni bi ise owe ama ya nL When we compete in working, our hands quicken (i.e., we work faster).


Ijo ni ti illu, Obba li o li agbo. The public assemblj belongs to the town: a select council belongs to the Obba {kin^).

2a8. Ika ko je se ommo re bake.

The wicked man would not treat his own child (as he treats others).




Ikan Dje ille agba nsoro ag^ba na ti ikau ti ikan.

The white ants are destroyiog a house: the old maa ( who oums it) complains. The old man himself will (soon) be the white ants* food.


Olori bnbnrn ki ire oko Ikan bi oba re oko ikan Ila ni ika wa ille.

An unlucky man should never go to gather the Ikan:

he will surely bring home the Ila instead.

K.B. — The Ikan ia the briujall or egg-plant: the lU is the Okro (oecro) or edible Hibiacus.


Ha fi ikai^u jaiye, aiye mi ehin 11 o po jojo. Be not in {too great) a hurry to eojoy the world: you have life enough before you yet.

302. Enniti aba ni ikara li o 11 ateteba. Whoso owns the inner square, owns the outer.


Iwo le ije obi o ise ikki bi?

You are always eating Kola-tiuts. Are you an Ikki? N.B.— The Ikki ii a small animal, supposed to lire on Kola nuts.



Ojo pa odide alnko nyo, olviko le hi ikleo baje oja mn ilko woio.

( rrA^ri) the rain beat upon the parrot, the woodjiecker ngolced, thinking that hlB {rwafsyted taU waaip^tod; but the nun only increased its beautj.

806. Iko 9kam, ewo Ifoj ija ki igbo ni ilMJi ekon. (As) carrying dust is forbidden in Ife, (so) no ^dog dares to bark near the leopard's lair.


Agbara odo ko jo agbara ikoko, bi agbe odo ka ina %jo, bi asi gnn iyan ni ikoko aln.

The strength of a wooden mortar is not like the streDgth of an earthen pot. Place a mortar on the fire, and it will bum; pound a yam in a pot, and it will break through (the bottom).

307. Oniko ko sa lumo.

A man with a cough cannot conceal himself


Ikoko aiye ya jn ikoko ti onm lo.

A comer in the world (of sense) is better than a comer

in the world of spirits.

N.B. — A sentiment familiar to' the Oriental poets. Carpe diem, ko.



Ikndu pa esin e 'nyo o mbowa ipa ommo enia.

When your neighbour's horse falls into a pit, you should not rejoice at it, for (your own) child may fall into it too.

310. Ikun babba orisa.

The belly is the father of the gods.

N.B.— So Rabelais of the Great Qaster. In the Peraian Al- nameh we find, L*juJ jjl^ bi.UI ** God ia a tray of plunder."


£ko ila gba ara re lowo obbe Ila ti akokiki ko bo, gboro ti akokiki ko fa, ommo ife mi ti mo gbekke le ko 16 bi mo ti ro.

The Okro vegetable, which was so celebrated, does not bear fruit; the pumpkin, which was so celebrated, does not trail: the beloved child, of whom I expected so much, does not answer my hopes.

312. Ilaja ni igba ogbe.

A peace-maker (often) receives wounds. N.B. — For which reason it is presumed he is " blessed.



313, Iwo ni ille ode, Ibara mi ille awodi, ati ipe ille


Iwo id the abode of the parrot, Ibara is the land of the hawkj but where ia the territorjr of the greeti parrot?

if. B,— Iwo may al*o mean the flocking together of c&niiv<yr0U£ bird?, whicb ia regard t^^l aa au iittmatiEju of ai recent or aji impending war m the aelgkboiiThood, lUid I bam their migratzun. Ho the pfwpla so^, **Awodi loh Ibara'*— the Lav^lu are gone to Ibara. The pro- verb hi uppliE^ to a Etrauger who wi^hea to pass hioie'ftlf oS u a matt «3Lf £DBM9qU@Iloe'

8U. lUeke-opoIo ko yin ole 11 ojn. Frogs' spawn attracts not the robber's eje. N.B. — Frogs' spawn is supposed to resemble beads.


noro li awo ki ato wolle.

One must go through the porch before entering the square.

316. Bi ankllo fan 'o, fi okilo fan 'ra re.

"When you are warned, warn yourself.


Akanse li offa imado jagan oro ki ipa aso. Arrows for the wild boar must be made to order: a common poisoned arrow will not kill that savage (animal) .




Bi ti wn' ni li ase Imalle enni o fi apa eledde je sari.

Any one may practise his Moslem worship as it is most convenient: he may breakfast oflf a pig*s foot.

319. Imolle ko gboddo tan ara wonje, imo ennikan ko yan.

Covenant makers should not deceive one another; (Jor) one man's counsel is not sufficient.

320. Afligu ni ijiwo, imoran ni ije obi marimaje ni ^'e ahnsa.

A man of fashion eats the I wo, a wise man the Kola nut; a man of vulgar tastes eats the Ahusa.

N.K — The Iwo ia a bitter fruit: the AhuBa ia an esculent nut


Imnnxniina abi idi sembe sembe, imnnniTma ko dana ri, tl ina ti ina ni mba ikiri.

Though the glow-worm never kindles a fire, yet it travels with glowing fire at its tail.

822. Ina njo ogiri ko sa ama gba gere gere si omL

Though the fire is burning, the walls do not shrink

from it, aud yet the fire is trying to consume the water.

N.B. — Said of those who aim at the greater, when they cannot accomplish the leas.



^K S33.

^H 0|ib9 btbliA iJU^ft, ij« babba ten! tenL

^V Tiw vihiXv m*n ia tbi> futlier of tDereh«itt«: (wani of)

I tiionry 11 tlH» fmllxT of disgrace.

Aki ifi oran ip&pA lo eja, okl UL ar&a odo ilo afe«  K0 one should ask ibe fiib wbat bappens in the pMQ; ttor fhould the rat b© asked wbat takc^ place in the water.


Ipeta li 086 apon.

The ipeta is the bachelor's soap. N.B. — Ipeta in the name of a tree whoae root ia uaed for washing and for bltsaching cloth.


Irawo san can san alommo lehin bi osupa. Twinkling, twinkling, twinkling stars, like bo many chickens bebiocl the moon.

N.B. — Said of the headman or leader of a hoat.


Ire ki li orisa bo fan abnke ti obi ommo ti bo li OriBagbemi?

What good have the gods done to the hunchback, that

he should name his child Orisagbemi? (i. e., the godt

have hleued me.)

N.B. — Meaning, whj should I acknowledge kindness when I have only experienced evil F




Ireke ni iwa ja esu, ada iggi Id ise omi si 'ni li ennu.

The sugar-cane has a better quality than the buhrush: there are not many plants (lit., trees) which can supply the mouth with such sap.

Oni 11 egbon olla, iri wowo ni ise egbon ojo. To-day is the elder brother of to-morrow, and a copious dew is the elder brother of the rain.

330. Aui ki ^*e Iro ki ore 'ni o si nfon 'ni li oron. The Iro was presented to us as something which might readily be swallowed, and, instead of that, it chokes us.


Irojn li ohxin gbogbo. t

Perseverance is everything.

N.B. — "With us it accomplishes great things — *' Labor improbus omnia vincit"

332. Irn esin ki ipe idi im enia, bi esin kn afi im si aiye.

The horse's tail soon becomes the man's tail; for when the horse dies he leaves his tail behiud him. N.B. —Property often changes hands


Opo Im ka ba obbe je.

Plenty of Iru does not spoil the stdw.

N,B.^ — Im is ihe seed of the locustfrult, used u & seaioaii)^. Th« prov^b mciaBa, ** Good advice never lidrqis, bowcTer mncb be offered/' — eomewhat oppckaed to our " Too niauj cooks spoil tli& hroih."


Isansa ko yan egun, isansa ko Ikawo obbe. A fugitive never atops to pick the tkorng from bia foot; the fugitive naakea no choice of his sauce,

835. Aki ire ni ison lo ida si ibn.

No one should draw water from the spring to feed the abyss.

N.6. — No poor man should deprive hinuelf of his Bmall property to make presents to the rich.


lya ni ti ommori isasun iya nje didon ommo i^e cm.

The pot-lid is always badly off: the pot gets all the sweet, the lid nothing but steam.

K.B. — Said of slaves who work without remuneration.


Onise ki ifi ise re sille re ebi. Wherever a man goes to dwell, his character goes with him.



Ise ko ma okko laya ki o ma ran ommo, asise ki ili ara.

Poverty never visits a husband without visiting his children: a poor man has no relatives.

339. Isowo mbe li onm nawonawo mbe ni iboji. The labourer is always in the sun: the landowner is always in the shade.

N.B. — Meaning, that one toila whilst the other reaps the fruit.


Isoran ni ise ajo.

The evil-doer is ever anxious.


Itta metta ko konno ebo.

The junction of the road does not dread sacrifices.

N.B. — Sacrifices to avert impending evil are always exposed in a place where several ways meet.


Itadog^ 11 ajo Egba.

A round of seventeen days is the meeting of the Egbas.

N.B. — There are many " savings' clubs" amongst the Egbas. The members meet to deposit their Esu or contributions at certain intervals, usually every fifth or market day. Each member in turn takes the whole of the sum contributed on a single day, until the rotation is completed. Those who come first on the roster secure



yrrr aitd wisdom from west afeica.

in thiB way a larger capital to dispose of than they woulil otberwutf have bociD able io command; autt the members whose ium cx)iiiq«  late, by eontiibutiBg to the oammou stock tave aaved the etime which they would otherwise huve exixsnded on ttiQea. Thi? ituU'ketd occur every fifth day; from one market lUy to the fourth succeed - ingi the fir^t and la^t both incluaive, the mt^rval is aeventeeu dayi!: hence the prorcrb. Tbo day on which the payment U made ta rockoned a kfooucI time oa the commeiiccment of a mew «^ea. Ereo at £*& Leone, the Egbaa keep up tluv erf stem.



Bi iti ko wo owo ki iba isepe.

Unless the tree falls, one will never get at the branches.

N.B. — Meaning, that if you cannot reach the chief you never will manage his men.


Bi ba tijn o til fd ra re.

If you are modest, you are modest to your own advan- tage.


Iwa ni ijo oniwa lojn.

Every man's character is good in bis own eyes.


Iwo ologbon ko jo ti asiwere.

The appearance of the wise differs from that of the fool.

N.B.— All things are not equal



Ise ko don iya ko fohnn ki amo exmiti iya ndon li aia.

Oalamitj has no yoice: suffering cannot speak to tell who is really in distress (and who is complaining without cause),

N.B. — It is hard to say who \a the real suflFerer, great calamity being mostly dumb.


Awodi lo ire iye nwon li eiye si lo. The hawks go away for the moulting season, and {the ignorant) suppose that these birds are gone for ever.

N.B. — Said, for instance, at the departure of an unpopular governor, when people prophesy from their wiBhes, yet prove false prophets.


jebbi oraa won.

He was guilty in the matter and then sat in s corner.

350. Oliun ti atejnmo ki \jona.

If you attend to what is roasting, it will not be burnt. K.B. — Meaning, do the thing with all thy might.



EqtI ni ki ama taffa, ki ni ki afi le OgunT Sana* kana Li ofi le Boko,

" Tou Bay we should not ahoot arrows; with what, thea, shall we repel the enemy?'*

    • 'T-was with a Kanakana {a slinf) that one of old re-

pelled the Boko people," replied the other.

N.B.— A proTerljud atyb of dkcomfiting an objectloiL

Kanakana eyi ti nre Ibara ni; efufu ta a ni idi pa, oni ise knku ya.

The crow was going to Ibara; a breeze sprung up be- hind: " That will help me on famously," quoth the crow.

353. Enia kan ni iro kang^ara bo ni li owe. One man makes bill-hooks to put into the hands of others.

N.B. — Meaning, that every man has his particular trait.


Kanhnnl i onuno Hanssa, asara li ommo Oyibo, gombo li ommo Onire.

Bock-salt is the produce of Haussa; tobacco is the pro- duce of the Oyibo (European); the spoon (tvith which the mixture of rock-salt and tobacco is retailed) is the produce of the chief of Ire.

N.B. — Means, that everything is in its own place. It is amongst the " wise sayings."




Eantikanti ko li oran akereg^be li oron.

The gnats have no quarrel with the calabash.

N.B. — Meaning, that they swarm about it only for the sweet liquor which it contains. It is also said to a bystander who inter- feres in a dispute which does not concern him.


Ohiin Keg^o ko de omn.

The voice of the Kegio does not reach the sky.

N.B. —The Kegio is a bird so called from its cry. The saying is applied to one whose voice has not much weight.


Akuko nla ko je ni kekere ki o ko. A large cock does not suffer a small one to crow. N .B. — Said when a superior is in office.


Ake onmio bi oju.

He indulges the child as (if it were) au eje. N.B. — Said of an over-fond parent


Kellekn tan okan je, ki ije behe, okun re don.

(The printed pattern of) the calico deceives the country cloth (which is usually dyed to conceal fiawi or coarse texture); (the calico) is not in reality what (the country

u 2


I c/o^A) takes it to be; {for tchtht ike fact of iU heing

I ^ffed msknii it sfiem coiirsr)^ the thread J a (found on inve^-

L ti^tiUon to be) fine,

^^1 K.B.— MeaoiQg, that further ftcquomtsmiia ci!t«n oorrectt fi^t

^^^ impreMionB,

r '

36a Ma 16 ba nu sire ti kere ifi. igba okan 11 oroa. Do not pky mt the trick by which the fool gets a rope round lira neck.

N.B. — Do Dot be tfeacb^rouv.


Enniti ko ki *ni abo, o pa adaao e *ka ille.

Whoso does not salute (his friend) on returning from a journey, forfeits the salutation {usually offered) to him ^ho has remained at home.

362. Ki aga, ki ag^o, ede ara wa 11 ako gbo.

We may talk this and talk that (i. e., we may express different opinions, hut) it is because we do not understand one another.

N.B. — Said during argumenta.


Kinnln di elewon kl erankoki, ki oma iso je, kinniu ko je eran ikasL Bi yio ba don ani, bikose erin, bi- ko-se enia, bikose ohun dudu. on ko bem ennikan.

The lion is the pet of the forest: let every beast take heed how he feeds, for the lion does not eat stale meat.




When he roars, he says, " Except the elephant, except

man, except the black thing, I fear nobody.'*

N.B. — ^The lion, unknown in Southern, is common in Northern Yoruba. The black thing may be the Naki, which some suppose to be the gorilla. Mr. Crowther unsatisfactorily translates it^'uran- utan." The proverb is applied to a great man and his rivals.


Kokoro jiwo jiwo, kokdro jobi jobi lara Obi 11 o wa, enniti nseni ko gbon 'ni lo.

{As) the grubs eating the Iwo, and the grubs eating

the Obi, lodge within the Iwo and the Obi; so he that

betrays you is not far from your person.

N.B. — The Ibo is a tree whose fruit is called the " bitter Kola." The Ibi is the esculent Kola. The proverb means, that the enemy inside the camp is the most dangerous.


Ako rira ko ni nkan odan ka sian sokoto. As the envious man has nothing (i. e., U unfit for 90ciett/)f so grass matting is unfit for trowsers.


Enia lassan ko ni kobbi olowo ko ni ilari.

As no {subject, however) rich, may possess a herald, so

it is not every man that may possess a palace.

N.B. — The herald is a royal privilege. The word Kobbi here translated palace, means properly, the tall gables of the regal roof; hence, by synecdoche, a palace. The proverb alludes to the species of divinity popularly supposed (in the East) to hedge in kings.


SflT- Obba koJTi bubtiru si awoa obtte. Tlie king regards rebels with an eril eje, X.H. — Said to the aiutiDaiie aod dkobedieafc


I 29

^H Kolokolo iba ini adire ko ftokTm; kolokolo ko gba a dire sin.

When the fox dies, the fowls never moum; for the fox never rears a chicken.


Konkosso ko da kn elubo.

The sieve never sifts flour bj itself (mtJiout some one to hold it).

KR — Meana, that firet will not act without second causea.


Mo kngbe 11 ehoro idon 11 oko, mo mn owo ra li aparo idon 11 abba baba.

" I am perishing! " cries the hare in the field: " I am a spendthrift! " is the cry of the partridge on the barn- top.

N.6. — There is more of sound than sense in this proyerb, whick is, however, applicable to ruined fortunes.




Kutokutn Id yi 'ni li erin meji, kntnlnita ni ^'e ownro, biri ni ^e alle.

The dawn cometh not twice to wake a man: the dawn is the earliest part of the day (i. e., time to hegin work); (with) the evening twilight comes the night.

N.B. — So our aayixig, Early to bed aad early to liaOt &o.


Lakari babba iwa, bi o ni snrn ohnn gbogbo li o ni. Patience is the best of dispositions: he who possesses patience, possesses all things.

N.B. — Patience and time run through the roughest day.


Bi apeja tan, lebbe eja ni iha cgi li ennn. When a fish is killed, its tail is inserted into its own mouth.

N.B. — Applied to those who reap the fruits of their own misdeeds.


Bi ina ba jo oko nugala afo wa ille. When fire burns in the fields, the flakes fly to the town.

N.B. — Nam tua res agitur mums quum proximui ardet

21!6 WIT AyH WISDOM from wis ST A^KICA.

iriiniL onm ko jo mlmu abbe. The keen heat of the sua is DOt tike the keenue^s of a razor.

N.Bt— Comporea great thinge witli ^maOt mferiani with 9i}peTi(7ra


Xodimiodii bablMi cgje.

Marrow is the father of blood. N.B. — ^A compliment.


Mottimotti ko mo agbe ji, omotti gbagbe ise ijaba. The drunkard cannot drink a hole in a calabash, though he may drink so as to forget his trouble.

N.B. — Sneering at those who mix strong liquor.


Enniti a mba inaja li awo aki iwo ariwo oja. Tou must attend to your busiuess with the vendor in the market, and not to the noise of the market. N.B. — Be earnest.


Hiw aju li ati \jogmi ehin li ati ise agba. A man may be born to a heritage, but wisdom comes only with length of days.




Ommo ki ino bi eranko. A child cannot be ]ost like a beast. N.E — Shows the auperiority of man over other animala,


Obu ko to iyo.

Obu {or salt earth) is not to be compared with real salt. N.B. — Said to a pretender.


Bi ako ri adan afi ode sebo.

If you cannot obtain a large bat for sacrifice, a small one will do instead.

N.B. — One must take the will for the deed.


Bi ino ko 11 odi, odi ani ino.

If the mind (i. e., a man) is not malicious, some one will be malicious against him. N.B. — All men must have enemies.


Odo gbe ma gbe ornko.

The stream may dry up, but the water-course retains its name.


Eniiiti wo odo li onuo nka ai^a Vq fa odo.

He who enters a rum may fear, but the ruin fears not.

N>B> — One who attafrks another ia often timM belara the attacL

lya odo on ommo re ko mi ija, agbe 11 o d^a sillo fun won: ommo odo ki ina iya re la&san.

The pestle and the mortar had no quarrel between them, it was the farmer that caused the quarrel (Jy sup- plying the yam for pounding): the child of the mortar (i. e., the pestle) does not beat its mother for nothing.

N.B. — Said of a person or a thing that causes disputes. 887.

Bi iwo okn iwo a la odo ya 'na. If you are going to die, need you split up the mortar for firewood?

N.B. — Better leave it to the Burvivors. Opposed to the European phrase, " Apr^ nous le ddluge."


Odu ki ise aimo oloko.

The Odu herb (a vegetable used as cabbage) is not un- kuown to the farmer.

N.B.~Said of any self-evident thing, a truism, &c.




Agbede bi ofe, amo ara ire bi odide; adebo fun ofe, ofe ko Tu aganran gbe ebo o rabo, asinwa asinbo ofe di ara Oyo aganran di ara oko: nwon se bi ofe ko gbon.

Sacrifice being prescribed to the parrot, he refused to

offer it, but the green parrot took the sacrifice and offered

it;• after all, the parrot is a citizen of the capital, and the

green parrot is an inhabitant of the province: (and yet

people) thought that the parrot was not wise.

N.B. — The green parrot is counted a clean bird, and offered in sacrifice, while the parrot is unclean, and never molested. The saying is one of those sneers at religion, much affected by Africans, Hindoos, Chinese, and idolaters generally; but not by any means proving that they are disposed to change.


