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DER YIDDISH-VINKL April 28, 2006

Every culture has its proverbs, bits of folk wisdom helpful in times of sorrow or joy, fear or hope, frustration or epiphany. In 1997, Yiddishist Fred Kogos put together a collection of proverbs in a book titled “The Dictionary of Popular Yiddish Words, Phrases and Proverbs” (Carol Publishing Group).

What follows are a few selections from Kogos’s masterpiece.

A faynt darf men zikh koyfn, sonim krigt men umzist.

You may have to buy a friend, but enemies come free.

A gast iz vi regn: Az er doyert tsu lang vert er a last.

A guest is like rain: If he stays too long he becomes a pest.

A dank ken men nit in keshene leygn.

You can’t put a “thank you” in your pocket.

A farshporer iz beser vi a fardiner.

One who saves is better than one who earns.

A gutn vet der shenk nit kalye makhn; un a shlekhtn vet der beys-hamedresh nit farikhtn.

A good man will not be corrupted by the taverns; and a bad man cannot be reformed by the synagogue.

A kluger farshteyt fun eyn vort tsvey.

A wise man hears one word and understands two.

A ligner darf hobn a gutn zikorn.

A liar needs to have a good memory.

A ligner redt zikh zayne lign azoy lang eyn biz er gleybt zey aleyn.

A liar tells his own story so many times that he gets to believe it himself.

A mol iz der refue erger fun der make.

Sometimes the remedy is worse than the ailment.

A sakh mentshn zeyen, nor veynik fun zey farshteyen.

Many people see, but few understand.

A vaybele iz a taybele un a tayvele.

A wife is a dove and a devil.

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