Literary Notes: Pashto proverbs: a treasure trove of Pashto language and culture.


Byline: Rauf Parekh

PROVERBS not only are packed with wisdom, but they also reflect the culture, society and the people who use them.

Studying proverbs may lead to analyses that have linguistic as well as cultural significance. The study of proverbs is called paremiology. Collecting and recording proverbs is known as paremiography. Many have attempted to describe a proverb and different definitions of the word proverb are found in different sources. But Prof Wolfgang Mieder has come up with a definition of 'proverb,' which may perhaps be regarded as one of the most comprehensive ones.

Prof Mieder is considered an authority on proverbs. He has made enormous contributions on several topics related to paremiology. In his book Proverbs: A Handbook, Mieder says: 'A proverb is a short, generally known sentence of the folks which contains wisdom, truth, morals and traditional views in a metaphorical, fixed and memorizable form and which is handed down from generation to generation' (Greenwood Press, 2004, p.3).

This definition acknowledges the wisdom and truth that proverbs provide the readers or listeners with. The definition also emphasises the traditions that are carried on for centuries. We know that Pashto-speaking people come from a traditional society. The Pashto language has a vast body of proverbs, which reflects the traditions, culture and the sociological process in the Pashto-speaking societies that train individuals for a set of peculiar mores and norms - this process is referred to as 'social conditioning' by some sociologists. So proverbs reveal some aspects of the social conditioning and cultural inheritance of a particular people and at the same time they preserve the centuries-old vocabulary and expressions of a language.

A monumental work on Pashto proverbs was compiled by Muhammad Nawaz Tair (1934-2017). Titled Rohi Mataloona and published in two volumes by Peshawar University's Pashto Academy in 1975, the book has over 11,500 Pashto proverbs. Contents of the book were also translated into Urdu and English.

Now two scholars - Munazza Mubeen and Naqeeb Ahmed Jan - have jointly penned an insightful article on proverbs, Pashto proverbs and Prof Muhammad Nawaz Tair's work on Pashto proverbs. Both the scholars teach Urdu at Women's University, Swabi, KP. The article has been published in April-June 2020 issue of Urdu Adab and it says that the use of proverbs in Pashto society is so ubiquitous that hardly any conversation may be...

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