Odndua igba nla meji ade isL

Heaven and earth are two large calabashes, which, being shut, can never be opened.

N.B. — Odua and Odudua may mean either heaven and earth, or the supreme goddens of the world, who came from Ife. The saying alludes to the concavity of the sky which seems to touch the earth at the horizon.


Ase ofofo ko gba egba ni ibi ope 11 o mo; ofofo li egbon ororo 11 aboro.

A tale-bearer receives not 2000 cowries (i. e., no pay- ment); thanks are all his reward. Tale-bearing ia the elder brother; bitterness is the younger.




Ennu oforo ni Lpa oforo, oforo bl ommo meji o ko won wa eti ouna oni, Qmmp mi ye kjorokorQ,korokoro,


It Vt'n3 the squirrerB own nioutb that betrayed her^ for when she bad brought forth two young ones, she t^arried them to the roadi^ide, and ynid, •* My children are very sound, very sound, vory Bouud! '*



Ofurnfii ko se ifiehin ti.

One cannot lean upon emptiness.

N-B. — One cannot do impossibilities. 894.

Ogbo ko It ogim.

There is no medicine against old age.


Bi Ogboya ba fi im na ille li erinmetta ni illu, iJla na atu.

"When the Ogboya strikes its tail tlirice on the ground in any town, that town will be deserted.

N B. — A popular superstition: the Ogboya is an animal about the size of a cat.




Ogedemgbe iro ki ida ni si iyewu gbangba ni ida ni si.

The headlong fall of a liar is not concealed, but is exposed to view.

397. Apon di Ogi o saio.

When a man becomes an old bachelor, he makes his own fire-place (i. e., he must cook his own food), N.B. — Ogi means an old dog, or an old bachelor.


Ogidigbo pari iln gbogbo; bi onre bi owe li alu Ogidigbo: enniti o ye ni y o o— Gbo, Aj^^o, gbo, obba gbo, ki emi ki osi gbo.

The Ogidigbo is the best of all drums; the Ogidigbo has

a meaning in its sound: he who understands the sound

can dance to it — ** May you be old, King Ajagbo! may

you be old, may the king be old, may I also be old! **

N.B. —This ia said of one who can talk eloquently, and quote many proverbs.


Ileri ille ko mo ajagim, knfekufe ko mo ^'a: Qo ti ari ogan li amo ogo.

Boasting at home is not valour, parade is not battle: when war is seen, the valiant will be known.

N.B. — So the Arabs say, " Character is shown in travel, bravery

in the battle."



O^ongo babba eiye.

The oatrieh U the father of birds.


]ja ni ipa onitijn ogim m ipa alag^barft.

Ab a street-quarrel will prove fatal to a bashful man (i. e.j a man wha fears to he ihought a coward), so will war kill a man renowucd fur viilour.


Gegele 11 o bi gegele koto li o bi koto, ojo ro si koto gegele nrojn.

Bank rises after bank, and ditch follows ditch: when the rain falls into the ditch, the banks are envious.

N.K — This is said to those not satisfied with their position in life.


Qjown ko li eran li aiya iba jowu ko yo.

A jealous woman has no £esh upon her breast (i. e., M always thin); for, however much she may feed upon jealousy, she will never have enough.


Ojn babba ara: awon bi oju, asoro ida bi agba.

The eye is the father of the body: as the eye is too dear to be purchased, so it is hard to act well an elder's part.



Qjngon mn odo fohnn.

The leg (of the wader) makes the brook resound.

N.B. — Said of one who speaks well, who makea an impreasion upon his hearere.


Ojnmo mo o nyo ojo iku ndi?

When the daj dawns, you rejoice: do 70U not know that the day of death is so much the nearer?


Oju-onm ko hnko, illepa ko je ki oka ki be onna wo.

As the grass cannot grow in the sky, so the dead can- not look out of the grave into the road.


Okele gbomgbo fe ommo li ojil A large morsel chokes a child. N.B. — Said of oveigreed and ambition.


Okete babba ogun: bi asigun olnkuluka ni odi okete lowo.

A store of food is the best equipment for war: when war is proclaimed, every man takes up his wallet.


Gbcgbo wa 11 ajnmo fi Okete Ean ogoffa: nigbati Okfete ofl di cgojdf oja gbogbo wa ni ym si sa.

\V4> all agreed to value the Okete-rat at 140 cowries (its

u*uqI price) i w he a 20 cowries are to be added, it mtist

bfl bf comiDon coiiflent.

KiB. — Heo IVn'erl}!^42, ThiB Kfkji&j^ m«aiia that in raattera of Uw, property* &ti> wb)*t is fixed by common couaent ^mu»t 1m


OkiM Oibo kan ka gbogbo aiye.

The fame of the white man spreads throughout the world.

412. kan okikiri. It comes to the knot (i. e., the difficult point),

413. Owo ologiri ehin ti li ogun.

A multitude of warriors behind their leader is like a flock of palm-birda.

N.B.— Said of a man with a long "tail," or of one very popular.


Iwo ko In omiran li era o nlu a li ossan? Do you not first strike the giant in the night, before you strike him in the day?

N.B. — Bribe your judge at night, and bully him by day when

the cause comes on.




Bi abu omi si ori o nwa esse ibo.

When water is poured upon the head, it will find its

way down to the feet.

N.B. — This means that good actions sooner or later will prevail Thus we say, " A stone up thrown will surely fall." It is also applied to a fugitive slave home returning.


Ije on ore ni imu ommo ise ise.

Competition and reward induce a child to work.

417. Oni emi nlo, oUa n 'nlo ki \je ki ajeji ki o gbin Ahusa.

"To-day I am goinp^! — tu-niorrow I am going!" (in- tended removal to-day or to-morrow) gives the stranger no encouragement to plant the Ahusa {although U hears fruit very quickly).

N.B. — A rolling stone gathers no moss.


le isQn bi Opera.

You sleep like the Opere (a hU'd noted for sleepiness).


Oran na de cpln.

The matter is come to the highest point.


mT AjTD misoM:psoii webt 4psica« 


£o mo ore, ko mo ora, ti ignR eBin apatta.

Kegardlesa of UindneBB, regardless of the purcliaser, (the un^ruieful fntnt) ridea the {lent) horse orer the focka.


Ki ire ore ki o re BmBin idi re.

Thougli the porcupin© be weary, tUt? (quilU of it 9} tail

will Eot be weary.

N.B — There U a ftupenBtittou that the poroupio« ftlwajii fihakeft ita quille l>efore feedings in qrder to divine wbat uaocesa it will racet with in its excursions.


Osupa gbe oke mo Oyo obba gbe ille mo ara oko.

As the moon remains stationary above, and yet knows (i.e., shines over) Oyo, the capital, so the king remains at home, and knows (what) his subjects (are doing) in the province.


Nwon sebi otosi ko gbon bi oloro, nwon ni gbon iba ilowo.

Men thiuk that the poor is not as wise as the rich; for if he were wise, why is he poor?


Owe li esin oro bi oro ba no owe li afi iwa a, owe on oro ni irin.

A proverb is the horse of conversation; when the con- versation is lost (i. Q', flags) i a proverb revives it; proverbs and conversation follow each other.

N.B. — Pace my lord Chesterfield.



Ownsuwusa mu oju orun baje gadegnide ko je ki onin ki o ran.

The fog spoils the face of the sky: gloominess prevents the sun from shining.

426. Ta li oje ft obbe 'yi o no je isn.

No one confesses that he has eaten yam with a knife that is lost.

N.B. — So in England; nobody, or the cat, breaks the china.


Enia bi obbo li obbo iya li aso.

The monkey ia sure to tear the cloth of any one who is

like himself.

N.B. — Said of those who frequent low society; they will surely have their reputations torn, as clothes are torn by a monkey whom one stupidly approaches.


Ohun ti wiL obon ni ifi owo re ira, ohon ti o wa afinju ni ifi owo re ise.

The filthy man lays out his money in whatever pleases him; so does the gay man with his money.

N.B. —No one should meddle with another's rights.


Mofere ipa eiye na. Aki ije ofere li obbe.

" I almost killed the bird! '* (said the sportsman). " No one can eat * almost' in a stew** (i.e., "almost^* never made a stew — was the reply),

X 2



^in oflu ma ta oju ille, sipolo ji ofln ma tajn at! jade. A man ftiEen into a pit, neeii not baateii to get borne i a frog fiiUen into a bole, need not burrj to get out,

N.£L — Vfhen A matter is bopeleisst let it h^ 431.

Ase ofon bi alakaia^

Hq is as peranaaive aa a acUer of cakei* N.R— Said of '* sweet-mout"


Ogan imado ko se iko li ojtl The great wild boar is not easy to encounter. N.K — Said to one ^ho undertakes an imposaibility.


Ogan Tue nkan die.

The great one is trying to sbow off a little. N. 6.— Spoken in contempt of a boastful man.


Ogbagba wolle o knn ati yo.

The pin ia driven into the ground; the question now is bow to pull it out.

N.B. — We bave got into trouble, how shall we get out of it?



Agarawn yi si ogbon ko kn. . Though an Agarawu (a tribe of the Fopo nation) fall into a ditch, yet he will not die.


Ogbon-oyibo ti ino okun la wa, aso ki li o bori Akese.

Though the white man's gauze came all the way over

the sea, yet what cloth may be compared to cloth of

Akese cotton?

N.B. — The Akese is the red-flowered cotton; others say, the sea-LBland cotton. This saying applies to those superior in action.


Ogedde gbe odo so sinsin; eja gbe ino omi dara.

As the banana by the water-side sends forth moisture, so the fish in the water retains its beauty. N.B, — Said when praising another's good looks.


0^t^%Q ko li ewa sa 11 o fi ara we isn. Tlie (poisonous) cassada has no good qualities; in vain does it appear like the yam.

N.B.— Said of a hypocrite, — the daw that drears another! feathers.


Ise ogero li ole iwa ise ko je mn ise agbara.

A lazy man seeks easy employment: he would never choose a laborious one.


Tha man with the kootted club.

N.B.^Tiilfl alkidea to anmo oTil entity which ve t«Tm " devU lie is auppoied kp carry an Oggo, or ahort Imotted club.

^H M iwo ko raa 'ni si oja, oja ki Iran *ni si ille.

^^P If jciu send no oae to the market^ the meirket will send

no one to jou.

N.B. — Nothing can be done without exertion.


Oyibxi ta oja ta ornko: Egun ta aso ta edidi The European trader sells his goods (to the Egun or Fopo — the people of Badagry and Dahome): the Egun sells them again with the string round them (i. e.,jugt as he received them),

N.B. — This sing-song saying means, that neither of them seeks to make gain by petty retail. The Popo is a middleman.


Ipin ojellun ki ije ina ki o ku.

The good genius of everj eater (i. e., any man) does not permit fire (with which food is cooked) to depart from the earth.

N.B. — Inculcates trust in Proyidence.



Li ojo alaiye ti de aiye ni iwa ti se.

From the time that the owner of the world appeared in

the world, the world began.

N.B.— The cuBtoms ({?-*>) of an empire begin with its esta- blishment.


Okanjua babba aron. Covetousness is the father of disease.


Iggi okaigua so esc pipo, kaka ki ama ka 'a, o yo ake ti i ike Inlle.

A tree belonging to an avaricious man, bore abund- antly; but instead of gathering the fruit (lUtle hy little), he took an axe and cut it down (that he might get all at once).

N.B. — This is an African version of our goose with the golden eggs.


Okankan li ase ibi, ikoko li ase imolle, bi atojn imolle tan, ki atoju ibi pelln, bi aba kn ara enni ni isin 'ni.

A man must openlj practise the duties of relationship,

though he may privately belong to a secret association:

when he has attended to this, he must attend to that

also, because when he dies, it is his relations who must

bury him.

N.B.— Said of the "companies," "trades unions,** or private clubs of the Yoruba people, the dangerous " Akoos" of S'a Leone.



Okkin obba eiyai okUn elewa aila. ' The Okkin (prmUf) it a- king of burds, and the ovuer

of. the beautiful white feathers. N.B.— >A oomplisMnti


Oko lakxL MO li obI obiri.

The husband's deaUi is the widow's sorrow.


Oknn mo onna telle ki oju re ki o to fo.

The Okua must have known the way before it became blind. . -

N.B. — The Okun is a harmless reptile with many feet (the milU- pede t), and supposed to be sightless.


Enniti ba hu ipa ko hu ipa, enniti iba hu ele ko hu ele, Okun ti oni igba owo ti o ni igba esse nhu iwa pelle.

The person who might have used his strength, did not use his strength; the person who might have used force, did not use force; the Okun, which has 200 hands and 200 feet, acts gently.


OUe kon are lowo, iyanju li agba ijo gbogbo ni ife ire ni.

Laziness lends a helping hand to fatigue: one must persevere, because fatigue must be felt ewerj day.




Bi oju onuno ko to oran ato awigbo. If a child is not old enough to be an eye-witnesa of ancient matters, he must be content with hearsay.


Angba onuno adire lowo ikn o li ako je ki on ki o re atan lo ije.

A chicken having been preserved (hy heing shut up) from death (i. e., the hawk), complained that it was not permitted to feed openly on the dunghill.

N.B. — A reckless man plunges into peril regardless of warning.


Ope li ope ejika ti ko je ewn ki o bo. Thanks are due to the shoulders, which keep the shirt from slipping off.

N.B. — Be grateful to the man who prevents you falling.


Ore \je ore, ora ije ora, aki idape motopo. A gift is a gift, a sale is a sale, but no one will thank you for " I have sold it cheap."

N.B. —So in African- English the people suy, " Dash he bo dash, trade he be trade." And the Persian proverb is, " Brotherhood is brotherhood, but a kid is always worth half-a-crown."




I 3]

^^f Osm mo iwe ino mhi eiye oko.

^^P Beeau^t^ the Ohiu (^water-hird) knows bow to swim, ttie

^H other birdfl are eanouft*

^■^ K.R— A man clerer m buimoia is oert^iiil;^ earied.


AI« koko bi o«an ogbe jba ohna ma jimu (vi cutting fCi^d if m) tough ad a bawetring; a cutting word cannot be bealed, though a wound may* N.B. — So the Peraans say,

" There is healing for hurt of the sword and the spear, But the wounds of the tongue— they never heaL" And the French, " Un coup de langue est pire qu'un coup de lance."


Osin ki isin enniL

Though a man may miss other things, he never misses

his moiith.

N.B. — However great a blockhead a man may be, he can always do something.


PamoUe ko oran afojudi. The viper allows no insolence, N.B. — The man who can punish enemies will be well treated.



A wolf (believed to have been once a human beiny, a lycanthrope^ a loup-garou).



462. . ,

Petepete Ijesa o ta si 'ni lara ma won. If the mud in the Ijesa country adheres to one, it will not (easily) be washed off. N.B. — Slander 8 mud sticks.


Here ojn, oju li afeni snti lehin. An eye-servant promises friendship; but he despises you behind your back.


Olori li ori isaii ki isan akan loke ode.

(The good geniits of the) head prospers the owner of

the head, and not the crab on the bank of the river.

N.B. — A fortuuate " spirit" is supposed to reside in each man's brain: the crab is used to represent one who haa no connection with or claims on, another. The proverb, therefore, signifies that each man has an exclusive right to the proceeds of his own fore- thought and industry.


Ohun ti aso siwaju li aba, ohnn ti asi gbin, li awa; nikbati ako so siwaju, ti ako gbin sille ki li aoba.

A thing thrown forward will surely be overtaken; a thing planted in the ground will be there to dig up: but if nothing has been thrown forward, what shall be over- taken? and if nothing has been planted, what shall be dug up?

N.B. — As you sow so shall you reap: the industrious make fortunes, the idle do not.



Elekun sonktm o ba tl re lo arokan iba soknn ko dake.

A weeper {who comes to condoh mlh Iter friend) wee pa and goes ber ways; but one who dwdia ou painful recol- lections, weeps atid never cetiseB,

N,B.— Shows that iliere Are di^erent dcptb) at feeling.


Sakata ni ida won won nl Bese.

The morass is an obstruction to the people of Bese town.

N.B. — Said of any ol^struction.


Segge ko mo enni obba, ojo ko mo enni owo. As the Segge does not regard the king's messenger, so the rain does not respect great men.

N.B.— The Segge is the tall " Guinea-grass/' bending over tb«  road towards the dry season.


Ille sokoto or Ille koto kiki ekan. A confined room, containing nought but pins. N.B. — A riddle, meaning the mouth.



Orisa ti akeke ti ko gb' ike, orisa ti atete ti ko gbite, oju popo ni igbe.

The god that would not be pleased when thej tried to please it, the god that would not be propitiated when they tried to propitiate it, must take up its abode in the highway.

N.B.— Said of a person whom you try to please and cannot


Aki imn ibon tetere.

A gun is not to be held carelessly.

N.B. — As wo say, " Look at your gun, but don't allow your gun to look at you."


Obogbo won fe oju toto.

They all distort their faces.

N.B. — A phrase describing the expression of countenance assumed by those who have a laborious task imposed upon them.


le bi oju eja ti ehiu ko le iwe. It is hard as the eye of a (smoked) fish, which the teeth cannot break.

N.B. — Applicable to any difficult matter.

Wobia yo tan o pe egbe re wa.

Tho glutton liflving eaten to the full (in ihfl home of a friend) f cfjlls hi« compnniotii dao to tome (/^ iJie snmts hQjt^Gj imtmd of leini; mtUJi&d with the hospitaUitf he hat

N.B,— Said of a greedy and ungrateful guest. 476.

Owon adire bi iti won kolokolo ni mo fi won o.

The vengeance which the fowls imprecate on the foi, do I imprecate on you! N.B. — A curse.


Enniti o mo wnra li a ita a fan. Gold should be sold to him who knows the value of it. N.B.— So the Affghan song says, jj\j <f • • jj.


Yamyam se faja 11 aill apa.

The mosquito makes a bold attempt without arras (i. e.,

potcer) to accomplish it.

N.B. — The buzzing of the mosquito is supposed to resemble the word " Gbe," to carry away. Said of one who undertakes a task far above; as a gnat might say, " Take him up! *' — " Carry him off.'



Adire olommo yoyo.

A hen that has many chickens (i.e.,- the milky way).

N.B.— So the Oji tribes call the Pleiades " Akokotan ni n'Emma " (hen and chickens).


Aya yo ni ijokan, o ni ki aka on 11 ehin okankan.

The monkey having one day eaten to the full, desires that his fore teeth may be drawn.

N.B. — Meaning, improvident persons are ready to sacrifice the future to the present.


Aya sejn ommo re kiwobo o.

The monkey winked its eye: the young one thrust its finger into it.

N.B. — Meaning, that however quick the wink of the monkey s eye, the motion of the young one's finger is quicker still. This saying exhorts us to be expeditious in our actions.


Iwo mo igon esln re se sesse.

You (^profess to) know how to ride: how is it that your horse's leg is broken?



4 S3.

Omi 11 dano, a^eugbe ko fo.

It ifl only the watur that ia spilt; the calabash ia not

N^B.—Meauiog, tlmt though failura Attended the Erst attempt, jet, whilst the meoDd exiatj another may hg uiAdt) with suet.'Aiis.







The Efik, or language of Old Calabar, is grouped hj M. Koelle (Polyglotta Africana) among the unclassified languages of Africa. He has, however, viewed the sub- ject from a purely etymological stand-point. The dialect is spoken by a people who, expelled by intestine strife from the Ibibo, or Egbo Sherry (a large country, stretching from the Cross River westward to the I bos of the Niger), established themselves on the banks of the Old Calabar River. Their principal settlement is Atakpa, or Duke Town, about 30-35 miles from the sea, in N. lat. 4° 57', and E. long. 8° 19', with an estimated population of 4000 souls. Okuritunko, or Creek Town, about 6-7 miles distant, is the second in size, and has contained as many as 3000 souls: it is now, however, in decadence. The total number of the Efik, or Old Calabar people, is laid down at 60,000; but no data exist for forming an exact computation.

In this, the heart of the Biafran Bight, there is a peculiar luxuriance of language, each tribe speaking its own. " For example, if we take Creek Town as a centre, and describe a circle of a hundred miles radius, we shall either include, or trench upon, the tribes of Usahadet

T 2


(Bakasej), Efut (KAmeroons),* Aqua (Qua), Ak&jon^ TJwet, Umon (Boaon)^ Ekoi and Uneoe (Ibo)» We hare in this area at least ^ight difiPerent tribes, with at umnj distinct tongues, besides the Efik and its various dialectB."

