Proverbs have played a surprisingly prominent role in the speech of the Pennsylvania Germans. Often colorfully phrased, at times even musical in pronunciation, proverbs are teaching tools for illiterate populations that relied on oral tradition.

The cleverness of a proverb, though, can be lost in translation. Here’s an example: Wer gut Fuddert, daer gut Buddert. “Good feed, much butter.” Here’s one that comes through a little smoother: Bariye macht Sarige. “Borrowing makes sorrowing.”

To those who subscribe, I send a daily email of a Penn Dutch proverb.

On August 1st, I sent out this one. It might seem a bit obscure to modern ears, but it’s meant as a warning against envy and jealousy:





Margaret W., a reader from South Africa, responded with an email that shared a very different perspective on that proverb. She gave me permission to share her fascinating story and picture.

You have obviously never had the opportunity of visiting South Africa! Medical care and dentistry are expensive, even at Government hospitals where patients only pay a percentage of their income. As you probably know, poverty is rampant and some wily entrepreneur discovered that he could go to the undertakers and collect discarded false teeth, which they then sold at a temporary stall set up on the street corner. At the equivalent of $2 a pair, these false teeth have become very affordable for people who would otherwise have gummy jaws. Unfortunately, those are the facts of life in Africa!


Thank you, Margaret W., for chiming in with an interesting point of view, based on your own experience. I love the feedback and the conversation it creates.

To everyone else…please consider yourself invited to subscribe to the daily Amish Wisdom proverb. It’s easy to unsubscribe, but I think you’ll love them. Click here to give them a try: Amish proverbs

One thing is certain: there is no such thing as a simple proverb.

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