M. O. Ené
Examples given below are few of the popular idiomatic expressions and proverbs. I stress this because many popular proverbs have since acquired the garb of cliché -- overused, common, and too flat for the serious rites of kolanut communion. There are many dialectical differences and various versions of these idiomatic expressions, and they can be changed as a speaker deems appropriate. However, knowing an Igbo idiom is one small step for an Igbo speaker; the main crunch is an appropriate application of the proverb to suit a particular trend of thought or a line of argument. Reciting proverbs is as effective as not using them. One must know at what point to inject a specific saying so as to maximize its effect for the enlightenment and entertainment of a critical but appreciative audience.
· Agwo noro ibe ya na-enwe
[The snake that swallows another will have two tails.]
· Ihe di be evu di be añu
[What is in the hornet's nest is in the bee's hive.]
· Nwaanyi mara mma ma nwee ajo omume, a
ga-alu ya alu; nwaanyi joro njo ma nwee ezi omume, a ga-alukwa ya alu; nwunye
mmadu ka ha ga-abu; ma nwaanyi joro njo nwe ajo omume anaghi ebi be di.
[A beautiful woman with bad character is marriageable; an ugly woman with good character is also marriageable -- they will both be wives; but an ugly woman with bad character does not live in a husband's house.]
· Okorobia onu-ntu na-egbunye n'akpa ndi
[A chronic bachelor is working for other people.]
· Akpataghi aku na-akpata ntukwuba
[Destitution breeds disdain.]
· Ike ka e ji-añu
[It takes some strength to swallow drugs.]
· Udene na egbe anaghi azo nri: udene
na-eri ozu; egbe na-ebu na nkike.
[The vulture and the kite do not scramble for food: the vulture is a scavenger; the kite, a predator.]
· Kama mmanya ga-esere ogo na ogo okwu,
ya waa n'uzo
[Instead a pot of wine will breed animosity among in-laws, let it break on the way.]
· Onye riri osisi oji kpaa ya nku ka o
nwere ike: anaghi ari enu oke oji kwa daa.
[While on top of iroko tree, gather all the firewood you can: it is not every day that one scales the great iroko.]
· Anaghi eje akwa onye kwulu udo
[No one attends the funeral of a suicide]
· Atulu na-acho ipu mpi jee jua ebune ka
ekwo di ya.
[A sheep that will grow horns should ask the ram how its neck feels.]
· Anaghi eji na aguu na-agu noo ukwara.
[No one swallows phlegm to appease the pangs of hunger]
· Akpara akwu bu akpara-akwu; ibulu ishi
akwu bu ohi.
[To extract a palm nut is exactly that --to extract a palm nut; to take the entire head of palm nut is stealing ]
· Ishi kote evu: evu agbaa ya.
[If the head that disturbs the hornet's nest: it pays.]
· Ekwughiekwu mere onu; anughianu mere nti.
[Unspoken, blame the mouth; unheard, blame the ear.]
O'u onye ga-aka nwaanyi ajo mmuo gburu
nwa mara maka amuosu.
[Who will know better the evils of witchcraft than the woman who lost a child to evil spirits.]
vu ozu enyi anaghi eji ukwu akpa
[He who carries the carcass of an elephant does not search for crickets with his legs.]
· Anaghi acho ihe na-akpa onye na-acho
[You don't look for something in the pocket of someone who is looking for something.]
· Ura ga-eju onye nwuru anwu afo.
[A dead person shall have all the sleep necessary.]
· Onye ite abughi onye ahia
[A clay-pot retailer is not really in business.]
· Okuko na-aboputa mma na-egbu ya.
[The fowl digs out the blade that kills it.]
· Ukpala gbabara n'ikpo
okuko na-ala ala
[The grasshopper that runs into the mist of fowls ends up in the land of spirits.]
· Onye a kporo apari, o na-ehi n'ama nna
ya, abughi apari.
[A presumed fool who sleeps in his father's house is not a fool.]
· Ndi na-eje mposi abali na-ahu ukpana ndi
[Those who defecate at night see the ghost grasshopper.]
· Nwata bunie nna ya enu, akpaamu ya
ayochie ya anya.
[If a child lifts his father, his scrotum will blindfold him.]
· Onye hapu
onu ya, uguru arachaa ya.
[If one fails to lick his lips, the harmattan will do it.]
Okuko si na ihe ya ji-ele anya n'enu
ma ya na añu mmiri bu na ihe na-egbu si n'igwe abia.
[The chicken says it looks up when drinking water because what kills it comes from the sky.]
· Ijiji na-enweghi onye ndumodu na-eso
ozu ala n'inyi.
[A fly that has no counselor follows the corpse to the grave.]
· "Nwunye anyi, nwunye anyi":
ka ndeli bia ka anyi mara onye o bu nwunye ya.
["Our wife, our wife": come midnight and we will know whose wife she really is.]
· Ula towa uto, ekwowe ya ekwowe.
[When sleep becomes enjoyable, we snore.]
· "Nwa anwuna, nwa anwuna":
nwa nwuo ka anyi mara ma chi agaghi efo.
["May the child not die, may the child not die": Let it die, and let's see if the day will not break.]
O bialu be onye abiagbuna ya, mgbe o
ga-ala mkpumkpu apukwana ya n'azu.
[May one's visitor not constitute a problem, so that on his departure he will not leave with a hunchback.]
· Nwa ovu na-eto, o di ka o ga-aka nne
[When the baby wren is growing, it looks like it would be bigger than its mother.]