Thii and the eictrncts below giren are borrowed from the laborious and echolar-like work, " A Dictionary of the ECk Language, in Two Parfcfl,!• Efik and English* a. Engikh and Efik. B/ the Eey. Hugh Goldie, Mis- flionary from the United Presbyterian Church, Scotland, to Old Calabar. Glasgow; Printed by Dunn and Wright , 1862/- I have not altered the reverend gentleman's orthography, and beg to return my best thanks for his kindness in explaining to me the meanings of the sayings.


1. Aiu edi Adiba.

Ton are (strong as) an Adiba.

N.B. — The latter ia a large turtle of proverhial strength.


Ubuene anyam nma ke aiara.

A poor man makes market with his shoulder (i.e., $hruga his shoulders).

N.B. — '* A toom purse maks a blate merchant."

  • This onLappy mode of travestjing the good old Spanish name,

"Camarones^ is another sample of what light we derive finora ICr. Cooley'a "Inner Africa bid Open" (I), p. 122.



Akftn anwan i-qne. " Old woman cannot see." N.B. — Meaning, small rain, a " Scotch mist.'*


Onim aku ye idnt (or ufok).

They keep requital for country (or family).

N.B.-— Meaning, they remember an injiiry formerly pasaed over in their favour, and so pass over an injury done to them now; or they make return of evil. Aku, or Oku, is a debt of retribution, or a requital of good or eviL

Hesin aku ye enye.

I let pass what I might have made palaver about {thaC he may do io to me in return),

N.B. — So I lay him under this obligation. 6.

Ekpnk etu abiat ekuri; akan abiat ama.

A knot in the tree spoils the axe; famine spoils friendship.

N.B. — Sine Cerere et Baccho friget Venus.

Otnk owe nte otuk nkpo ke aqnak.

He grinds a man as oae rubs something on a grater.

^ ' —


^H 326 WIT AKD WISDOM £-EQlI Wli»T .ATRICJk* ^^|

b 1

^^^ Asat owtiVTia iyak. ^H

^H The Asat {Jkh) givea laws to the fisbes, ^^|

1 1

^H Onwon ata ye ekebe. ^^|

^^^ You drink flood and ebb (i.e», alwajfi). ^^H


Ata ada mi oduk ekebe ada mi owara.

The tide carries me ia and out.

N.B.— Meaning, my changing inclination leads me to, and then away from^ my purpose.


Atai AbasL

" The principal wife of God," a name sometimes given to the Utere, or vulture, it being the " Bird of Jove " in Calabar. In their mythology, Ibasi Ibum, and Inyan Ibum (probably personifications of Earth and Ocean) were sons of Ibum Eno.



Literally, "Speak the truth," an Aqua phrase, meaning a gentleman's dance, connected with an E-bo (mys- tery or association).




Ofaro ayara.

He becomes barren.

N.B. — Spoken of one fonnerly respectable in conduct becoming addicted to evil habits.


Ison odiok ibikput enye oforo ayara.

The soil is bad for the corn, it becomes good for nothing.

N.B. — Said of a place in which a man becomes poor.

Obaha mi.


It escaped me.

N.B. — Spoken, e.g., of a thing dropped oat of the hand, or of a stone thrown, hitting some one accidentally.


Owo emi abanade owo, owo enwen onynn abaaa eaye ntre.

A man who talks of others behind their backs, another will talk of him in like manner.


lyak ebe inyan.

The fish has been kept oyer ope tide. N.B. — A proverbial phrase for It is spoiled.



Kubiene enye neia.

Do uot cause hia boweU to wither.

N.B. — Meaaing, do not overpower him with dread. So a tn*n win aay, ** My boiro!s fjnil withia me " (jfrom gre»t MgHt); or, *' in- tenee diEjuay (mbariba) makes mj body feeble."


Owo om ebit Idn nte ndek mon.

That man is aa &igid in laia manner as cold wnter.



Obinmo (or abiat) idemesic.

She spoils herself.

N.R — Said of a woman bearing twina, who, in Old Calabar, are liable, like the mother, to be destroyed.


Nyin ikpobon akam ino Abasi ikpon, kora Abasi okupde akam owo obonde ono Enye.

We should pray to God only, for Gk>d hears the prayers which man addresses to him.

N.B. — ^This I Buspect to be a misBionaiy Baying.


Imo isanake ikpon, owo midnlLe eke etienede imo» ikon odua.

The yawner says, he does not walk alone; if there be


no one to follow him (i.e., catch the infection), the leaves of the trees will fall.

N.B. — Thifl is a Nke, fable or adage, spoken by one who, knowing that his /leath is determined on, seeks an opportunity to kill some one, so as not to die alone.

Enye adana nbnm.

He secures the canoe by giving earnest-money.

N.B. — The individual gives two ooppersj one for the bow, and the other for the stem, as earnest money, so that he claims the right of purchasing the boat when it is made. The Okuk is a brass or copper rod, the circulating medium of Efik, as far as such exists.


Oknk ami edi eridana ITkot

These coppers are the earnest-money of the Ukot (the Baphia vinifera, or bamboo palm), so that I claim to buy the Mimbo (or Min Efik, the palm-wine), when it is drawn.

N.B. — " Min ** is any beverage but water. Min Makara, "white man's beverage," is rum. I have already noticed the similarity of the widely spread word Makara or Mbakara, with the American- negro slang " buckra man."


Edet fxL ke inna edekhe nte mkpai Your teeth in your mouth are perfect, firmly com- pacted together, like a cluster of palm-oil nuts. N.B.— A neat and idiomatic compliment to a lady.



Eiet esie ana srin nte enii mon edealde. His heart lies quiet like limpid water*

27. Ufok €tuit edeni. The house 18 rubbed quite cleao.

N.B.^Wbcn smeared witli bf^ d€ mrJit^ which lafa all the

dtut Thuiiiftciutouibcire wia UJiuli»Uii.


Adia nkn ete esie.

He reaps the benefit of the respect in which hia father

was held.

N.B. — Said of a child reoeiving support from" respect to hin dead father.


Ekpri eta adiana akamba ndien okpnn.

The small tree-climbing plant adheres to the large one,

and thus grows big.

N.B. — Meaning, he attaches himself to the fortunes of some great man, and so prospers. So the East Indian saying, that insects in flowers ride on the heads of Rajahs.


Idian adiari, isna akabade.

The cricket cries, the year changes.



Edim edep, idiokke aban; ama ebiere, ndien ada aban odiok.

While the rain fell, he did not place his jar (to catch it); now that it is over, he takes his jar and places it. N.B. — Meaning, he has after-wit; he is wise behind-hand.


ibut ama enyene adia ye nnen, tmen ama enyene esie ada odok okom.

If the goat has anything, he eats it with the fowl; if the fowl gets his portion, he goes up on the roof of the liouse.

N.B. — Meaning, I share with you when I have anything; but you do not do so with me.


Abasi mimana owo, Utere idaaba.

If the Creator does not like a man, the (sacred) Utere-vulture will not descend (i.e., in token of the acceptance of his sacrifice when he makes the Usarafeast, and throws out flesh to be eaten).

N.B. — Meaning, if God had not favoured, or been pleased with me, I should not have met with this good fortune.


Owe odua ke nkat, adaha; owo odua ke inua, idabake.

He who falls by his foot (i.e., slips) shall rise again; he who falls by his mouth shall not rise.

N.B. — Meaning, by imprudent speech he commits Imnself, gives his enemy power over him.




^^P N.B, — Metoiing, lie gpowa or ia wealthy: the hlgbeei A^bitioQ

f of the '* gentlemau " "being to build a grajid *bodft.

Owe om odabi nfok.

I^but muti makea hia bouse bi^.


Ab&k odun ofiok eynp atat

He who cornea early to diinb kno^a the palm-but

which has the flr.

N.B. — Meaning, be who knows him of old, knows what liberty to take with him; or, having known it himself, he is able to sym- pathise with others — Miseris succurrere discit.


Oduok ntekhe, enye emen.

He left an overhauging shade, and the other entered it.

N.6.— Meaning, the one took advantage of the shade, or cover, which the bush afforded to follow the other iinobserved.


Enye oduokho mi.

He falls upon me.

N.B. — Meaning, he fastens a quarrel upon me: not being able to meet the great man who has angered him, he causelessly vents his wrath on me.


Odnri eka enyin. He gives titles to his mother. N.B. — Meaning, he calls her by childish names of endearment.



Hdntke ndikok ntakon udia esie. I am unworthy to grind pepper for Lis food. N.6.— Meaning, his shoe's latchet I am unworthy to loose.

Akpa ke ebebat

He dies with the (free) man he has killed, in retalia- tion for killing a man. .

N. B. — Ebeba is retribution which does not repair the injury done, as in exacting a tooth for a tooth, &c. ** Uaiene " implies restitution.

42. £bet» or Ebed.

The smallest antelope in Calabar: it is said to indulge much in sleep; hence, a drowsy fellow.


Ikon eben idianake eben ke idem; inua owo ifonke abanade owo.

The leaf of the Eben (a hind of plum-tree) is not close to the fruit; the tougue of one man upon another is bad.

44. Afa omodok ebende nte oyiL You turn into a running sore, as a boil does. N.B — Meaning, you become vile.


WIT Ajsra wisDQic f&qm ws&t Air kica.



Anam eten-idem.

He prepares eomethbg which miij be buried with UiEn (or u9ed m hU Ihpo),

N.B.— Thfl Ikpo, or fiiaeral rites^ t)peo with a cry called Eku, and ft ceremony OJimed Kyirare Mltpa; litemllj-j the raTnlfi^ of tke d«attL Until tEiid la ilotie a [:*eraoar hovever long dead^ ta not kigsllj sa; but ia. in popukr phraseology , a^d to be nek. There U & poitlcular word— Mbukpuiii— lor the uawaahed »tote of wom^i at duch tlmea.

Snye otnp ebeta ono loL

He speaks ironically to me.

N.B. — Ebeta is an expression of annoyance, made by answering in an absurd way, as a man chained with a deed, when he knows the accuser to be aware of his innocence, answering, " Yes, it was I who did it!"


Ebok imana ebok oftit idibL

One monkey does not like another to get a belly-full. N.B. — Meaning, you grudge that I should get any.


Moytun ndikut isn ye edem. I wish to see face and back. N.B. — To hear both sidea of the question.


Isn ye edem ebnno eneme. Face and back meet and talk. N.B. — Both parties meet and confer.



Owo ese ednn edem nkpo, Abasi eae idem eset Man looks only on the outside of things; God looks into the very heart.


Inyan inyan ofiok edem nbum, kpa ntre ke Abaci ofiok ini mkpa.

It is the sea only which knows the bottom of the ship, so God only knows the time of death.

52. Ofop edem kiet, ada edem kiet edem ndia. He burns one part of the tree, and with the other he cooks food.


Edem edi use odunde ata kiet ye edet

The tongue is a person of skill, dwelling in the same

place with the teeth.

N.B. — Silence is gold; it is good to say nothing that can pro- yoke or that cannot be proved.


Eyeii Otukatnte akan eyen eden-akpa.

The young of the Otukutute (a species of small sJtrimp) surpasses the young of the Eden-akpa (a certain large river 'fish),

N.B. — Meaning, the child of the poor man often outstrips, in the race of Fortune, the s<hi of wealth.




Akaaam nlcpo om nte Ederi

He did that tlimg as if it were Edert

V,% — Meanings u if he were drunk (le., imperffctljf, or in a ijio- «a^f tfdy). Edeiri, or Ereri,ai^ two diiy* in the CiUbw week, eaUed M^eetlvcilj Aqua and Ekpri (^/^o' and Small} Edeti Wben used witboub mdjftctive, A(|Tuai mufit be uaderatood^ and the 6aj is oalled in the RiT«r *' Cklabvr SundAj/' kept with feftating uh! tippling.


Ikpaha Ice edet

It Las not la^t a tOQtb,

N.6.— Meanings it in not a whit the worse, or not one of hia things has he lost


Edim idibonke ndi mi.

The rain shall not beat on my grave.

N.B. — Meaning, I have a son to bnild a house over mj gnvoL I am not childless^


TJnam obaha afia* ababak edinnkha etn. The animal escapes the trap, and stands in dread of a bent stick.

N.B.— Our •' Burnt bairns dread the fire/'


Edisam owo inyeneke ibat A man sauntering (unsettled) has no business. N.B.— He does not attend to his own matters.


Mbok, ikot nyin, xnbufii ekubigi odup ke iton unioiL I beseech you, friends, do not behead Edup on account of its long neck.

N.R — The Edup is a species of brown antelope. The meaning is, do not condemn the man merely on account of his bad character.


Knda owo isn efe une 'nan ebigi. Don't take a man before the palaver-house, and give a blind man the beheading of him.

N.B. — Don't set me to do a thing of which I know nothing.


Efiakha mi.

" My finding! " an explanation when one comes upon anything of treasure trove, as boys cry " Tibs I! "

63. Ata ada mi odok, ekebe ada mi owara.

The flood takes me in, and the ebb takes me out.

N3. — Meaning, that varying purpose, or desire, makes me unstable.


Ekikere esie etie nte mon nbnm, aka isu afiak edem.

His opinions are like water in the bottom of a canoe, going from side to side.

N.B. — Meaninf^ that, unstable as water, he shall not excel






Ekpa etdi ikfika iinis» ikaha iMt Itn, edi ibit enGm imo, imo iwaha inek.

Sajfl the Epka (a small ^ hald-Jieadsd iBaodpeeker)^ be w&B going to msrket i he was Dot going to the drum at Itu {alia^ Old EkrilcoJc, a tribe and district on the tiut hank of the Cross Either); but the drum was bo pleasant, that he turned aside and danced,"*

N^B. — ^Meaningj I did not ee«k tbi?; I have hem^ Jed into it*


Abiat ekpe.

Literally, He Bpoils Egbo; i. tf., he, by a certain oere- mony, appeals to Egbo, or claims the interference of a member of Egbo.

N.B. — Ekpe is the first and original grade in the Egbo insti- tution, a kind of West- African Freemasonry.


EkpebemsTin etc, eyn nkpo edi ndaha iba, itie-itie imo imen ifoa ita; itie-itie ifoa emen imo ota.

The Ekpeberusun (a kind of scarabwus) says, " Times are not always alike; sometimes he lifts the ball of dung, and throws it to the ground; sometimes it lifts him, and throws him to the ground."

N.B.— One must meet with adversity as well as prosperity.

  • It is to be observed in the Efik that it ns^ the third personal

pronoun, instead of the first; the latter is the picturesque form in which the tpaissima verba of the speaker are put in the Scripiuret and in the languages of Western Asia.



Ek-pe-nyen-e-ukut-e-tib-i-e-nan-i-dib-i Literally, " If he had a foot, it would come out through the belly of a cow."

N.B. — The proper name of a constellation.


Ekpenyon Ibiirtam.

The name of a great juju, or fetish in the I bo country, at the unexplored place called Odu, gr Aro, resorted to for ordeal trial, and various abominations, by all the coast tribes between the Niger and Old Calabar. Thence, it is said, the Calabar people brought their Ekpenyon, or most common object of Efik worship, viz,, a piece of the Ekom tree, frequently surmounted by a human skull.


Ekpo akpa mbnfa itnaha, etna udi; usnn ekpo oyimi akan udi.

You lament not the dead, but lament the trouble of making a grave; the way of the ghost is longer than the grave.

N.B. — Meaning, his case is more to be deplored than yours. Ekpo, incorrectly translated Satan, demon, devil, &c., is a ghost still remaining on earth — though a ghost-land or Hades (Oblo Ekpo), is sometimes spoken of— and doing as much injury as possible. Hence the biennial ceremony of Ndok. About the month of November they set up Nabikim, or scare-crows, of old cloth, &c.. to attract and trap the ghosts of those who died since the last purification. A few days afterwards they begin, in the evening, a terrible noise, scream-

X 2




ingt firiDgi drumming, and b&tteritg houBe Joota, wlucb hmU tiU the mombg. Tha Nabikim aro ibcm tliTov(^n itktd tLe rirer, uid tJi6 lown IB conyiderod puritiod^ I UaTe ke^d of a aimilar ^eretDany ptitfonned upon aa etfigy of Jadoa lacariot in Catholic UqiIj. Ekpo dbo me^QB a cramp, whjcli i& b^UiiTed to he the eStiCt of "^ poA- AuaiQti - " and Mbum *£kpa^ superuatuml beiiij^ ar deTiliiiea, iA m fftmiUar name iot ^LlUa.

Ekpok etu al}iat ekmi; akan abiat ima.

The tree-knot epoik the axe; hunger epails lore.


Ekn ete, esin ndia ke mfine awak, ke ida iton imo ika.

The rat says, " Put plenty of food in the trap, for he takes his neck and goes: he risks his neck.'*

N.6. — Meaning, there is a good deal of risk and trouble in the matter; make the reward UberaL


Ikot itie ekokn-ekuka, esa onwin idem.

The forest is full of pit-falls; the Esa crooks itself, beuds its body in the narrow turnings, in order to escape.

K.6. — Hfeaning, there is plenty of trouble there: a small man should walk warily, lest he be involved; or, there is a quarrel against me, I cannot go. The Esa is a very small, bay-coloured antelope, found in Ibibio, and of which is said " Esa abon unarn *' — Esa is the king of beasts.



Eknriku otarade enye ke idem.

Literally, Ekuriku (risings in skin from cold or fear, goose-skin^ hair on end, horripilation,) rises up abun- dantlj.


Enye odnro ke edem enin.

He mounts on the back of the elephant.

N.B. — Meaning, he puts himself under the protection of a great man. The elephant has never been literally ridden in inter- tropical Africa.


Ama ke enyin. He loves to the eye. N.B. — Meaning, he makes an outward show of friendship.


Ooim enyin ke nsnn, ete, enye eyedi xnkpon.

He keeps his eye on the door.

N.B. — Meaning, he waits in expectation for one coming to-morrow.


Htakha akpan ke nsnn inwan ererimbnt imana owo ndono.

As an old torn basket on a farm road, so the Vorid does not like a uick man.



Er«rlmbtit odaha owo akpanlka Bte mbre.

The world ppt^fiks tnitli to a man ob play.

N3.— Manlngfit m true wlut I mfi but I do notbrmgh tm- ward MM an aocufiabieio,


Erise ke is a.

Literally, a bebolding tbs fAce; benee a ftcding fnvouiv

able reception for a proposal or request.

81. Afa erut.

Tou are uncircuracised: a taunting reproacb. " Mbobi,*'

OP circumcision, is practised, though not as a religious

rite, by both sexes; boys are operated upon about eight

days after birth; girls on reaching puberty, and whilst

secluded and fattened for marriage.


Ebiet eiie okuku-okuku. esa obok idem.

The ground slopes; the Esa antelope leans to one side

in walking.

N.B. — Meaning, there is danger or quarrel: it ia wise in an nninfluential man to stand aloof.


Ini Esefe ye Akpara.

The time of Eaefe and Akpara.

N.B,— These proper names are apparently used only in proverbs. The above adage C(»rresponds with our " time of Adam and Eve."



84. Eset mi odnk ye enye.

My life is set upon her.

N.B. — " Eset," the liver, is here, aa in "Western Asia, generally tiie seat of the affections. In old days we had the spleen, so Dunbar, in the " Merle and Nightingale," sings, —

  • ' God bade eke love thy neighbour fro the spleexL"

Of late years, the heart is the intellectual viscus. The Efiks speak of " a word from the liver " (».«., sincere opinion), " a large liver," a " double liver ' (deceit), and ** no liver " (or no courage)^ whilst in danger a man's " liver failg him."


Uwem fa etie nte esikon Cor, nkut esikon). Tour life is like a tobacco-pipe (or its shank), N.B. — Meaning, you are easily destroyed.


Manam nkpo ma Esnnkomonko!

I shall do that thing, by Esunkomonko!

N.B. —This is an oath by a supernatural being that inhabits the bush between Duke Town and its dependency Henshaw Town*


Etigi okup idok onwnm idem; okup ndaeyu akpa etak.

The Et]g;i or Okro {Hibiscus escuUntus) hears the time

of hardest and bears fruit, reproducing itself; it hears

the dry season and perishes.

N.B. — Meaning, you come near me only when there is anything to be had, not when work is in hand.


M Etikit-ekpo otup ama idan.

