Bulgarian: The Mad and the Drunk
My absolute favourite proverb, perhaps of all time, is even the mad runs away from the drunk. It’s so evocative, yet kind of vague – but the language of it is wonderful. I like to use it in a variety of situations where caution is the better part of valour, and it always works!
Another favourite of mine is a hungry bear cannot dance. I use this all the time when dealing with late payments from clients. After all, I can’t do my work unless I’m getting what I need in return, and just as you cannot starve a trained bear and expect him to perform, you can’t ignore my invoices and expect me to keep working! Yes, I just compared myself as a professional translator to a dancing bear. Please take it up with my therapist.
Bulgarian: Digging the Grave
Another proverb from this great language that I find particularly amusing is he who digs someone’s else’s grave falls into it himself. I break this one out whenever I observe professional jealousies or plotting at conventions and such. It’s meaning is simple: If you plot bad things for someone else, it’s more likely that bad things will befall you.
I’m also fond of other people’s grapes are bitter. This is an excellent variation on the familiar English proverb the grass is always greener, but with a Balkans spin to it. The meaning is obvious: The wine you make from jealousy is bitter and hard to drink. This is one of the best things about learning proverbs from other cultures: Yes, they all basically mean the same things, but they bring with them a local flavour that gives you an idea of what it’s like to live there.
A colourful one is a lot of grandmothers – a feeble baby. This one means that if you try to take all advice given you, your actions will inevitably fail. In other words, consider advice and choose what to follow carefully. Whenever I’m watching the news and seeing legislators working on a new bill or proposal, this one comes in handy, because the more people are on the committee, the worse the legislation will turn out to be!