Okuko na-arogoro ite onu, chetekwe mma
[The chicken frowns at the cooking pot, ignoring the knife that killed it.]
· Ihe ka-nte bata n'onu nte, nte etefu.
[When something greater than the pigmy cricket enters its hole, it takes off.]
· A gbara aka na-azo ana, onye nwe ji a
[If you dispute land ownership empty-handed, the person who has yams will be planting them.]
· Onye bulu ihe isi, ijiji esoro ya.
[The fly follows the person who is carrying a smelly stuff.]
· Uzu na-amaghi akpu ogene lee egbe anya
[The blacksmith who does know how to forge a metal gong should look at the tail of a kite.]
· Oke oshimmiri anokataghi rie onye
obula nke o na-ahughi ukwu ya anya.
[The ocean never swallows a person with whose leg it does not come in contact. ]
· Onye buru chi ya
uzo, o gbagbue onwe
[He who walks before his godly guardian does the race of his life]
Okuko nyuo ahu, ana achuwa ya oso
[When the fowl farts, the ground becomes a nuisance.]
· Onye na-acho igba
oso si na-aroro ya anya
· [A person who has plans to flee contends that someone made an evil eye at him.]
· Ulili si na-ejekete ije si tuo nkwa
oso maka ihe oso e mee.
[The ground squirrel says he who walks should sometimes break into a trot, in case the need to run arises.]
· Okwulu anaghi amiri ote ofe.
[A master chef is not blessed with a good harvest of okra.]
· Mmiri riri enyi ka mbe huru na-awa
ogodo: o ga-efe mmiri a efe ka o ga-awu ya awu?
[The tortoise gears up to besides a river that swallowed an elephant: is it going to fly over this river or just jump over?]
· Nkwu abuo kwudebere na-ajutu igu.
[The fronds of two adjoining palm trees abut.]
· Ohia woro gi nku, sere gi onu
[Th forest that denies you firewood has massaged your neck.]
· O bia mgbe Alio Ene gburu atu, ya
biakwa ma atu zogbuo Alio Ene.
[He who calls whenever Elder Ene kills a deer, let him call if the deer kicks the living daylight out of Elder Ene.]
· O bulu na i taa m aru n'ike, ma i zeghi nshi;
mu taa gi aru n'isi, agaghi m ezere uvulu.
[If you bite me on the butt, despite the danger of sinking your teeth into fecal matter, then if I bite you on the head, I will disregard the danger of sinking my teeth into cerebral matter.]
· A na-asi onye e ji
ugwo na agaghi akwu
ya ugwo e ji ya, onye e ji ugwo na-asi na e nye ya ewu ojii na ya agaghi ewe.
[A creditor is being told he won't be paid, and he is saying he won't accept a black goat!]
Okuko mmanya na-egbu ahubeghi mmanwulu ara na-ayi.
[A drunken fowl has not met a mad fox.]
Bete anu, bete anu, o'u kwa n'ahu ehi?
Cut meat, cut meat, is it not from the body of a cow?
Obele mmanwu na-akpa ike maka na ijele anoghi nso.
[A small masquerade is powerful because a big masquerade is not around.]
Nwaanyi anaghi-eji na nwunyedi ya kwere ya ekene nke oma kpowa ya ogo.
[A woman does not regard her sister-wife as sister-in-law just because she (her husband's other wife) accepted her greeting gracefully.]
A na-akwa akwa ndi oke tagbulu, ngwere ewere nnu na-eso eze ha.
While we mourn those who died from rat bites, lizards sharpen their teeth with salt.
Okuko, rie ogugu: "Unu si m rie onwu?" Okuko, hapu ogugu: "Unu si aguu gbuo m?"
Fowl, eat praying mantis: "Do you want me to die?" Fowl, let praying mantis be: "Do you want me to starve to death?"
Onye si na ya anaghi ata anu nkita, ya arakwala mmiri ofe ya.
[He who abhors dog meat should not eat dog-meat soup.]
A tuoro omara, o mara, a tuoro
ofeke, o fenye ishi n'ohia.
[If you tell a wise one, he understands; tell a dunce, he runs into the bush.]
Ukpana na-ere n'oku
si na ya na-asha mmanu.
[A grasshopper roasting over fire claims it is emitting fat.]
Were ire guo eze gi onu
abughi na o nwere nke na-efu.
[Count your teeth with your tongue does not mean you are losing any.]
O di mma iji onye iberibe akwa ozu; ma na o'u mgbe a juru si: o si na ama onye?
Okpoko ugbo gburu, nti chiri ya.
Nti na-anughi anu
ihe, mgbe a ga-egburu
ishi e gburu nti.
The ear that won't hear, when the head is cut off, it goes.]
A furu nwata chete
[A child reminds folks of his father.]
Nwata si na nne ya
agaghi arahu ura: ngwanu, ya na ura buruzianu enyi! "
[A child that won't allow its mother to sleep: okay, let sleep be its friend!]
A na-ekwu ekwu, a na-eme eme.
Talk the talk, walk the walk.
A ka na-ekwu na ngwere tagburu mmadu, nwa oke na-eso eze ya!
O nweghi ebe onye bi, ibe ya amaghi.
Ala adighi mma bu ulu ndinze.
Ulili si onye jekete ije ya tuo
nkwa oso, maka ihe oso emee mee.
[The ground squirrel says a person who walks should sometimes break into a trot, in case the need to run arises.]
BE PROACTIVE, not REACTIVE