I Etikit^ekpo (a small bird) shooU away, exli&usta

H your arrows, avoiding them easily from its small sixe.

H N.B. — Meimmg, I aua. ttualj put said& all you do oiT sa j A^gufut


Etikuo mon.

Water drawn with the back towarda tba river or Bpring, aud in certain case« used a» a charm« 


Etikno idim inono ewok.

A stream coming down won't let you swim up.

N.B. — You cannot swim against the stream, a proverb common to almost all nations.


Etiridon odnk owo enyin akabade okpnt If the sap of Etiridon (a certain tree or shrub) go into the eye of any one, it becomes a cataract. N.R — This is a popular belief.


Ekpo ete, eke ererimbnt; ererimbnt ete eke *£kpo.

Ekpo says he belongs to the world; the world says he

belongs to Ekpo.

K.B. — Meaning, he tries to keep in with both parties, like .^Isop's bat. Such men are reproachfully called " Etinkeni Ekpo,* and these uncivilised people think it a point of honour, unlike us^ to take one side and to keep to it.



Nwariwa ada etaek-etuek, ete, akpa edi ofd owo. Nwariwa (a kind of tree) stands with clustering fruit (md) says, " An orphan is a slave."

N.B. — Meaning, the state of the {atherleas is pitiable.


EtTm-etan inyeneke abak ada; nnaxn mkpa inyeneke uton.

Etun (a small hingJUher) cannot afford an allowance for dividing it; a dead animal has no ears. N.6. — Meaning; he is deaf to what I say.


Vtnkon ayat ke nBnn iton, ererimbut ama mi ke eyen-nsek.

Pepper bites the throat; the world loved me when I was a child.

N.B. — I was a favourite in infancy; but now it is otherwise.


Afd oynin ndida mi 'nam anen eyit fa? Do you wish to make me your peace-offering, your scape-goat?

N.B.— Said to one who, after being reconciled to a friend, shows his leal by fastening a quarrel upon some other for touching any- thing belonging to his friend. Eyit is a medicine of various ingre- dients sprinkled over those who come together after a difficulty: the concocter, as he stirs it about, curses himself and others if they harbour any malice in their hearts. A more simple symbol of reconciliation is for one party to drink off half a glass of rum, and then hand it to the otheri who finishes it.


Kton odlokho ke ata mon odiokkode, eyen esere ke

eyu ete odu^e.

Water reeta in the pkce it ihould rest, finda ite lereL

N.B.^ETCTjtblng aonmliag tQ ila ttatorei and tite boj u nuer wUile his father live a.


Enye afak usud. He redeems the road« 

N.B. — Meaning, lie purcbftdea from faia ftYlaV'tavmsmea whd have preceded him the right of going to a market.


Afak idem esie.

She redeems herself.

N.B.— Spoken of a female slave who bean a child for her master.


Afakha mi ke edet.

It sticks in my teeth.

N.B. — Meaning, the injury or slight comes from a quarter, in which I dare not show resentment.


Efep isu ke ika oru.

He turns away his face from that word.

N.B. — This shows dissent or displeasure, and at the same time blinking the question.



Ndaeyu efere owo.

The dry season makes one feel lightsome.


Enye ofiara kenyon nte adan.

He floats on the surface like oil.

N.B. — He ifl not in the Mcret; he does not penetrate the matter.


Finm nkoi.

A crocodile with a spine like a catfish. It is said to be smaller than the other two species {the long-moutTied and the garial or short-mouthed), but more dangerous, and to drive the others from any creek which it enters. Into this animal, which is probably fabulous, persons who have a charm for the purpose are said to meta- morphose themselves for malicious purposes.


Enye ofon mi oknt usen.

He was lucky for me at the opening of the day.

N.B. — Meaning, he was the first person I saw on coming out in the morning, and he brought me luck. Also a Hindu superstition.


Abon {pr^ nkpo) orn ifonke aba.

That chief (or thing) is no longer good for anything.

N.6.— A phrase, sometimes used covertly to announce the death achie .



Fuk idibi.

Blow your belly. K. B.»A jocuUr pbnukt, dpok«ii to one mth ia ompty itomaclL

Htan udi ofuk (^r, otok) mL

The dust of the grave touchea me^ of caaaea a fluttering

sensation in the neck or back of the Fht>u]derrt, when on©

feel 9 TftearioJ v(htn diggijig n gravf.

N.B. — Supposed to forewarn a man of his death. This spas- modic and fluttering sensation in any part of the body, or knocking the foot against anything, is a warning that something is about to happen. The first sensation does not always presage evil; some- times a fluttering of the vein or skin is deemed a token of good; when the uduri-uden, a part of the leg on which the paddle rests, gives the sign, it shows the paddler that he must go into his canoe.


Enye ofaro ekpe.

He assumes the appearance or practices of a leopard.

N.B. — Meaning that, by painting his body with stripes he dia- guises himself so, and lurks in the bush to attack people or animals with sharp-pointed weapons. He is also called Mftlro-ekpe, leopard."




A stake or stakes put up by the Efiafc people to mark out their fiahiog-grounds. They are reverenced as objects of superstitious rites, or their site is chosen as a spot to pay such rites.




Leanness of body, exhibited hj a child when, through renewed pregnancy, the mother is unable to yield it proper nourishment.

N.B. — This is contnury to the pnu^tice of the people.



An object of worship, protecting from evil. It is in the shape of either a dwarf or of a human head, is adored by offerings, and kept inside the house to pre- serve it from harm.



War medicine. It is of two kinds: one, probably an intoxicant, inspires courage; another, rubbed on the body, gives safety in the fight.

114. Ibnk isinke ofop.

Even a miser does not refuse hia cook part of what he roasts.

N.B. — Meaning, you will aurelj allow me this.


Enye enyene eti ibuut He has a good head. N.B.— Meaning, he ia a man of ondentanding.



lis. Owo om odu ke idak fu.

He IB as familiar vith youf affiiira an if he were member of your familjr*


Owu idaha nn^nubok Met isio idan. A man does not use one finger to take out an arrow. H.E— Meoaing, h« in but Que^ ba eumot <k it.


Kude akan idap. Do not die I N.B. — Spoken ironically to a lazy man.


Idem omnm enye.

The demon possesses him: he is a demoniac.

N.6. — Such possession is commonly believed in. The Idem iB an invisible superhuman being, inhabiting woods and waters, wor- shipped and propitiated by prayer and offering. It is also a repre- sentative of Egbo, who runs about the town, Egbo himself appearing only on great occasions. The Idem of each class of Egbo has his own insignia. Finally, it is a proper name, and spoken as a Nke, or fable; it means that the person to whom it is applied is weak for want of food.


Ika idibi.

Literally, matter of belly (i.e., a concealed affair). The Anglo-African translates this, *' Palaver lib for him 'tomach."




Obnp idion.

He enquires at Idion, or mutters incantations, when

going through his tricks.

N.R — Idion is witchcraft, wizardy, the spella of the Abia-idion, or magician.


Idnmo akan ikpon, ikanke otn. The attempt exceeds the ability of one, not of a mul- titude.

N.6. — Meaning, union is strength.


Idnmo enin odnmo ke okom. An elephant will reach to the roof of the house. N.R— Said when the greatness of any one is much talked of.


Bka iferi, or nkaiferL The naked class. N. 6.— Meaning, young unmarried girls.


Afu edi ifiok. Tou are wisdom itself. K.B.— Said in ridicule to a wiseacre.



Owo ada nkpo orn oduri enye ke ifakhL

Some one takes and puts it in his lap.

N.B. — Meaning, the person peniats in charging him with it, or in making it a big matter.


Ada ke ifore.

He obtains it easily (e.g., from a friend^ not heing under the necessity of working for it),

183. Asana ke ifnre.

He goes after his pleasure.

N.B. — Meaning, he goes to see a friend, not to "make palaver."


Mbok ofon yak nyin itie itie ke nfok emi ke ifore. I beseech thee let us remain in this house in quiet- ness.

N.B. — A prayer uttered by one entering into a new or Strang* house, as he pours out a little rum or palm wine in libation.


Ika okono mfan.

The deliverance (or sentence delivered) hangs up the pepper.

N.B. — Meaning, the matter is settled. Mfan is the root of "Mbukpa," which resembles Malaguetta pepper in form and taste«  and is used as pepper. The small tubes are strung as beads, and himg round the neck, as a sign of submission, giving protection in war or in palaver. To *' eat Mfan" is to be reduced to the greatest straits.



  • Ma ndaha ika mi« afd obop ke ikon otnp odnok;

iiii ama anam, afa etiiene ikan asana oymn.

I gftTe you advice; you tied it to some gross and toBsed it away; having done so, you lighted a torch and went nbout aeekiog it.

K.B.— Mennlitgj I gave you m; adnoe, but jou rejwt^ It » aow you find it is of Tftlue to jou.

Tkon-eaet. A beftt-breast.


N.6. — Meaning, an office-bearer in each Nka or order, of >ivhich there are now seven, divided chiefly according to age. Each of them takes its turn to watch the town; and in case of war or public work the inhabitants are called out according to their several claasra. The official announces the resolutions of the Nka in any matter by knocking his breast He also claims as his perquisites the breast of any n.nimn.1 killed for a class-feast.


Ebok okup ikon eyen atu ikot, eke ata ikot, enye iknpke.

The monkey bears the coiigb of the hunter's attendant,

but does not hear the monkey's own.

N.B. — Meaning, you make a great ado when any one does so, but you do so yourself without scruple.


Akaka ikot iknt?

Did you go to the tortoise bush? (i.e., to wait to catch one,)

N.B. — Said to anyone who keeps others waiting on him.



OqiibIibzc ifc^Hl k£ einet oriL He wiiia nk ieei «i mai pmcsf:. ■das;. JK dfleaBw ut tdL


y *'■





abore; Bhoiiic v^

other* expbiD s> a ipakfln to.

The Ikimeiii (i m Dofc take » n

r:£4ikr aMtf /V y>S*#**^ *•**? «^ .



Enyene inna enyene ubok; enyene inna-inna ifonke.

If he has hand and mouth too; but to have mouth

only is not good.

N.B.— Meaning, it ia foolish to boast^ unless the boaster can make good what he says.


Enye enine fl ke inna nte inim.

He is sweet as salt in your mouth.

N.B. — Said ironically of one who is always showing himself hostile.


Inyan (or mfin) end esiere nwan ye ebe.

This water (or this day) is like wife and husband.

N.B.— Meaning, there are contrary currents, or unsettled weather.


I3rak akpa inyan esin; ibietke ntntn inyan ibnm. The sea rejects the dead fish; it does not seem to have been in the ocean.

N.B. — Meaning, now I am useless, you oast me off.


Eldkere ^luana isan akau ikpat; ikpat akpasana isan ekikere, okpoknt mi idiok eyen.

The thought travels quicker than the foot; if the foot

should travel at the thought's rate, you would call me a

bad boy.

N.B. — Meaning, if action were as ready as thought, we should reveal many a now concealed folly.




Idaha muen edi ieara.

The atandiug of a bird is just his perclimg.

N.Bk— Meaning;, I atond as yoti see; I have noihiiig; to do in ili«  matter. Or, he standa ^ you see, with notMng but hJa cloth arounii hituK

Iiebe ete^ inwanake enwan, Itokhake utok^ iyeknp edem ke iko.

The crab eajs he does not fight nor quarrel, but he will bear his back in the calabash (i.e., be captured).

N.B. — Meaning, why do you come to make palaver, or assault me so? We have no quarreL


Nkpo iseri.

A thing touched by another, which the proud man (owo iseri) cannot use till it is wiped.


Enyene ison-ika. He has but one word. N.B. — Said of a true man.


Akpatre isimi ikanke xnkpa.

There is no worse curse than to desire a man's death. N.B. —We also say, " It is ill waiting for dead men's shoes."




Owok nte iteminnn.

He swims like a basket of salt (i.e., he sinks).

N.B. — Said in ridicule to one who cannot swim. The Item- inun is the fiUet or cone of Nkanya (pakn fronds^ of which roof- mats are made), in which the people store salt.


Ono ituen esok fi.

He sends his threat to you.

N.B. — A feather of the Ituen (a large black and white fish- hawk) and wad of gun are sent from one tribe or town to another as a threat or declaration of war, which opens if the articles are accepted. So the Ntan-ituen, or hawk's feather, can be worn on the head only by one who has killed or captured an enemy in battle.


Anwambana inyeneke okudok aran, ete idia iwewe.

The cat has not a farthing's worth of oil, yet he says

he will feast on Iwewe.

N.R — Meaning, your aim is above your means. The Iwewe is a dish of coarsely-mashed yams, not adhesive like Fufu.


Owe ifiokke iwnk uwem esie.

One knows not the stability of his life (i.e., how long it will continue).

164. lyak okpnn onyon aka idim. The fish when grown big returns to his rivulet. N.B. — Meaning, you must not forget your origin.




Owo iyip.

A mao of blood, a blood-man, one wbo htta taken the Mbittra-iytp (hloGti-oaih) and has made brotherhood with another bj tasting of bb blood. A common practice throughout Pagan Africa,

Ofon 0WO ndik^t nlmt, nkan mkpa.

It 19 good for a man to bear trouble rather than die.


Inyene akan enye idem.

His wealth is superior to him.

N.B. — Meaning, he is an insignificant man whose wealth ie his only importanoe.


Enye ada owo akana ke ibuut (or akana owo ke ibuut ono ewat, or osio isnp).

He gires up a man as his substitute to be killed, or to

liquidate his fine.

N.B.— This "aubatitution*' Bystem, the "Badli" of India and Sindh, is exceedingly common in Old Calabar. Another saying is, " He (the slave) dies for that for which hia master should have died."


Eere odaha, ete, owo ekere nte anamde atom, ke ekem ini ntnm.



The Kere (a rare small bird whose note is heard in the plantations when elearing-time approaches) says, '* Men must think of doing work, as the time for work has come."

170. Uwem esie {or iton esie or enye okobo fi). His life (or injury) lies upon jou.

N.B. — Meaning, it will be your crime if you kill him by Ifot. See No. 128.


Enye edi aqua etu emi nkpo okomode keset; enye ama odaa, kpuprn nkpo akpa.

He is a large tree on which all things hang, or are entwined; if he falls, all perish.

N.B. — Spoken of a great man.


Ho ekpehe enye emana.

They cut off his birth (i.e., his rising greatness),

N.B. — Meaning, they destroyed {Jcpehe) him to prevent him becoming too great or wealthy — a fatally common practice in Calabar.


Kpi nton.

Nick the bamboo {that runs across the roof), N.R — Meaning, remember it, treasure it in your memory.



The Eere (a rjrf nnaU hird vkote note it Itard in tKe pImUatknu trkn eltaring-iin^e apjfroaehei) tzij-, " M«rrj most think of doing irork, &£ the tiiLe fvr irvrk:.zl-. conke.

Uwem ooe (or itan ede &r eaye ckobo £;.

His life Cdt l»'V-i; 1^** ->'-TI: J'.'j-

-.1 .;.»•.


li«T CIS:if u:i:-_

..*. /

■BD^ liA par JT v-su;..;

•i '-•:••"



Abia-ibok okpoha ulspon fu, ono fi ukpon owo enwei

The Abia-ibok (medkine-man) cliaages your aoul (?*/fl/) and gtFee you that of angtben

K,B.— Meaiiiug, you toiag about to die, he give* you the aout (life f) oi on€ who ia Ukelj to live long, beatowiug youts in ita plaat;i >o UiAt you Utq uid h& dim.


Okpori uJcut eberi ke ebek. ^^^^

He wipes his trouble on his cheek. N.B. — MeaniDg, he exercises a patient forbearance.


Ekpe iba, nbum okuba.

The two-mouthed man; his canoe will turn bottom up. N.B. — Meaning, evil will befall him.


Oknk enye nkpo.

He shut her up to fatten (i.e., before marriage).


Nte afa okukha nkpo.

Do you seclude yourself (i.ie., as a young tcoman when fattening for marriage)?

N.B. — Spoken to a man who sits much in the house.


Eyen oknne ofon.

Lit,y The boy tries on a waistcloth (the local toga virilism

meaning, he attaint the age of puberty),

N.B. — Usara ukune-ofon is the feast given on that occasion: the father fixes the time generally when the sun has passed his fifteenth year.


Ota mkpon oynin mba.

The planter of koko (Colocasia escuUnta) wishes but

a seedling.

N.B. — Meaning, having a nest-egg, or something to begin with, he will multiply.


Ho eyesubo mbai mbnfa nte owo osnbode mbai abia.

They will destroy you as men destroy the Mbai (i.e.,

yam-cuts for planting, laying waste the plantation).

N.B. — Meaning, they will destroy you and your race, root and branch.


Nda mon ison ntnak oko? Idnn mbia oson mkpa.

Where shall I get a spot to plant a fence (i.e., to build a house)? The abode of the tale-bearer is worse than death.

188. Odnok mo Mbiam.

He throws them Mbiam.

N.B. — Mbiam is a liquid tasted when swearing, and causing dropsy to perjurers. The above means, he throws this liquid about


Ui« place to ptinbh those that have been guilty of & theft, the pei*- p«tmtars of wLich are imknovrn. When one would " smiitak Mhiam" or roleoae hiiuseli from the ov,i\kt he must preient gifts to, and forward pmjena through, the keeper of MbktiL

184. Itiat ofon umai edi mbituiio. A Btone 18 a good market; thing, but it la a burden.

N.B-— Meaning, the thLug in desirable, hut it k bejond my purpe; or the woman ia fair, but her expendyeness renden her unfit for mj wlf&


Idiok etu nte edinnklia mbokok ete, inenekede, enye obnno.

The bad tree, like the crooked sugar-cane, sayB be will not straighten; he breaks.

N.B. — Meaning, he is now too old to change his habits.


Inyan akamana ofiok edem ubnm; mbnbet afa ofia- rade do edi ikpikpn.

The sea from its birth knew the bottom of the canoe;

a piece of drift wood, you float there and are nothing.

N.B. — Meaning, I was in this matter from the first, and know all about it; and you now come and wish to oust me.


Odion mbubiam, mbubiam akabade iseri.

He bestowed benefits on this lewd man, and the fellow

turned out haughty.

N.B. — Meaning, he raised up a wretch, who was of couTBe ungrateful.




Amia mi mbubiam.

He beats me shamefully (i.e., not heing able to cope with him^ lam beaten at his pleasure).

189. Mbubnm-mbubum owo inamke nkpo. A man always breaking off from his work never fiaishes anything.

190. Mbnebuep adia nkpo ison.

The Mbuebuep (or colt*S'foot leaf) eats the thing on the ground.

N.B. — Four leaves of this plant are employed to receive the sacrificial blood when making the Idion " Egbo Chop/' or incanta- tion.


Mbnka ke anam mi

I have a presentiment of evil.

K.B. — Mbuka is a very bad omen, as of the warning of the



Obume mbume oknp usein.

He who asks questions hears {or learm) the language, or gets interpretations.


WIT MJm mason from TTEar Armci.



M bume ke eyen-owon enym ekpimi. The Mbume {muSJUh) k a sidaII thing, but it baa big eyes.

N,B- — MeaBjug, you pitvqt^e mw^b for n yoimg miau


Hbnp ete, imo idike eyen-owon iftna iba.

Mbup aays he will not be a boy for two jearA,

N,B*— Ubup k a small yam, partly given to the weed the pbt, jtartly kept for food



Hbiaekon awak nte mfan ikot The people of Mbiaekon are as abundant as the leaves of the forest.


Onwon min mfanifa.

He drinks palm wine like the Mfanifa (as toe say, like

a fish)'

N.B.— Mfanifa are the minute flies that flock to anything sweet.


Mfanko nkom imana nkom, erikpTik arata imana arata.

One plantain pulled off the bunch does not finish the

plantain; biting off a little of the Arata {plantain or koko

prepared for preservation) does not finish the Arata.

N.6.— Meaning, a little from your abundance ^irill not ruin you.



Ekn edue mfine, mfine ata eku; midaehe mfine, mfine itaha.

The rat enters the trap, the trap catches it; if it did not go into the trap, the trap would not do ao.

N.6. — Meaning, if I do wrong I shall suffer for it, but not otherwise.


Idiok odiik idem, mfon imekheke; mfon mi ekobi ke ubet, idiok mi enyam ke nma.

My badness is more manifest than my goodness; you lock up my goodness in the room, and you sell my bad- ness in the market.

N.B. — You conceal my virtues and expose my vices.


