Sunday, July 15, 2018

Some Amis & Bunun Proverbs & a Few Amis Metaphors (Taiwan)

Apologies for not being able to provide the Chinese characters for the proverbs and metaphors below. Except for one, the original pages (and in one case, the website) where these examples of folk speech originally appeared are no longer in existence. 

Amis and Bunun Proverbs

The child who suffers grows as a person. [Amis] (With hardship comes growth and maturity.)

Don't be like the one who kicks a cat after losing a wrestling match. [Bunun] (In other words, don't be a poor sport.)

Even the fragile dragonfly can cast a big shadow. [Amis] (Don't underestimate the strength and ability of others. Each of us, in his/her own modest way, is capable of some greatness.)

Whether you win or lose, wipe off the dust after wrestling. [Bunun] (Once a contest or an argument has been settled, it's time to get back to normality and to move on. "Let bygones be bygones, for now everything is water under the bridge.")

Your good looks don't help in the rice paddy. [Amis] (There is a time for preening in front of the mirror; however, it doesn't supersede the work to be done. When at work, put aside your vanity. Anything accomplished will be through the sweat of your labor, not through your beauty or handsomeness.)

A curse is something with long-lasting wings. [Bunun] (Watch out! All your cursing of others may come back to you. "What goes around comes around," an African-American saying tells us.)

When sad, look to the blue sky, not to the ground below. [Amis] (When upset, take heart by looking at the majesty of the untrodden heavens, rather than the uninspiring dirt.)

A mouth is like an anus. [Bunun] (Both apertures are capable of producing many items of embarrassing worthlessness. Prudent expression is a virtue. "Silence is golden." When not in polite company, some of us in the USA might say that "an opinion is like [an anus]; everyone has one.")

Let your heart shine like the moon but your deeds, like the sun. [Amis] (Your inner quality, with all its goodness, should remain modest and not draw attention to itself. Your accomplishments, however, should speak louder than words. They should speak for themselves.)

The bear's sharpest claws remain hidden. [Bunun] (It's the silent dogs that bite" without warning. The shrewd, the cunning, even the dangerous may seldom announce themselves.)

Don't talk back to your elders or older siblings; after all, they saw the sun before you did! [Bunun] (Respect your elders; their accumulated knowledge and wisdom supersedes your own! This proverb may allude to the myth common to many indigenous Taiwanese tribes of the heroes who set off  to shoot down the gigantic sun [or multiple suns] which had shone twenty-four hours a day.)

Some Amis Metaphors

To have been eaten (to have been totally defeated)

To have the head of a cat and the scream of an eagle (to be pregnant)

A widow's tears (drizzling rain)

To pass through the spider's web (to have completed a safe journey)

Zhaohe straw (Stalks of zhaohe straw [Crassocephalum rubens 昭和草], used as an herb, grow standing distinctly apart. Thus, "to each his own" or "to go your own way.")

A dog's carcass (a lazy, good-for-nothing child  who shows little or no promise)

One who has just arrived at only the midpoint of a journey (someone whose thoughts are muddled)

One's mind (or conscience) has been turned over (one who has a furious temper)


All the above were accessed on 7/26/12. The first two websites still exist, though I have been unable to locate the pages on Amis and Bunun proverbs. I suspect they no longer exist. The third website has since disappeared. I had planned to go back and record the Chinese characters for the proverbs and metaphors. Alas. 

The Bunun proverb about the sun and admonishing one about contradicting elders, the final proverb in the list, comes from Boris Riftin (see the posting for 3/29/18 for the full citation.)

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