Hfat akakan.

The shade circles.

N.B. — ^Meaning, the supremacy, or royalty, leaves one family and goes to another; the wheel of Fortune turns' round.


Eta emi okari nte 'mon.

This tree grows like water (i.e., rapidly as the tide file up).


'Mon emen mi afiak. The tide carries me back. N.B. — Meaning, my inclination leads me to return.



Ebeisn omono enyin idim.

The QUO who puased before jou eaw tKa eye of tha


K.6,— Hea&tt^, older men know better thmgi than joa.


Akani mukaada omum uoam, obufa mukaada im- nmke.

The old net catches animala, the new does not. N.B. — So we say, An old head is better than a yotmg one.


Eyu nkpo enyene ndaha mba.

The wheel of Fortune has two states; sometimes exalts

one, sometimes depresses him.

N.B. — ^We are told that this saying is not often used; it appears to be a pure translation of a well-known Arabic couplet.


Ikot etie ndak-ndak Esa obok idem.

When noise fills the bush the Esa antelope goes aside.

N.B. — Meaning, keep out of the quarrel, don't thrust yourself mtoit.


Abasi anam ndap.

God creates dreams. N.B. — So we say, True dreams oome from Jove.



Moknt nde ekpe eyetde abok.

I Bee the trace of the leopard where he has washed hid hands (i.e., thrown up the sand in rage becaiue he h our is&^ing. "He bluwa faia awn tiumpet."


Owo nkpan ut m. A good

listener (i.c^ io that h0 may ^o and tell it)

find ef tmt^rheuring anything


Nkpekpem akan ifat ifiok.

Nkpekpem {the small hat) surpasses the tortoiae in knowledge.

N'.B. — Meaning, that man knows something which you do not



Nkpofiok, ekpere edem ibehe isn. " If I had known *' stands behind; it does not come forward.

N.B. — Said of those wise behindhand.


Uka-uxnnmke nkuku afd ete, eyen enyene.

You have not caught the locust {or grasshopper) which

you bay belongs to the child.

N.J?, — So our adages: First catch your hare; Count not your chickens before they are hatched; Gut nao fiah till ye get them.




Mbnfd edi nkanbnk owo.

You are an ** omniura-gatherum."

N.B. — A reproach addressed to slaves as collected from all the neigbbourlDg tribes.


Nktmo odam fi, afa aka amia 'mon. The crab bit you, and you. go and beat the water. N.B. — Meaning, why do you punish me for what he did 1


Edinen ustui inyeneke nqnana.

A straight road has no turnings.

N.B. — Meaning, he is undeviatingly good, or uniformly pros- perous.


£nye anwana nsa.

lie gives an emphatic denial (viz., to charge on solid'


N B. — Nsa is a sign of wiping down both arms, and as it were throwing off what was on them: or the fingers are placed on the breasts, and the arms are thrown out, exclaiming at the same time Naa, nsa, fu! "far from you!" (danger or guilt). Sometimes it is said when a child sneezes.


Onim nsan.

He plants a man-trap.

N.B. — The Nsan is a kind of harrow of nnils, or hard pegs, set in boarfl. or sharp .stakc.< concealed in the ground agaiust tre-i>ft8?t'is.




K&asate ete, imo isnk iboHi ke edi akai okpiui.

Nsaaak {a email dttlUeohured hird called the king cj

bird^) gay a he keeps on epeakiog', altbougli the foreat

je» big.

N,B.— Meaning, I hire a alaoditig an well u be, lkItbo^g^ I do not equal bim: or, Thej pay no regard to -what I my.

Eiiyen« nsen ke idibi eti. She baB many egg a in her womb. N.B. — Said of a woman who has many children.


Da nsen nnen se.

Take an egg and look at it.

N.B. — Meaning, you are not perfect, like the egg which has uneven ends. Said to one boasting of his beauty.


Uwem owo ebiet nsen nnen, obaha owo odua ke ison akpa.

The life ot* man is like the egg of a fowl; it drops out of one's hand, and falls to the ground and perishes. Another saying to this effect is, " The life of man is like the leaf of the Koko vegetable," i.e., easily destroyed.


Kpep enye nson-idem.

Teach him industry (or hardihood, that he may be able to icorkfor his livelihood).




Ukot otoi ntap-ntap oyaha aban. The Mimbo (jHtlm-wine) tree drops by degrees and fills the pot.

N.B.— Meaning, he or they will ailently and gradually worm themselves into possession.


Afa edi ntenebene mo. You are their football.

N.B. — Meaning, you cannot hold your own, all ill-usage and imputations are heaped upon you.


Ntiene Abiakpo oknre esak.

The train of Abiakpo is no more, and men laugh.

N.B. — Meaning, his boon companions desert him now he is poor.


Enye esin fi nton ekpat

He puts ashes in your bag (i.e., thai hy their dropping he may trace you, and thus enable him to dog your foot- steps).

241. Owe oknt eyn anwan nnwon. When a man sees sunshine he dries his tobacco. N.n. — ^Meaning, " Make hay while the sun shines."




Akam edi Iklko ikon ata, nwanwa edi sti {or awa^ disu) ikpa Atan.

If tbo fire conauireti the Ikiko {eivH ea£)^ how roUcK

more the ekin of A tan (#^ i«if4 fn/)?

N^E^Meaaiag, if mvh A one, lupedw to ymi, haa been Uken,, hf^-ff much more you f

Nyakun ibanke ekpe ayara itam. The.Nyakun (a mollusc or a medusa) did not buy Egbo, yet wears a hat.

N.B. — This is said of the animal's appearance: only native " gentlemen " wear hats, and they must purchase the permission.


Nyek-nyek-nrono ama anam Utai nrono inan. The small dragon-fly has made the Igunna deaf.

N.B. — Meaning, I do not wish t6 hear you. So they say, " I know very well the Utai, or Iguana, is aflHicted with deafness," to ridicule an empty threat, or to refuse attention to what is said.



A regeneration; thus, wheu a woman has a child shortly after the death of another, she supposes it to be the former one returned.




Afn edi Obin-nqna.

You are an Obiu-uqua.

Said to a man ever singiDg or crooning.

N.B. — The Obin-uqua is a large white bird, so called because of its song, whose note reBemblea the canoe chant; the people suppose its voice can turn the tide. Like the turtle dove of the East it is supposed to chant till it dies, or at least till it falls down exhaust^.


Obuben urna obnn nma; otu obnn ekon. The basket-cover at the market breaks the market; the shield breaks the battle.

248. Obnkpo esie ofon.

Its vileness is good.

N.B. — Spoken of a thing useless for its proper purpose, but which may be applied to some inferior end.


Ata ntnkon akpa uyat, odnn-obio owo akpa mbime.

The eater of pepper is like to die of pain; the sojourner

is like to die of questions.

N.B. — Meaning, the inquiries made respecting town matters pester him, as he has no interest in them.

Ofion esin udla.

The moon refuses food.


N. B. — Meaning, she does not shine at the time of the evening meaL She is also said to " devour the ground " when she shines brightly.

" It pricks, he Iflugha."

K.B. — A pncklj «Iirub^ so called l^ecatiee no bad effecU reoulii witb one who laughs ^Iien eitrmcting its tLonu*


Idumo enin odumo ke okom, nkoxn, afa omofiok ete, enin ikpimke nte okom.

The elephant is said in size to reach to the roof; but you know it is not so big.

N.B. — Meaning, you exaggerate, speak hyperbolically.


Kuda okonok nno mi.

Do not -bring your bad fortune on nie (i.e., hy putting your word or hand in any matter of mine).

Owara ana mi ke okpo isn.

lie comes forth and lies at my very face (i.e., thinking of him, he immediately appears)*

N.B. — So we say, " Talk of the devil, and he is sure to appear."




Etemtem imenke ikut, ekpi okput ekemen.

He who cut the bush down did not take a tortoise;

will he who lops the branches take one P

N.B, —Spoken of an undeserving man, who looks to a reward for an action not acknowledged in a man of merit.


Okuk inyeneke ifom.

Coppers (country coin) have no place where *they are thrown away.

N.B — Meaning, thej are always of some value.


Omon idiok otibi idet ke edem. The Omon baboon is shaggy.

N.B. — This animal, found in the interior, is said to have a large mane of whitbh hair, and may be the gorilla, the Inaki of Yoruba.


Maxima dnp nya, nkup Oti!

^Manima be silent: I henr Oti!

N.B. —Meaning, you may shut your mouth now that he begins to speak. Manima is a small musical instrument much used in Ibibia: it is made of metal and beaten with a stick. The Oti is also of metal, with a bit of wood inside acting as clapper to the bell.


Enen nte oton.

He is straight as an Ofcon (i.e., ereci in carriage). N.B. —The Oton is a stick on which fish are skewered.

The ro:r=l i- Tiir but (-rooked, N.B. — Meaning she is fair in face, but perverse at heart.


Inyene asakha sn! How imiuense the riches! N.B. — Said to ridicule one parading his wealth.


Urono anam mi ndntiiklia, tatn asana mi ayak.

The sickness afflicts me till it leaves me (i.e., the disease runs Us course).

265. Enyin mi asat. ily eyes are dry. N.B. —Said when one finds himself unable to sleep.




TJ&ari asat mi eti (or idiok).

The Usari bodes me good or evil (i.e., when heard on the right or left hand).

N.B. — The cry of the Usari or great king-fisher bodes good or evil, according to the position of the bird with respect to the hearer.


Sek Ban sek san oba owo etie.

Move a little off! move a little off! deprives a man of

his seat.

N.B. — Meaning, by little and little a man is wrested from his position.


Sekhede nam okpnn {or ekpri). Shift a little, make it large (or small),

N.B.— Directing a man to move the hand in cutting anything, to make the portion cut, large or small.


Owo ifiokke me enye idisiereke mk|M>n.

A man knows not whether he will see to-morrow.


Ino isioho uknt ke ino esie, owo nsn isioho nknt ke nsu esie, mo 'esasana.

The thief withdraws not his foot, desists not from bis theft, the liar desists not from his lie; they go on. N.B. — So with ufl, *' the dog returns to his vomit."

882 wir akh wisdom fuom w£3t i^FuicA..


tTnwon (or mikon) o&ip idem, isipke niuc.

The tobaeco {or pip^) is amallj the smoke id not small.

N.R—MeaniDg, behold Bow gntht a mAttei' a littk fiiv kindlvth; or, ht* iit a Bm&U m&n bat large at Leort,


S0ap eyea ubuene, LiL^ " Poor roan's soap." N,B.— It ia tbfl producB of il trce^ itied i« » ■ub«tttut« for «OAp.

273. Ndita iban abon esosobo.

The daughters of a great man go off quicklj in market, and are easily vendible (i.e., are soon married),


Abasi, mekpe fi nbok, nam mi nkeme nte nsonode nsana; ikpat mi isonke, etie nte eyen nsek emi etende- ten.

O Abagi {Ood)f I beseech thee make roe strong to

walk; my foot is feeble as a young child staggering.

N.B. — A prayer Bometimes made to the Creator in sickneas or difficulty.


Kpnno owo eke osonode fi, kom osono owo oson ifiok.

Beverence your elder, for the man excelling iu age excels in wisdom.



lyip esie eyesop fi.

His blood will lie on you to your hurt (i.e., will he avenged guicJcly).

N.B. — Spoken to a man who has murdered his friend.


Asuan (or awari) ika ono mi nte owo asnaii ntan.

He showers his words oa me as a man scatters sand.

N.B. — Said when one is abused so that he cannot get in a word.


Eyen osndi ete esie ke idiok idn.

The sou disgraces his father by bad conduct.


Osndi idem-esie.

He disgraces himself (i.e., hy living helow his means and rankf hy squandering his wealth, or hy allowing an inferior in wealth to assume a position and authority superior to his).


Eiim esnene mbnfa.

The rain spoils your gentility.

N.B.— Said to such as carry an umbrella, and are without one when overtaken hj rain.




He eats artd U at ease (i.e., Tie takes onlg what htilongs tQ him^ or h^ do€^ onl^ ichai is good for him, and therefore it is well with him}^

N.B.— Epoken, c,^^ of ad old cMef^ mild in b'm rule.


Idiaba isxma fee obio em\ aoam ojnm hbtui mkpa. He doea not keep liiuiself quiet (or tcell behaved) in the town; he does that which tenda to his own destruc- tion.

N.B. — Said, e.g.^ of an habitual thlel


Abasi ota fi nte mfine ota eku.

God strikes you down as the trap strikes down the rat.


Ediwak owo etaba nwem mo ke nsn. Many destroy themselves by falsehood.


Midionkpo mo eyetak ye mo.

Their evil deeds will remain with them (i.e., the cofi' sequences mil remain with themselves; or they will not he able to accomplish their wickedness).



Tara mi idem.

Inspirit me.

N.B.— A Blang phrase used by topers when asking for a glass of rum.


Tatabnnko {or obu) enyene 'mon, afiak asana mben.

The Tatabunko (a small JisK) or the Obu (a shrimp)

has the whole river to swim in, but it keeps by the side.

N.B. — Meaning, he who may well do so, does not give himself those airs or assume so much as you do who are nobody.


Ibio 'mon ke aban eten owo.

A cask half filled with water makes one (i.e., who carries it) unsteady in his gait.


A^ak ibok ke nbok ayat, nditakha ke enyin editie didie? Enyin iditibeke fi?

You roll the medicine in the hand and it pains you;

how will it do when dropped into the eye? wiU not the

eye fall out?

N.B. — Meaning, why do you seek intimacy with one so dis- agreeable as an acquaintance?


ITtok Abasi etiene idionkpo owo. The controTersy (or displeasure) of God follows the sin of man.

c c

&86 WIT A^D wii^BOU itmav. wjest ajeica,


Hnma etik ekpe eujm.

31 Lima aseribea such names to Ekpe (i>e*j a* he §kake9

a nouy instrument mlhd EJ^put).

N.B.^ — Murua ifl an officer attached to the three Ligheet Egbo Iprwlei^ ^ho mo urns asd howls at th* futit^rai of onj one dying ft^m qI tht^e gradea. Ekpe ia explained in Nq. £6,


Enye otot idaba om<

He assumes office (i.e., hy tending round the usual



Odumo ndituak iikut ki nkpo eke afa edidade unan ke idem-fa.

Tou try to knock your foot against that which will

wound you.

N.B.— Meaning, you knock your head against a poet, you kick against the pricks.


Htomo nbok fa.

I invoke your hand (i.e., I claim your protection).


Otomo ete esie.

He calls upon his father.

N.B. — This, as in India, is the custom: when anything startles a man, he calls his father's name.




Otnp ibnnt ke edem. He throws back his head. K.B. — Thus making a sign that he understands.


Ubio nkpo eno euye.

They plant " Obeah " for him.

N.B. — " Ubio'* means any medicine or charm put in the groiuid to eause sickness or death. It is manifestly the origin of the West Indian Obeah.*' We shall be less surprised to hear that the word has travelled so far, when told by Clarkson, in his " History of the Slave Trade/' that when the traffic was a legitimate branch of commerce, as many slaves were annually exported from Bonny an^ the Old Calabar River, as from all the rest of the West African coast.


Adia nkpo ye ikut ofiok nbok nasia iknt

He who eats with the tortoise knows his right hand.

N.B. — Meaning, one who has *' eatan a peck of dirt " with a man, knows what he does.


TJkat ebud edikhi ke ata nte nbok ebnd edikhide. The hind foot of the goat is planted on the same spot on which it planted the fore foot.


Udnak nkpo cm oynkba mi.

The purposing of that thing tires me (Le., he u ever talking of doing it^ hut never does U),

c c 2



A prodigd. Also a name formerly given to flhip-

captainK who took any kind of slave, sick or well* feeble or strong.

arj2. Eokpa udibon idem-fk ufen. Bo not beat yourself (Le., do no^ kick ogainH the



Kukpe ikpe ufik.

Do not judge tyrannoualy (i.e., giving the right one the wrong through respect of persons),


Ufion inyeneke mbuk nte idoa. It is not worth talking about a slip of the foot as if it were a fall.



A mark of approval or acquittal. " King Calabar " marks the arm of the recipient with chalk or with " Utu " — " Egbo powder," a yellow wood reduced to dust.

806. Asak ukaha adiaha Okori.

She laughs sillily, like the eldest daughter of Okori (i.e., she laughs hysterically).



Ekpok ikarake ukim odok, ino inyeneke nkpo oyip.

The lizard cannot clasp round the cotton-tree {Bonibax) to climb; the thief has nothing, and steals.


Odnn-adian ukim oduokho mbara ukim.

That which is close to the cotton-tree receives the dew

from the cotton-tree.

N.B. — Meaning, he iM benefited by his oonneotion with a great man. So we speak of living with the rose.


Afa ke ekeme ye nkpaha-ekpo. You are as bad as an Ukpaha-ekpo (i.e., an evil heing constantly besetting one, like the Hindu Bakshasa).

310. Ukpek ete, nte imo nte imo, ata idnmke nsam. The Ukpek {a fish with narrow hack and body expanding downwards towards the belly) says, if all were like him the smith would not make a fish-spear.

N.B. —Meaning, if all do as I do, there is no danger.


Enye enyene okposon ukpon.

He has a strong ** soul ** (i.e., he bears up well under


N.B. — The '* Ukpon "* is the shadow or umbra of a person or thing that moves; not being stationary as '* Mfut/' the shadow of



a trey, ll'fifkijioaaries nalumUy translate it "aouJ '* or "ffpirit" It b Hiippoiwd to i&aue froui the body and to visit certain placea, eapftciallj m drfiama; a.a indiviiiual may be depriiroil of it, &g the We^t Indian QQgrofls suppose a mADB eh^ow maj be caught^ in which ca^e he 900D diM, Moniaver, the **Ukpcm^ of A healthy man umj be tTun^fen-td into a idck body, the Litt«r recovering ta the dtrtrimtuil uf tb« former.



Ukpon anam enye nrono.

His fiiiadow maked him sick.

N,6> — Said when a man ia seiEed with temponu? mania, md faneiea himself hia ** Ukpon*' In this aeuiij th# woni, like the Etna of the South Sea Islanders, signifies an animal — as a leopard, a fish, or a crocodile, witn whose existence the life of the individual is bound up. If the *'Ukpun" sickens or dies, so does the man whose shadow it is, and vice versd. Finally, many people have the power of metamorphosing themselves into their *' Ukpon."


Ukpri esn eye eti-etL

His diminutiyeness is beautiful (i.e., is no deformity).


Uknre ufok edi emi.

This is the finishing of the house (i.e., I shall make it no bigger).


Uknt akabade obop nbok.

The foot turns and ties the hand (i.e., the inferior ^t is above the superior).



316. Matuak eti nknt mfin.

I knocked mj lucky foot to-daj (i.e., I came at good speed).

317. Ina Tuna utum fa edi ini efen. The completion of your work will be some other time (i.e., you neglect the proper opportunity),

318. Enyene ibant nnam. lie is an incorrigible fool.

N.B. — "Unam" answers to our "beast," more oearlyto the French " bdte," including all land animals excepting birds. So Cicero confessed himself to have acted like an " asinum germanum,'* — a genuine donkey.


Ekpo ete, XTna^oduro.

The ghost says, They are of the living (i.e., he has no companionship with them),

320. Adia nkpo ke unom.

He eats more than suffices him (i.e., he has made away with things got in trust).


Owo om enyene nnwa ke iton.

That man has a bend in his neck.

N.B. — Meaning, the wrinkling and overlying of the skin cover* ing the cerebellum, as seen in persons 6i full habit.

Ibuk ye unyim edvk akpo kiet^ ndien edi ibnk ofoa fikan unyim, koru ihvik obukhare nkpo ono« unyim mono.

Tlie ^'Ibuk" (^ mwffl-) tnd the 'JUnnm" (a *e?^*A niggard J emphaiically a miser) are alike; but the miser is better than the nig-gard, for the miaer bringa out a thing he may Lave put m store aud givee^ the niggard nerer


Makara okpok nfok oymn unyon. The white man strips oflf his house.

N.B. — Meaning, he removes the mat roof made over the deck of a ahip lying in the river, and is about to take hia departure.


Abiabnn kpa suk ke otn uquak. A needle is as valuable as a heap of iron bars (i.e., he is worth many of you).

N.B. — The Uquak, or iron-bar, was here, aa in Bonny and other places, the standard of value; it is now supplanted by the copper, of which four makes the old bar.


Inna fa ekeme ye uquok.

Tour mouth is like the Uquok (i.e., you are too saucy).

N.B. — The Uquok is a tree with a rough leaf, which is rubbed a punishment on the lips of evil speakera.



Abasi odon owonraa; afn ama anyam nma fa ama, afii emen akpan fa onyon.

Abasi {Ood) sends man to market; when you bave

made your market, you must lift your basket and off.

N.B. — Meaning, when Qod's purpose with you ia served, you must die. In England, all the world's a stage; in Old Calabar, i market


Afa odiok nte oraikot.

You are drunk as a snake (the emblem of all that is


N.B.— They also say, " He would drink the produce of an Ewoi " (the largest kind of toddi/-palin), and call the drunkard " Eyen min " {son of palm-wine).


IJrak awem esie okibe.

The thread of his life breaks (i.e., he dies).

329. Usan antika: nsan akanem, etc

The Usan is a shallow dish, kept on the Isu Abasi (round altar-like mound in the middle of a yard with bones, etc., before which prayer is offered to Abasi), or on the Isu-Ekpo (the family altar, upon which various " medicines " are placed, and where prayer is made to the deceased paterfamilias). When worshipping, the devotee pours a little water into them. Usan Abasi (also called Eset — assiette?) was formerly kept by the head man in the middle of the town, and it* any stranger

WIT -urn TffisDOJt wnou wxst afbica.

broke it be forth witk bdonged to the phcs&, A]ao Abon Efik (King of Old Ciili^bar) ^hced tbem tli«i© after the feaflt-iiiau juration.


Usaii emEiia.

Plate of birth (i-e., the tpai mhsre cp^ry indhiduat ii in the other tnorld before hi a birth into ihiw).

N,B.— A Platonic ule*, wboae type in El Ulam k tho Yfttim el

AlsKti 'when ihe to be embodied »yinu iv^racf«abnd And naanduJiaL

Plate of vow.


N.B. — Meaning, the spot where an individual in ghoei-land makes a vow to Abasi, that if permitted to be born again amongst men, he will not live beyond a certain time. Hence of a man dying suddenly and causelessly, they say, Akpa Akana Abasi," he dies in consequence of his vow to Abasi. And Akana, a promise or vow, comes to signify fate or destiny. This idea rests Upon the African idea of death. They own, but generally with unwillingness, especially in the case of chiefs, to the Mkpa Abasi, or " the Death of God; " I.e., the death of an old man in the course of nature: our " natural death." But Ndsisi (or lyara) Mkpa, the death of youth (or manhood), is held sudden and unnatural, requiring to be explained by witchcraft, violence, or some such theory as the above.

ITsara AbasL


The feast of God (i.e., the yam feast),

N.B. — Before eating the new yams, which when unripe are unwholesome, the head of the bouse and his family sacrifice and feast uix)n a victim slain in a small enclosure in the yard. Two or three weeks after this an Idem or M umbo- J umbo parades the town, and after the Egbo ceremony, all are allowed to enjoy their harvest. The first feast is called "Usara usuk-abia." And the yam-harveat is called the " Time of Tlenty."




Vbo akanan nkpo om esin tuda omnm fi.

Toup father did so, and hence ill-fortune befalls you.

N.B. — *' Uso," ill-luck generally, is here uaed of eril destiny inherited.


Oba luiene mi.

He takes my return (i.e., for something of his which I had lost or injured),

335. Htantafion oyaha enyon; nyu nwan nsna ayat ebe. The stars (lit., moon dust) fill the sky; the voice of a woman given to hatred vexes her husband.


IJtai ete, Tak ebine imo ke akpa itok; ema ebine imo ke akpa itok, ndien emum imo.

The Iguana says, Let him be pursued in the first start; if he be pursued in the first start, he will be caught. K.B. — Meaning, check the beginning of transgression.



A sum of money given by the successful party in a suit, to entertain "judge and jury." The practice is said to be extinct in Old Calabar, but to exist in Ibibio.



Eanvtning down the gmve of a great man. A few weeke after iat©rmeut a portion of tlio soil la taken up Und supplied bj the eartli of auta' neata, wkich, wben pounded, becomes exceedingly bard.


trtin ekpok.

Litej^alh/, Lixard'a aun (i.e., car/^y ^rwrntng, hffore there


Uton ekpedi enyin mbobop.

If the ear were an eye I would close it (i.e., J do not wish to hear) .

341. Uta ke mbre edidok, ntie ke itie idem-mi. I will remain alone rather than have a slanderer for my companion.


Eyen nnen ete, nye idem eka imo akan eba.

The chicken says, the warmth of his mother's body is

better than milk.

N.B. — Meaning, the mite of the good man is better than the wealth of the wicked.


Iknpke nye idem eka.

It does not feel the warmth of a mother's breast. If.B.—Said of a motherless child when it dies.




Uye owara enye ke idem; okntnk owo oro.

A bad influence comes from that man's body; you must not touch him.

N.B. — " Uye " properly " steam/ here meaos the heat or an ezhalatioQ communicated from one body to another.



A small *' devil-house" (Nqueme), erected after a man's funeral, and containing all his finest articles, mostly broken, with a bed, a table, and a quantity of food for the use of the dead. The " Uyerisu " is also a table whereon articles of domestic use are put, and which is placed behind the deceased's house on the fourth day after burial. Those who assisted in the ceremony wash their faces, whence its name, at the same time praying to the ghost not to injure them, as they have " spread a table for him." The same custom is known in Dahome.


Kka ke nra, nwap uyo; uyo usiin nina obaha enem mi

I went to the market and turned aside to eat Uyo {a eake of fruit like mango); Uyo of the market took me unwittingly with its sweetness.

N.B. — Meaning, I met by the way something so pleasant that I sat still forgetting or not caring to go further, or to carry out my purpose.


Xkan ata fi mua afd adia ofop; ovo ajaa fi nynt

afu aka amiu

Th<3 firo burned your mouth in eating the tliinj^ roaattid; 41 nittn declares himaelf joor enemj, and jou go aud luakc friends witk hjin»


Owobi ntan ko ebifit om*

He ^raspa a handfiil of sand, and tbrowa it at (or towards) a place, thereby renouncing intercourse with it.

Wuk ubok 'no enye.

Salute a superior with Ubok (i.e., humble younelf to him).

N.6. — This is a humble and reverential salutation, made by turning the bands downwards, and touching the earth with the finger tips.


Ekikere se eset ekerede owut eset. Thought breaks the heart.

361. Kyaya aiii akamade mi ison.

I lay to heart the debt you owe me (i.e., I do not with to trust you any farther).



Ekikere ayana mi ke eset

My thoughts evade me (i.e., I cannot fix my thoughts on anything).

353. Ayayare uko.

He unmasks the hero (i.e., shows him to he a coward).

354. Owo imnm ayareset mkpa.

A quiet man gets angry even to death (i.e., when once aroused),

N.B. — So said Mohammed t^e Apostle: Defend tu from the wrath of the mild in spirit.


Abiya iyehe nyai ke ini utiim.

Abiya does not dress herself in the working time.

N.B. — Abiya is a bird, the male of which has two long tail feathers during the breeding season {the Whydah finch; Vidua Paradmaca f) and the proverb is applied to one working in fine clothes.


Eyere aran ye afo.

He smears himself with oil along with you.

N.B. — A brother may ceremoniously dissolve connection with another by drawing the fingers dipped in oil down his own and his brother's arms. On the other hand, fraternity, as has been seenj can be emphatically entered into. These are the rude inventions of an exceedingly sociable race.



Eyet ekpe @fep.

He renounces Egbo (I.e., tails out of the institution)*

S56. Eylite mi nkpo.

He upbraide mo with the gift which he gave to me.

N.B,— Said of an uttgetiaroufl tuan.


Osibe idet ono £fik kpnpm, ete, ima ikpa yak oyum imo.

He cut his hair and sent it to all Efik (Old Calabar), saying, if he died they should inquire concerning him (i.e., as to the cause of his death).

N.B. — A ceremony formerly performed by one who thought he waa dying by witchcraft


Efik ebmtn anam idnt; idut anam Efik atuak iton {or ata mfan).

Old Calabar can inflict any injury it pleases on the countries around; should any of these injure Old Calabar, it may go break its neck {or eat roots),

N.B.— Efik Eburutu,or Ebrutu, is the full title of the Efik, or Old Calabar country, but no one can explain the surname. Some conjecture it to have been the name of a man to whom the land in former times belonged.



Idibi ke idem anam owo.

It is the stomacli which rules the man.

N.B.~Meaiiing, Old Calabar feeds all the neighboaring tribes, and therefore has the supremacy.


Idn nte ntan esien.

Idu (a town in Ibibio) is as the sand in the yard (i.e., its men are numerous).

N.B. — This sentence is expressed by drum-beat when the town is summoned to war.


Ama enwan nte Kkuo.

He loves fighting as much as Nkuo (a town or district towards the Adoni, Andonej, or S. Antonio river, between Old Calabar and the Bonnj).


Odn nana ke OnonkonL

It is in Ononkoni (i.0., it is impossible to get it).

N.6.— Ononkoni is the proper name of a place used in proverbs as a kind of Ultima Thule. So they say, It is farther distant than Ononkoni (ie., a very long way off)*



Asana osim Itn ye ITqua.

Hci hnii reached Itu and UquA ((^.^ iJb utt^rmd^l

N.R — The Itu and U^^ua people i» tUe fartheit mtnaior off* ■bootaof Ibibia.

Bon akam no Abasi.

Pray to Abasi (God): Ut.^ sbotst prayer, mucb after

the fashion of the Pharisees.

N.B. — So, " Bon nye" ia to cheer, after Old Calabar faahion, beating the mouth with the hand whilst uttering the sound.



The razor of God (i.e., the swallow).

368. Akpa enyin idap. Pirst eye of sleep (i.e., first doze).

369. Kirno enye apka mi. Do not give him any of my property. N.B. — Thus a father disinherits his son.



Akpa ekiko.

ZtV., first cock (i.e., cock-crowing time, called by the Anglo-African " Cokkerapeek**).


Akpan idike iba idike ita; ama edi iba kiet otn unene.

The Akpan {Jirst-hom son) is not two or three; if two, one is from Ibo (i.e., a slave).

372. Edneme enye nnnak idion.

He anoints him {lit., applies medicine by rubbing or drawing the finger-points over the place) with Uiiuak. idion (blood, earth, salt, Sfc, kneaded together and smeared on the body at certain Egbo occasions).

373. Odaoi mkponison.

He draws down Mkponison (i.e., marks himself by drawing lines with the juice dfthis rush-like plant, which jf tains the skin blackish.


Ika oru oduduro nte efe.

That word is bitter as Efe (the fruit of a shrub),

N.B.— So we say bitter u galL

D D 2


375. Alii adia nlcpo nte £be. Tou eat Like an Ebe (a ym^ which hnrrotcs in the

N^ — ^Meazung, you itfc glutkmonB*


Enye enyene ekpaha-ika ye ami

He fliandera me (mtkoul naming mr, *o /Art4 / ctmnot take it up).

N.B. — Ekpaha-ika is a word spoken to one, but applied to another.



Father of canoe: ship captain {applied to white traders of importance, as ^^ Abon " to native chiefs),

378. Etn iyakita. The stick with three fish (i.e., the belt oj Orion).


Iffbiaekon nte mfan ikot. Mbiaekon is as the leayes of the trees. N.B.-- SeeNo. 862.




Eyen akpara.

Son of a widow or harlot (i.e., a hoftard).


TJnen edi ibet mi

The flesh of the hen is a thing from which I abstain.

N.B. — " Ibet '* ia a vow of abstinence very common amongst Africans.


Abia-idion ofri ifimn.

The medicine-man blows his " Ifium " (*.«., the toe of a large crab so used).


Ikon ebok.

Zit.f Monkey-cough (i.e., hooping-cough, which re- sembles the scream of a monkey, and is cured by monkey- soup).


Ikpa Ibibio.

Ibibio rope (for climbing palm-trees, tcUh two loops or stirrups for the feet. It is opposed to Ikpa mbudukom or Mbudukom rope, which passes round the body.


A gift to a widow }}y her tiext hu&band, who does not

go through a regular cereaioiw. The present offered and receired signifiea that &be becomei hla wife.

Euy e enyene ime; owo aa am enye eti nlcpo* ododup, iiinmke nyu; anam idiok nkpo, ododnp, uiuruke uyn.

He has great equanimity; if a man does him good he does not express bis feelings; if bad be is still silent.


Etie imo owo afa ofaro.

Connected witji a great man, you will advance.

388. £nye oduk.

He enters into the state of seclusion named Inam.

N.B. — At the order of the mediciDe-man, the invalid called by God shuts himself up with a single wife, and uses the same diet as a girl being fattened for marriage. When he again appears in public there is a feast


Ino ntantafion.

A thief star (».«., a falling star which appears to run of like a thief).




Ebre innen.

He plays bird.

N.B. — Said of a certain conjuratioii, when the medicine-man puta something into hia mouth and produces the note of a bird.


Iquot oknt edim, edim edi

The frog calls for rain, rain comes.


Isana ete, imo idiaka udia, idia ofiin ke ikot

The Isana (a sloth-like animal) says he eats no food, he eats the wind in the bush.

Owe iion-ika.


A man tme to his word (f.0., Jlrm in standing hy what he says).


Itie ata kiet anam owe idap.

A sitting in one place makes a man sleep.

395. Iton obio ke odon mi

The longing for my native land seizes me (».«., I am home-^h).


Ifiok ofon akan-inyene. Knowledge is better than riches.


Owo anam ono fi, afa ete, imakan mi; ekpayah fi eyak mi, afa akpanam didie akan mi

Somebody has done it for you, so you say yon beat me; if you and I had been left to ourselves, how could you have beaten me?


Ono ke mfon.

He gives it of his goodness (i.e,, gratuitously).




Kebe nkebe.

Take an enema.

N.B. — A purgative is always so administered to wash'um belly," as the Anglo- African phrase is.



Meaning ** Comej" the equivalent to custom-house dues, paid by ships trading to Old Calabar.


Okpn ndikpa mkpa orn.

He fails to die that death (i.e., hdng pardoned, or having his penalty commuted).


Kukubara akpa.

A monstrous snake, stretching across the river and disturbing the water.


Afa edl manka ekpe.

You are an alien of this Egbo society.

N.B. — Mankpa-ekpe is one who, having bought Egbo in another town, is free to walk through a strange place when Ekpe is in it^ but cannot claim a share of entrance fees.




E&^e ftnAm mi, et9. Xbap f

She inBiUta use ftayiij|T Mlmp T (or '* J/^/r dt«f«^* meprettion ofconUm^t^ with eorrr^ponditi^ ^e4fmre}.


Spi ntbonL Td eup.

K.Il. — Thd Mhom u a miaJl cup-like cakbuh r tBtf tjo othfff way of b]%;e«Iiji^.


Mo equak Mbnba.

They knock Mbuba (i.e., broken pieces of ealabtuk beaten together to drive disease from a house, after the individual who has died of it has been buried in the busk).


Mfnt-enyin itakha mfnt-enyin ibon.

TlMMigli he look 80 fierce, never mind, he can do



A yullvivv fUh, unid to invite the crocodile to swallow it i\A good lufiliuiius** because it is found sticking in the crocodilu'ti tiknmt, uud killing him with its spines.




Onim idem ede ke mkpim-nkan.

He holds himself soinetbing superior.

N.B. — Mkpun-nkan — "exceeding greatness" — is used in rebuke or ridicule of an inferior who does not respect his superior.


Monkn. Filth.

N.B. — Also unwashed clothes, cap, or clout, sent to a medicine- man to guide his divination when the person does not go himself. It is the practice of our modern mesmerists.


Owo ndita.

One who has a craving for animal food {apparently a disease in Equatorial Africa).

414. Ndaokho.

A medicine charm thrown about the place to prevent quarrelling during a wake or a feast.



The after-birth (which is buried beside a palm-tree planted at the time, so as to grow with the child).

^^^^H * ^ ^^H^^^^^^^^^^^^'^^^^^^^^^^^l


^f A thunderbolt {a tree gum fitrmed inio mwt By eUetric J ^^M X abrub whose leares Benre to poison or stupefj fi»1t. ^^H


Adadan owo.

A man not quite black— reddish.

N.B. — The three compIexioDS in this part of Africa are yellow, red, and black, the latter perhaps being the rarest.


When a man is compelled to forsake his countrj, he comforts himself by saying, " It is not only one place, that causes man to decay."

To express the yery proper sentiment that persons should not be reproved or punished in the midst of trouble which they have culpably brought upon them- selves, but afterwards, they cry, " Take your child out of the water before you slap him."

Speaking of a man of uncompromising courage and resolution, they observe "A leopard has one mind."

From " Cavalla Messenger," Bebruary, 1864.

The following African cosmogony is so idiomatically told that I cannot resist introducing it, although it may appear out of place in a Book of Proverbs. The syncretic nature of its system, and the terse account of what

" Brought death into the world, and all our woee," will, I hope, recommend it to the reader.



BXSXBH OF Tunsras came to esist,*

Ahati risfiM up iits there ^ makes all things ahove^ Atrnc^i adaiis etia do, auatn kpupm nkpo ka enyou^

milker all lhht^§ hehiff, ttdth toater^ and hush.i and ana III kpupm iikpo ke ifiong, ye roong, j'c ikot, ye

th§ rifctfrj and springe and beasts of the htt$hj he make& akpa ye idiin ye unam ikot, anam

everif kind of thing in the whole world. He makes not kpupru oruk nkpo ke ofri ererimbut. Inamke

wifl/i, men all dwell yonder with Ahasi, Even man one own, owo kpupru edufi ko ye AbasL Baba owo kiet

lives not here in the world, hut heast of the hush and idube ken ke ererimbut, ibahake unam ikot je

Jlsh which live in water and birds which we see iyak enii erure ke mon ye iniien emi nyin ikutde

flying above, and many things other. I see not that I shall efede ke en} ou ye eriwak nkpo efen. Nque nte ndi-

• Specimen of the Language, from the Rev. Mr. Goldie'a '^Principles of Efik Grammar," Old Calabar, printed at the Mission Press, 1857. t Forest.


count them all Just now. But man even one existed not batde mo kpupru idahemi. Edi owo ndiimo kiet ikeduhe

in the world; all men dwelt yonder with Ahasi in town ke ererimbiit; kpupru owo ekodufi ko ye Abasi ke obio

his. Then the day that Ahasi sits and eatSj they meet esie. Ekem usen orii Abasi etie adia, mo ebiioo

there with him and Atai * his for uttering talk, do ye enye ye Atai esie ke esioiio neme.

At length Atai his calls him, he answers^ she says to him^ Ekem Atai esie okiit enye, enye eyere, ete enye,

"The situation such as this they were situated hereisgood very " Itie nte emi mimo etiede mi ofofoa eti

then earth that existing there thou hast; heaven as this ndlen isofi odu orude do afii enyene; enyo^ nte emi

they dwell in here thou hast; then that thou madest a whole inimo indiiiide mi afu enyene; ndieu ke afu ndi nam ofri

place so to keep, and if thou placest not man there, ebict ntre 'mm, ndien munimke owo do,

it is not good; seek a way that thou canst place man there ifonke; yiiin usun nte onimde owo do

  • Head wife.


an earth ihat^ so lltat they abide there kindle Jtre^ bo tlioi ke iBou odiij kpa6 uw efcie do t-bara ikafi, kpa£

he^vm be warm for cold nlound^d in heaven^ because ^re eny^E ofiiip ke tuep ke awak ke eavon, koru ikau

ejeiifs noi on earth." Aha^i is silent Jhr a long time^ si niiduhe ke ison.'* Abosi odiip tutututu,

length calls Atai, she answers^ he says to her, *' Kind of ekem okiifc Atai, enye eyere, ete enje, " Oruk

attempt that trying there passes him, and (if) he will idiimo odii odiimodo do akan imo, injufi idi-

take man place there on earth, man abiding there and da owo onim do ke ison, owo etie do

dwelling there will measure himself with him, will try to odufi do odii mo idem ye imo, odiimo

speak say, ' He is as he^ he will try to speak say * Me ndidaha ete ' Itie nte imo/ odiimo ndidaha ete,

knows thing past him; * it is that you see stops him Imofiok nkpo akaa imo; *edi odii alii okutde akpande imo

to speak say, *Man may go abide there on earth,^ " Wife says, ndidaha ete * Owo ekete do ke ison.*" Ngwan ete,

" He, man will not try. You having taken man to place enye, owo idiimoke. Afu a ma ada owo okonim



there an earth, she toill watch; even man one, will not see do ke ison, imo ijekpeme; baba owo kiet idique

that he can compare himself with you. Having put man nte odiimo idem ye afii. Ama onim owo

there, give up put in her hand, she will watch do, yak sin ke ubbk imo iyekpeme

man trying to pass you. She surpasses man that. The man owo odiimo ndi kan fi. Imo ikan owo orii. Owo

trying to think in heart, saying, ' Se surpasses you,* she odiimo ndikere ke eaet, ete, ' Imo ikan fi,' imo

surpasses man that," Abasi assents, saying, ^ Me dislikes ikan owo orii." Abaai ony'ime, ete, ** Imo isuaha.*' not (the scheme)."

At length Abasi takes male person one, gives, Ekem Abasi emen eren owo kiet ono

saying, *^ Me shall dwell on earth, Man shall dwell on ete, Edidu^ ke isoft. Erenowo edidu5 ke

earth, then it shall he it fits time of food, iBofi, ekem eyedi ekem ini udia,

and they strike hell of food in heaven, man that must emia nkanika udia ke enyo^ erenowo orii



ascend ffo eat thinff^ and hiving eaten done^ descend a$td odok aka adia akpo, adia am a, Odukkiido

return to earth. It suits time of food of monxing hegoB^' onyofi ieoii, Ekooi ini udia usenubok etjje aka

on high io eat^ th^it of mid-da^ he ^oe^ thither^ that for ke enyofi akadia, eke uweniiivu enye aka ko, ekt)

evening h& goes thither^ all food his ks mts therii,** mbubreyu enje aka ko; kpiipru tidia csie enje adU ko/*

Then Abasi speaks to him, man that, says, he must not wish Ndien Abaai odaha enye, erenowo orii, ete, enye okuyiim,

saying, he may have food below; that if he have food ete, inyene udia ke isoii; ke enye inyene udia

helow which he may eat, then he will not care any more for ke ison eke adiade, ke enye idikereke aba

food his, will not wish any more saying, he mil come on high udia imo, idiyumke aba ete, idi ke enyou

to eat thing, and that it will result from that that man ididia nkpo, ke eyetii orii owo

will forget him, ifre imo.

Then wife addresses him says, He the man abiding Ekem nwan bdaha enye ete, " Enye erenowo nditie



90 alone not having a wife is not good, for a man it is ntre ikpon rainyeneke nwan ifooke, erenowo

good to divell with a wife, for a woman it is good with a ofon nditie ye fiwan, &wan ofoa ye

man" • Se, Abasi, assents, saying to Atai his, " It is erenowo." Enye, Abasi, onyime, ete Atai esie, " Ekem

fitting so, but then, if he speak saying, *■ he gives a wife ntre, ndien, imo idaha ete, ' ino fiwan

who shall abide there with the man,* it will happen thence eke etie do ye erenowo/ eyetii do

they shall be born and multiply and have children male and mo ernana ewak enyene ndita ircn ye

children female, so that they become many men, and when ndita iban, otii do mo ewdra eriwak owo, ndien

they grow many men they will forget him.** mo ewara eriwak owo eyefre imo."

Wife says to him, "It is fitting so, then they go Ngwan ete enye, *' Ekem ntre, ndieu mo eka

go abide there, but will not we in common a mat** t He eketie do, edi idibuanake mbri.*' Enye

  • It is hard to say how mach of this is borrowed Arom Eoropeans.

+ That is to say, liye as man and wife.

E R 2



as^nUf ffives the woman ^ na^in^ she mutt tthiile there wUh oujitnej duo fiwan, ete ©tie do y^

  1. ta)i on the earth. The wotnmi ^ots sits there with wwn an

t^reii ke iaoil. Kg wan nka etie do re iiren ke

earik, and they dwdl Ihere^ Ah(m speaks to ihern sa^g^ ub^t mij eJufi do, Abasi odaliii mii ete,

^* Theff masi not kave in comfnon u mat 7* The^ assent, " Eku"bua5a mbri " Mo enjiPtne,

and keep each other company there; then at time of food ebiiuo do; ekem ini udia

they yo on hiyh proper day the. The wife yoes on hiyh mo eka ke enyon edikem usen orii. Ngwan aka ke enyou

mth the husbandj they yo eat thiny done and rise up* ye ebe, eka edia fipo ema edaha enybii.

Friend her female* takes her and permits to walk so Ufau esie an wan ada enje ayak asana ntre

mth her and proceeds to the earth. She exclaims calls }eenje ediwarji ke isoii. Akpaha okiit

her ^^ friend her female^ She answers^ she says to enye " ufan imo afiwan." Enye eyere, etc

  • The female friend is here the tempter.


heTf ** The kind of place this you abide in here enye, "Oruk ebiet emi mbiifii etiede mi

seems to her as a very good place, then it happens how etie imo nte ata eti ebiet, ndieu anam didie

you are lazy?" Friend her female says to her, mbiifii edi ifu? ** , Ufau esie aiiwan efce enye,

" How? " She says, " Te say that * you donU "Ke didie?" Enye ete, "Edaha ocKi *mbufii mi-

wish a way that ye may provide food of yourselves.* yumke usufi nte enamde udia idem-mbiifii.*

The journey you travel thus so it distresses not Isau mbiif u e:$afiade ntem nte iyatke

you? So you will remain sitting eating even food mbiifii? Nte edisuk etietie idia kpa udia

hand of man has not, which belongs to yourselves. ubiik owo inyeneke, eke idem-mbiifii.

" Bush this * standing here I suppose belongs to Abasi, "Ikot emi adade mi nkom enyene Abasi,

and I believe Abasi speaks saying, * Tou must abide here ndien nkotn Abasi oJaha ete, *■ Mbiifii etie mi

Pi^bably the Garde;i of EUen, deriyed from old Portaguese.

• i


in buali thiSf* ihen ii happen* how you m*h not at u-a^for

ke ikiit emi,* ndien anam didie mbiifii mijut&ke ubuu nie

mftiin^ a farm here that you may have food of your own?" entimfte ifiwaii mi kpau uibUfiJ enyene udia idemmbiifu?"

Jf^ritrnd h^ female sttys to her^ thai if i* intfh you speak UfaQ esie ^^wnn ete enje^ko edi akpanjka k@ alu odiibii

(vf, but Ahaxi has wpoJcen sayings *' i%mf must not m*k udk'U Abaai mua bJiiliS ete, **ioimd ikujiim

to have food of themselves here on earthy that he will give ndiyece udia idem-mimo ken ke isbfi, ke imi) eyeno

them food all time on high, then if they plant farm mimo udia kpuprii ini ke enyon, ndien mimo ita iiiwan

and have food of themselves, it mil he they mil not care inyene udia idemmo, nkom mimo idikereke

any more to go to food of Abasi above, and it will come aba ndi ka udia Abasi ke enyo^, eyetu

thence they will forget Abasi how he spake that odii mimo ifre Abasi nte enye oi.abade ke

they will have food of themselves which they will eat also, mimo idinyene udia idemmimb eke idiade inyufi,

then also they care not for food of Abasi, and ndien inyufi ikereke udia Abasi, ndien



it must he if they do so Ahasi will quarrel tcith them,** nkom mimo inam ntre Abasi ejetkaha ye mimo.**

Friend her female saySy " He mil not quarrel, he will say Ufan esie a^wan ete, " Itakbake, enye odiip.*'

nothing** At length at time of food they go above, friend Ekem ini udia mo eka ke enyon, ufan

her female that takes matchet * gives her saying, " Oive esie afiwan orii emen ofat eno enye ete, "No

your husband that he may clear a spot in face of yard uberi etem ebiet ke isii esien

your that, and having cleared it done, you must tell her** mbufu odii, ama etem ama, afii dJaha irao."

She assents; takes the matchet, gives the husband, husband Enye onyime; ada ofut, ono ebe, ebe

cuts down a spot in face of yard their, clears it done. etem ebiet ke isii esien mo, etem ama.

She tells friend her female, friend her says to her, Enye odilba ufan eaie afiwan, ufan esie ete enye,

" Let it remain there and dry, then she will direct you how " Yak etie do asat, ndien imo iteme fi nte

  • A catting iDstrament



^ofi fRt^jf £^0.*' She oM^enU. Ai hn^h hu*h ihat tkfiy ena^nde/* Eisje onjitne. Ekem ikot orii

dbwjn Zay ^iffre and dried all, friend herfetrmh take9 eketemde ana do as at kpupru, ufan esie afiwan ad a

fire from heaven, fetches her nnd satfs to her, " MindU ikafi ke enjo&j osok enye ete enye, " Taene

fire thrust in hush tliat.^^ She kindles fire^ the husband ikafi kin ke ikcit orii." Enje etuetie iknft, eb©

kindles, friend her fenuile that kindles, and they take go etuene, ufan esie afiwan orii etuene, mo eda eka

go thrust into the hush, and the fire consumes all. Then friend ekokm ke ikot, ikafi ata kpupru. Ekem ufan

her female returns saying to her, " You having heard bell esie afiwan onyofi ete enye, " Mbiif ii ema ekiip nkanika

of food come! " and she assents. At length they hear hell udia edi! " enye ouyime. Ekem mb ckiip nkauika

of food, they go go eat thing done, and then they rise up. udia, eka ekadia nkpo ema^ ekem edaha ke enyon.

Friend her female takes her and goes to the house, goes Ufan esie afiwan ada enye aka ufok,

gives her all kinds of food and fruit which they bkono enye kpupru oruk udia ye mbufiwum nkpo emi


plant in farm mth sugar cane and every kind of thing she eiade ke inwan, ke mbokok ke kpupru oruk nkpo

gives her; she takes returns and keeps. By and hy friend OQo enje; enje ada dayon edinim. Ekem ufaa

her female comes and carries in hand a knife and hoe of esie anwan edi akama iqua ye udok

planting and hoe for gathering up earth and comes thence uta ye udok unyukha otu edi

and calls her and the husband, takes them goes to place okiit enye ye ebe, ada nio aka ke tibiet

that they had put fire. They take sweep the clearance orii ekekimde ikan. Ekada ekpori otuk

all and pick up food that they divide and 'plant there, kpupru etafi udia orii esiak eta do,

they plant with fruit that. All return come sit together etji ye pibunx^ iim nkpo orii. Kpupru en\ oiio edibiino

in house, then at time of food they go eat thing done and ke ufok, ekeiu ini udia nio eka edia nkpo eiua

return. At length they delay not, thing every springs, yam euyoilo. £)kem idaiikedaii, nkpo kpupru ot'ibe, bia

shoots forth sprouts, all become large. Friend her female otibe emiae kpupru ewono ikpo. Ufan esie auwan



comes tl^i/ another to visit her, and she taket friend Hrr edi usee efea ndiae enyCj enje ada ufan e^ie

fo jA<>ftf the Jaryt$f fH&nd licr assents. Sho satfs to ker, okowud iiiwafit ^^^^ esie ouyiDie, Etc eiiyc*,

  • ' Tell tf&ur hushmd to eat yum slicka and thrust in fir

" I>iiba uberi ekpi ndi^a atuiik iido

^nm which ha# apr&ui, to look every thin^ tchich koM bia eke euytiiiede emine, e»e kpupru ukpo eke enyenede

sprout thrust in sticks give. Se assents. At length emine atuak iidisa ono. Eave onyime. Ekem

husband thrusts in sticks gives all food that and ebe atuak ndisa ono kpupru udia orii ye

everg tiling that. Then dag that theg go on high kpupru nkpo oru. Ekem usea orii mo eka kenyon

go eat food of evening having returned theg cofne to the ekadia udia mbubreyu eina enyono edi ke

house; she, the woman spreads mat her and enters^ and lies ufok; enje, nwan ebri mbri esie oduk, ana

down as she used to lie every dog; the husband lies on nte akam anade kpupru usea; ebe ana ke

his as he is wont to lie every day. It reached to the esie nte akam anade kpupru usen. Ot^im ke


middle of night very, the husband rises and follows voife, uf bt okune/u ibibia, ebe adaha etiene nwan,

the wife speaks to him says, " Ahasi will quarrel with nvran odiiha enye ete, "Abasi eyetakha ye

them,^^IIe says, "JSe will not quarrel, then should he qtuirrel miruo.*' Enye ete, " Itakhake, ndien okponyuii otakba

let him quarrel, hut they have not a way that they shall do yak otakba nkom, mimo inyeneke nte edinamde

and escape the quarrel of Ahasi . It was so Abasi had ibahiike utiik Abasi. Nkom Abasi oko-

spoken, saying, they must not wish say, they mil have food daha, ete, mimo ikuyiim ite, inyene udia

on earth, then this was so, they planted farm, and ke isoii, ndien emi nkom, mino iraota inwun, ndien

that they had planted farm it was they spoiled commands odii ema ikota iiivvan nkom, mimo imabiat mbet

of Abasi, then let th^ keep on spoil alV* The wife is Abasi, ndien yak miitio isuk ibiat kpupru." Ngwan

silent for a long time and consents* odilp tutututu, onyime.

  • This resemblfs the Moslem myth, that Adam knew his wife afler

eating of tl)e forbidden p]ant— wheat.


Da^ dawns and month parses over wife / tt^fe eonc^vM Eju eeiere ofiou eb© nwao; fiwan emen idibi

JHsf ver^ dijjf til at th^ did meet there so as tcife and lipii^ijk U6«n oni mo eyebobuoo do Dtre cte nwan ye

Atf^rifJnif^:Z7ifii cf^^ iliat friend her female cornea^ CQmem @bei Ekem usen oru ufsn esie an wan edi* edi*

itpmksto her^ ^mfs, '* Cam*? tk^i/ ^o to tlefarm^ They ^9 da i ill erne, ete, '* Di mi mo ika ifi^'an " Mo eka

farm; friend her female took stick to dig up, comes says iuwafi; ufan esie anwan akada eiii idiik, edi ete

to her, ^^ Let them try yet how they can scrape soil, enve, " Yak mimo idiimo kaiia nte itetde isbii,

look the thing which they had planted here, it is how ise nkpo emi mimo ikotade mi, etie didie

now." She assents; they scrape ground un-

adau emi." Euye onyiine; mo efet isoii ebuk-

bury the yam and keep it. Friend her female says she bale bia iiiiim. Ufan esie aiiwan ete enye

must lift, she lifts and returns to the house, friend her emen, enye emen onyoii ufok, ufan e»ie

shows her how to do it all. Then she gives her ett'iijc enye nte enamde kpupru. Ekem ono enye


pepper, gives her salt, gives her every thing of food, ntukon, ono enye inun, ono eDje kpupru nkpo udia,

and pot and spoon and calabash and mortar and stone (to ye eau ye ikpan ye iko ye urun ye itiat

grind) pepper; then friend her female goes. They ntukoa; ekem ufan esie anwan oayoa. Mo

sit together there so till wife toils yam and they eat, eyebobiino do ntre tutu nwan eteme bia odii mb edia,

(she) and husband. Sun declines, they spread mat enter ye ebe. Eye okut, ebri mbri eduk

lie on mat one, (she) and husband, they lie not any more cna mbri kiet, ye ebe, mo inana aba

differently as they used to lie. The mfe went no more nsio nsio ekam eaade. Ngwan ikaba aba

to food at town of Abasi. When husband went, Abasi asks udia ke obio Abasi. Eyedi cbe aka, Abasi obiip

him saying,* " Wife thy lives where?^^ He says wife his enye ete, " Kwan f ii oni mon? ** Enye ete nwan ioiO

is sick. He did not tell Abasi saying wife his

oionoiio, Enye isianke Abasi ete nwan imo

  • Maeh like the tale of Adam's nakednees.


1^04 pregnant. M& wa^ eJraiJt for Ahan t{ml ipokfin to aj'0}umo. Efehe, korii Aba*i ilko<1^1iiide

ihsm Mo^ing^ " Thetf mu^i not do thin^ #0/' Tht^n wife hi* m^ ete, " Ekuuam nkpo utre,'* Ekem fiwan esio

0oi*n/ff month the one proper rttonth of birth in whicA sAe abat oHou ada ekekem UQ^>u uman omi enye

lAoufef A«t?# cAt^i^ ehm *he tit* down and hfar* a ton. edimande, ekem eny^e osSni am an Srcn.

I%ey live together there so; in no long time mfe also Mo ebiibiino do ntre; ibigike bigi nwan onynn

conceives and hears a daughter, They live together so, emen id'ibi aman auwan. Mo ejebuno ntre,

and go not any more to food at town of Abasi, At length ikaba aba udia ke obio Abasi. Ekem

he father of children these, because it teas that he had enye ete ndita orii, korii edide nte enye ama

knoum books, when children his were born so he takes book ofiok nwed, ndita esie emana ntre enye ada nwed orii

the and teaches the children. Then day that Abasi calls Atai ekpep ndita. Ekem usen orii Abasi okiit Atai


hUy €uldre8se8 her saying ^ " Tou see the word this he spoke esie, odaha euye ete, " Oinokut ika emi imo ikodaha

to you, don't you see how man has forgotten him here?** fi, uque nte owo efrede imo mi? "

Atai says to him, " Never mind for that, leave the thing Atai ete enye, " Dahadu keset, yak no

with her, she will watch** At length Atai his sends death, in.i), iyekpeme." Ekem Atai esie odbn mkpa,

death comes, hills husband of woman the and woman the, mkpa edi, owiit ebe nwan orli ye nwan orii,

they persons both die in day one and leave the children.Then mo owo mbiba ekpana usen ik et e^iuk ndita. Eketn

the children remain there a long time, at length small thing ndita Stie do tutiitutu, ekem ekpri ukpo

even a little comes not, important thing occurs not, any esisit idike di, akpan nkpo idike di,

thing which they should quarrel about, hut they quarrel. nkpo eke mb ekpbtiikbade, mo etakba.

Atai of Abasi made dispute this follow them and death and Atai Abasi anam utok emi etione iiio ye mkpa ye


ml limy Af caiM# ^tf^fi^Jr tkmr hoi dome ecd tkiit^* iditk Dkpo kort ilte m5 i^^amde idiok okpo^

Jffy Mff( both eldent t&ti and second dnu^hUr

mmiddeti daughter and tteond ton thejf quarrel andji^hi;

}e adtiilm yo utiii mu ^Ulkba ^nwatw;

then fldfMt *m and nf€ond daughter pieh up M ikittf

ekem nkpftn vr* uduflwMi Btan kpupm nkpo

of hook of father their and all books of father their and nwed ete mo ye kpupru nwed ete mo ye

all things which father their teas wont to use after the kpupru ukpo eke ete mo akam anam ekade

custom of the white man.f They pick up all run off and ke idii makara. Mo etan kpupru efeue

into the forest a long way and settle in the thick part of eduk ikot tutututu ckatak ke mbaba eset

the forest. The eldest daughter and second son pick up ikot. Adiaba ye uda etan

\oe for planting and hoe for hoeing and cutlass and every udok uta ye udok unyukba ye ikpanam ye kpupru

  • like tW dispotesof Adam's children,

1^ Tb« wkilt BUi being % aepanOe (Mtral AfiricM •pinioo, is here a di

»te li^^Hl^tBmMi creation


kind of thirty which pertains to thing of plantation^ run off oruk nkpo eke asanade ke nkpo inwau, efefie

depart and settle in midst of forest the very also. The eayon, ekatak ke ufot ikob ibiba nko.

eldest daughter settles there with second son, and second Adiaha etie do ye uda, ud'a

son takes her marries and keeps her as wife his. The ada enje oda onim ute nwan esie.

eldest son yonder in quarter that heron and went off to Akpan ko ke edem odii enje efehede onjon

also takes second daughter * marries and keeps as wife his. onyuu ada udunwan odii onim nte nwan esie.

The first daughter and second son live together there in Adiaha ye uda cbiino do ke

place that they ran went to settle there and have many cbict odii mo efehede eka e.ie do enyene eriwak

children^ both children male and children female. The ndita ye ndita ircnowo ye Ddita iban.

eldest son and second daughter also have in like manner in Akpan ye udufiwaa enyun enyene ntre ke

  • They marry like the sons and daughters of Ere.

r r


tpoi thai tkey ran went io^ The eldest dua^liter and Sbiiat orii loiJ efenede eks. Adiaba y©

4ee&nd son remain so da tc^k offftrm and ^learirtff which uda etie utre caam utiim inwan ye Btem oni

M^y cleared and cutting whiph the^ nut and they putJiTe in m%) efcemed^ je ok put orii mo ekpide^ ektmde ikan ke

/oTM and clear the plac€ hurnt* ThM makes tkcm hlach tmd IS wan ekporide otuk. OdU anam mo ebre

they turn black men* The eldest son and second daughter ekabade mbubit owo. Akpan ye udunwan

these are as those toho do kind of work that catises them oiii edide nte mo eoamde oruk utiim otii esin mo

they dontget black. They stand become white men. Thus tee ekubre. Mo eda edi mfia owo. Nte emi nyin

live together here, both black men and makara* are of mother ibunode mi, ye mbubit owo ye makara edi eka

one and father one, but we black men are people of eldest kiet ye cte kiet, edi nyin mbubit owo edi ikot adiaba,

daughter, white men are people of eldest son who fled and m£a owo edi ikiic akpan emi ekefebede on} oil

  • White men.


went to the bush, for it is thing of hook of father their ikofc, kedi nkpo nwed Ste mo

that eldest son picked up and ran off makes makara know orii akpan akatande efehe esin makara ofiok

book, also it is thing of work of farm of father their that nwed, onjii£ edi nkpo utiiin in wan ete mil orii

eldest daughter picked up makes us black men understand adiaha akatande eedn nyin mbubit owo ifiok

work of plantation. She, the Atai of JJbasi, did not lose utiim inwan. Enje, Atai Abasi, iduokke

head for word as she spoke with husband. That makes man ibuiit ke ika nte enje okodahade ye ebe. OrU eun owo

bom into the world seek to stand up in greatness of power, amana ke ererimbut oyiim ndidaha mkpiin ubon,

also he makes bold the eye and cares not even thing one. onyun oson enyin mikerekekere baba nkpo kiet.

She, Atai, forbears for a time; great man that will not consent Enye, Atai, eme tutu; akan owo orii miny'imeke

to renounce custom that, she kills. She causes death this ndiduok idii oni, enye owiit. Enyeesin mkpa emi

which all men die here. Atai speaks saying, "Let

kpupru owo ekpanade mi. Atai odaha ' ete, Yak

WW 2

§SB WW JLTD insuoM paoic west afbiga.

man noi frmliiply t&& much in ih^mirld; hemuit noi

okuwftk akftlia ke ercnmbutj

Uv« l^e ever ever; that if man live life ever ever in ths

okodu uwem nai neij ke owo odu uwem aai nai Ice

world he i/siU multiply ioo much,*** Fnmi ilmt she forgets ererunbut eyewak akaha. Otii orii imu i^ke

$iol word as she httd promUed pven htuhand her. 2%ere- ujn ate imo ikonffouode ioo ebe imo. KoHl

fore it is as Atai has uttered voice given htuband, saying, edide nte Atai ama bdubk uyu ono ebe, ete,

" She will not that man dwell in the toorld ever ever,** she " Imo idinyimeke owo odun ke ererimbut nsi nsi," enye

makes man die. Though she gives man he dwells esin owo ekpana. Ekpedi nte enye onode owo ediduii

in the world, she takes us away, for if men knew not how ke ererimbut, osio nyin efep, ke owo ikpiifiokke nte

they were situated some men would turn beasts in forest. etiede, usuk owo ekpakabade unam ke ikot.

  • This is a purely African idea, partly underlying human sacrifice

and destruction of life by poison ordeal, twin-murder, &c.






The following specimexiB are taken from a sketch of the Grammar and Vocabiilary painfull/ collected during a year's isolated residence at Nenge-Nenge, on the Gaboon River, by the Rey. Messrs. Preston and Adams, of the American Mission.* My friend Mr. Winwood Reade, author of Savage Africa/* was allowed to make a MS. copy, from which I have borrowed.

The Mpangwe is an interesting race. They were intro- duced to Europe by M. Paul du Chaillu, under the name of '* Fans," and his account of their terrible cannibalism found many questioners. Mr. Reade and I both subse- quently visited the tribe, and found only the average traces of anthropophagy. Its habitat is on the upper course of the Gaboon River, and it is separated from the seaboard by the kindred Mpongwe, called by the French "les Gabons." The latter, however, is a race rapidly becoming extinct, and the Mpangwe must then tempo- rarily take its place.

  • I beliere that a sketch of the Grammar and Yocabnlarj of the

Mpangwe dialect hu been printed bj the Mission Press, Gaboon Eiver.



To borrow Mr. Preston's remarks, " Thia kngnage m remarkably minute and fleiible. Kew words appear to ha.ve been coined in abundance to name new tbings, or old words have been stretched to meet tbem. There are few word a for the foelicga^ — none to eipresia lofty ideas, refined eeiitriKeiitP, or even comic onplace virtues. It is eeeeiitially a physical laDguage^a Jonguage of Ibe woods aod fields, the praines and rivers; of man's body — his sports J his occupatioDs, hiB ncceg&itieB. We leani from tbia dull catalogue that the people are close observers of Kature, or rather of Js'ature'fl clothing-. Tbia language^ terse and rugged a» the naked savages by whom it is used, is but slightly different from the languages of the coast. The soft-spoken Mponge (Gaboon tribe) have it softened, lengthened, and disguised; but the roots are in common. This process of changing the language is to be observed in its first stage in the * Dikele ' (the dialect of the Bakalai). Cut most Dikele words in half, and take the first half — you have the Mpange."

Wa ta sue.

You have become naked (i.e., you have nothing).

Kaba a woha abub.

The goat feels panting (i.e., is weary),

N.B. — The more civilized Mpangwe declares that the Bushmen cannot eat goats or fowls, which they look tipon as fellow-townsmen, and call the former " brother." They rarely, however, refuse to sell their " brethren."


A ei ine) nzam nynl.

He is not with sweetness of body (i.e., he is unkind).

Ynmiki le ki

Make it strong with strength (i.e., very strong).

A ni annh avol.

He is with a sharp mouth (i.e., he talks fast).

Bikangbi jo.

Clouds of sun (i.e., white clouds).

7. A mana lorn mvon.

He has sent the curse.

N.B. — Meaning, he has repeated the formula over a boy to blast the thief.

A yem mala osa, a yam main onvns.

He knows the days before and he knows the days behind.

Jo da ziba.

The sun grows dark (i.e., sets).


10, Mina moba nyat oyoh. You sit above a cow (i.e., ride).

II- Kal zano.

Mj Slater.

N.B.— A male calls her bo, ftnii a feinal* ealla her bretlief "NdoEQft zam" — my Ihrotliflr. But when a male oi^eaks of hm brother, or & female ot her Hister, they Baj ** child of my father/* or " child of my mather/'


Mayah mana masi onyenli.

This rum has no Onyenh (i.e., is watered).

N.B. — " Onyenh " is the hitter bark which makes palm wine intoxicating.


A lorn mokal.

He sends curses.

N.B. — Alluding to a form of curse, in which a kind of dance is executed.



A word said when a woman wishes her child to get up on her back.



My musket after use needs oiling.

N.B. — Recommending the punishment or acquittal of one accused.

Give a dog a bone, and he will break and eat: so will we the town of our enemy.

Goat's blood is goat's blood.

N.R — Anglicif in the vulgar, "trumps," i.e., we knew all that before.

What I speak in the debate, I will enact in the field: there is a fish in the river called Fataseh.

N.B. — This animal has a natural protection, and is able to de- fend itself.

  • The following nineteen are borrowed from ** Dahomey and the

Dahomans," being the journals of two missions to the King of Dahomey, and residence at his capital in the years 1849 and 1850. By Frederick E. Forbes, CommAnderjB.N., F.B.G.S., &c. 2 vols. Loudon: Longmans, 1861.

446 WIT urj) WISDOM:rBOM wbst afeica<

Let a man stu^ himaelT at mgkt, and he is heavy in the xnoruing: that jnan ia a fool.

If ODe partly destroj« a country, one ia not likely to returu in open day, but will take adrantage of the dark' ueB8 of nigbt« 

113.— AHiidiog to iha D&bfmuui ijitem of petpetuat lurpiriaes.

Where war is, there the drum will be.

The readiest way to sell, is to cry your goods through the streets.

In times of peace the warrior's eye roves in all direc- tions: in war, it is fixed upon one point.

N.B. — Meaning, " Force should be concentrated."

10. We are the king^s sandals.

11. Amou entered a room in which lay a corpse: he lifted the sheet, and was asked why? " Because,'* he replied,

    • I am anxious to go where that man is gone." Let us

go there, or conquer the enemy!

N.B. — The Dohomans, with other African pagans, believe — not


u Commander Forbes rappoaes, " in a transmigration of souls, and that the dead pass into a happier state" — ^that after death the ghost can return at times to earth, and do good or evil to those living. Thus the rich take their favourite wives and a few slaves with them, some of the wives being often voluntary sacrifices — in fact, suicides.


Although a snake casta away beads and sheds its skin,

it cannot change its colour; nor can I mj word.

N.B. — Dahomans believe that the Popo beads are the produce of a snake, whereas other Africans consider them the vertebne of reptiles. They are dug up in the interior, where they are worth their weight in coraL Imitation has hitherto failed; and it is still disputed whether they came originally across the continent from Egypt, or were buried in early times by the Venetians.


Beans, though dried in burning fire, can, hj introducing the finger, be taken out and eaten.

14. Fetish men never initiate the poor.


Spitting makes the belly more comfortable, and the outstretched hand will be the receiving one.

16. When the wolf goes abroad, the sheep must fly.

17. Let the king grant war speedily; let not our energies be damped. Fire cannot pass through water!

^^m In tbfi days of oiir'anee«tora the white tracer brought good articles. A muaket thea lasted twenty yeara j now, three.

N.B. ^- Upon which CckmuiAnd«ir ForbtM fBmarks; ** 1 dottljt much if thia Wfta not a dtfuhU ^vkvdr^ i meaoing, that formerly » tnuiiket would be of Httk* itee in DalioTney, tiit ncm* ite uao ia unL- VtirmL AH thoaa ^yiugaj as will btt MKsii, ikre in B.9wta-u«i pskrableir*





If the leopard kills her prey, does ahe not feed hf?r youDg? If the hind bnnga forth her yoitngj does she nibble grass for it?


An apparition, or ghost of the dead.

N.B. — The ideas of the Isubu, or Bimbia people, respecting " apirit," spiritual state, and life after death, are, as usual amongst Africans, vague in the extreme. They sometimes offer food and drink to the Bidimo (plural of Edimo), and by " Bidimo " they mean their dead friends and relatives. Sheol or Hades — the Land of the Dead — Lb also elliptically called Bidimo; the full phrase being

• The following thirteen are taken from a dictionary of the lanba tongue, printed at Bimbia, by the Baptist Mission, in 1846 — 47. The Isnbn country, by Europeans known as Bimbia, lies at the foot of the Camaroons mountains, and along the banks of a river of the Bame name. In 1841, the missionaries established there a village called Jubilee. The language is, for Africa, extensively understood by the Ba-kwiri, or Bush races of the mountains, and by the tribes extending north-west to the Eumbi R., and eastward to Bavi and Abo. It is cognate with the Dualla of the Camaroons R., and through Malimba it meets south wardfi the languages of the Congo class.


" Ekombo ya Bidiino " (Country of the Dead), opposed to " Ekombo ya Bawenya " (Land of the Living). Every person is said to go to Bidimo after death; though the people have no definite ideas re- specting future reward and punishment, they look upon it as an un- desirable place. In the Dualla, or Camaroons dialect, the word Bidimo means apparitions, of which the Rev. Mr. Saker says, *' Indistinctly, too, we trace Bidimo to the Sekirim of the Hebrews, and the fauns and other woodland deities of more modern days over whom Pan presided. Whatever may be the knowledge the natives possess of their own superstitions, there is no doubt as to the Panic which a supposed sight of * Edimo ' creates, nor the terror a mere report inspires. Sacrifices, too, are made to Edinio, who is supposed, in some way or other, to preside o?er the wilderness and the farm, as Njengu presides over the waters." Finding no term for Hell, the missionaries Isubuizod '* Heli." For Heaven, however, there is nothing better than Loba," which means " the starry expanse."


P. N. of an evil spirit who, unless prevented by charms, has the power of injuring and killing people. Men and women are accused of possessing Ilemba, and must prove their innocence by a draught of the poison- water called " Kwabe." If this ordeal prove fatal, the accused are guilty; if it is ejected, it is a sign of inno- cence. Almost every mishap, whether it relates to person or property, is attributed to the evil influence of Ilemba. It is the office of the Dikangga (or Diviner) to detect those possessed of this power, and the discovery is made by looking into a cup of water. Thousands of people from the interior will resort to a well-known diviner; and the evils produced by this system of witchcraft can be understood only by referring to the state of Europe before the days of Wierus and his followers. One possessed by a demon is called " Motu wa Ilemba" (a man of Ilemba —


450 wrt Ain> wisdou fbom west afrioa.

& deril-miui). The ideaa of the liubuB beiog also misty upon the anbject of a " devil," the miaBioEariei obliged them with " Deyili; " opposed to " Ob&ai "^ — la the plural Baobaai — ^(God),


Thw breath of the mouth; opposed to " Wei " that of the stomwch, " VV'ei " ia that upon which life dependa,^ — the breath of life (tlie Hebrew •' Eauh," Arab " Huh "); con- sequently, EuropeaaB uise it aa ** aplrit." When a person (\}G9, the Isubus aa\% *- Wei i niafatea " (" the life's breath is broken loose**). So the Latins say, *' Anima est qud vivimuSy animtis quo sapimus."


Heart, — the word used by translators for " conscience." Thus, ** O sa beni molema o Dibungga: '* literally, " Hast thou no heart in thy belly? ** i.e., " Have you no con- science? *'



A secret compact amongst the Isubus, entered into when some murderous or warlike deed is to be performed. The parties meet together in the woods, and, clearing a spot of weeds, sit down to take counsel. During the conference, a large pot is placed upon the fire, and in it a stone, which is supposed, superstitiously, to become, by cooking, as soil as a plantain. The stone is then cut with a knife, and a small piece is swallowed by each person. Hence the idioms, " Ife disua " (" to cook disua '*); and.


as Mimbo, or palm-wine, poured upon the ground, some- times forms part of the ceremony, " Soa disua " (" to pour forth disua"). Each person of the council having swal- lowed his allowance, binds himself to do or to abet the deed proposed. Nothing but death nullifies the covenant; and though years may elapse before the " dreadful thing " is effected, all consider themselves bound by an awful oath to carry out their design when opportunity offers. None but persons of most approved character may take part in this council, nor are women and young people permitted to be present.


The name of a statute amongst the Isubu and through- out the adjacent districts. It originated in a dream. One Mofa ma He, a man residing in the Ekimbi district » inland and to the north of Bimbia, dreamed, some few years ago, that he saw a crowd of people long since dead. They warned him of the evil of taking away life unjustly, and told him that whenever a man committed murder {in another town) he was to be apprehended by the people of his own town, and delivered up to be hanged. On the other hand, if he escaped, his innocent relatives and friends were not, according to the old custom of the country, to be destroyed. Also, if one roan wounded another, the offender himself, and not his family, was subject to the lex talionis. After the vision, Mofa assembled the Bush- men from the surrounding district, and related to them what he had seen: hence arose the law called '^ Di. bombe,'* which has had a salutary influence in checking manslaughter.



Jleng^a, or Vjengtl,

The name of a deity who is Teiierated bj the free to en of Isubu. He ia said by the miiSi^io^aries to hare, lu miiny respects, the eamerank at Isubuthat Neptuiie held in Home. Ko is n water-god, walking with feet reversed from the human positioa— the toes being behind. Sacri* fices lire made to him: these and other incantations ofbeu precede fiehing operation b. There ii^ an initiation in hi^ inmie, and the brotherhood meet in neat little huts built outside the village*. Women are also eligible, but not lavL'S* Those who are being initiated wear about their necks and waists the herb Mbouggolu, which is used as a tea in bowel complaints: hence, a child born during the initiation of its mother, is called " Mokutu wa Mboug- golu." These children are supposed ofcen to die of dropsy; hence that disease is called " Nyambe na Jienggu."

Motu a Nggangga.

A cunning man, i. «., a doctor. Amongst the Isubu, as with the Egyptians, those who practise the healing art are called after [^tbe diseases which form their specialties. They think — and with great truth — that one brain is in- competent to comprehend the multifarious diseases of the human frame. Hence, there are at Isubu " Batu ba bola ekoseri," or cough doctors; " Batu ba bola betanda,'* or worm doctors; " Batu ba bola dibumbi," or dropsy doc- tors; and so forth. The latter disease seems very preva- lent. Besides the name above given, it is called, in the case of children, " Nyambe ya ewake " (the baboon's disease), on account of the supposed resemblance of the sufferer to that hideous animal.



Mid-day. The Isubus do not divide the day into hours, but into three epochs, called " Idiba," " Moesi," and "Ebia raoko." The term " Epoke " (plural " Bepoke ") denotes the space of time which one of these three divisions con- tains. Thus, the earlier hours of the day — our morning — would bo called " Epoke ya Idiba bunya " (the morning division). From 9 a.m. till 4 p.m. it would be ** Epoke y& moesi," or simply " Moesi" (light), as this noon divi- sion iucludes the brightest hours of the day. Erom 4 p.m. till niglit it is called " Epoke ya ebia-moko ** (the evening division). The missionaries have been compelled to intro- duce " Eora " (an hour).

10. Itambo.

Chewed food generally. The sort is specified by an

affix, as " Itambo la meke '* (chewed plantain). The

unclean custom of chewing food, and feeding children

with it, is universally practised at Bimbia.

11. Sombo ya mbori.

A goat with long hair. Amongst the islanders of Bimbia a person that does not possess a goat of this de- scription, is not allowed to put his harp on his shoulder whilst playing it: he must hold it down, or put it on his knees, and pay a fine for transgressing the rule.

12. Ba tia Nggondo, or Ba takn Nggondo. They beat or shell the Uggoiido-seed. N.B. — Meaning the Pleiades. " Uggondo" is a gmall white seed.


wrr kwn wisdom fuom west afbica.

like that of the orange, but fiaittstj the kernel of which has been eaten f when the out^r Fiell h^^ been beaten or picked oft It wouUi Hecm that the Ploia<]€9 presetit, to tkti minda af the Xsubuit, the IdeA of thti shell of the UgjEfondo heAt«a aaii 8c*tterpd over th© grfiund.


DI hi *iaa itak! T ileal o ifula iyokise 1& inona, ngg-eri, i aka ilangfa.

^^Te think that poverty ^urpaaaca in deeire the tormeata

of QOvetousEiesa bejond compatntioa.

K.B. — L^m liietnlly, ** We think povorty minitfily deauublQ zom* {Huod with the torments of coTetc^iuiQosa."


Sky, or firmament. The notion prevails that there is a something spread on high as a piece of cloth is extended, or as a spider stretches its web, and the " Dibobe " covers the whole arc of heaven.


The religion or superstition of the country, now applied by the missionaries to the faith of the Elalati a Loba (Book of the Firmament, or Bible), which they regard as having taken the place of the natives* " Ekali."

  • The following five are taken from a Tocabnlary of Dnalla language

for the nse of missionaries and others, printed at Camaroons, Western Africa, Mission Press, 1862, and attributed to the Rev. Alfred Saker, of the Camaroons (Baptist) Mission. The Bualla, or Di walla, are the people of the Camaroons river extending for thirty miles from the sea, along the river and into the interior. The people are numerous, they trade in palm oil, and are not to be trusted. Their language is one of the multifarious Suuth-African dhileets around them.


Dia da modi.

The female (i.e. the lefl, hecause the inferior) hand.



The great idol or god of the country. All the rites are addressed to it, but what it may have been originally, no one knov^'s. The people, unable to assign to it form or place, believe that it resides wherever the Ngambi-mau (or Fetisheer) locates it with his spells. Thus, a stick, a leaf, or any other thing selected for the occasion, has eyes to see, and ears to hear, and can communicate intelligence to its priest. Hence the dread, the sacrifices, and the offerings of these people.

5. Nyambe.

A word diilicult to explain. It seems to be a name for tlio Deity, different from Ngambi, which is owned to be earthly. Nyambe is of heaven — the great worker in the earth amongst men; and to him are attributed all per- sonal disasters, family bereavements, and similar mis- fortunes.