Literary Notes: Pashto proverbs: wisdom handed down through centuries.

'THOSE who live in a glasshouse should change clothes in dark', goes the anti-proverb, parodying the last part of the famous saying that advises to refrain from throwing stones.

Anti-proverb is a slightly altered form of a well-known proverb, either for the sake of humour or sarcasm. Examples abound: 'if at first you don't succeed, skydiving is not for you', or 'if at first you don't succeed, blame it on your wife', are twisted version of famous adage that says 'if at first you don't succeed, try, try again'. But standard proverbs, too, are often witty and capture the essence of a situation pithily.

Studying proverbs is as interesting as rewarding an activity since proverbs are succinct and witty sayings that carry the wisdom as well as clues to societal norms and mores of the people who use them. The study of proverbs is a subfield of linguistics and is known as paremiology. Derived from a Greek root 'paroimia', which means maxim or proverb, paremiology is basically recording, collecting and studying proverbs.

According to Encyclopaedia Britannica, proverbs were collected in most literate societies and the Egyptian collections of proverb date back to circa 2500 BC. In ancient China, too, proverbs were used for moral and ethical values. Aside from Biblical literature and folk literature, proverbs have been an integral part of almost all the spoken languages, says Britannica, and the Pashto language is no exception.

S. S. Thorburn, an administrative officer in the British India government, had penned a book in English, titled Bannu: Or Our Afghan Frontier (1876). Thorburn not only captured the life back then in the areas that are now part of KP, but also recorded the fables, ballads, proverbs and riddles of Pashto. But he did not give the original Pashto text. In 1953, Gul Muhammad Noori published a book Pashto Matloona (Pashto proverbs) from Kabul, wrote Muhammad Nawaz Tair, and it had more Pashto proverbs than Thorburn had collected. But most of the Pashto proverbs compiled by Noori were collected from certain parts of Afghanistan.

Muhammad Deen Zhwaak's book, published probably in 1970, had 2,500 Pashto proverbs. Vali Muhammad Khan Khayal Kakar's book (1976) enlisted Pashto proverbs but most of them were the ones spoken by Balochistan's Pashtun tribes.

Peshawar University's Pashto Academy published a monumental work Rohi Matloona in two volumes in 1975. Compiled by Muhammad Nawaz Tair, it included over 11,000 Pashto proverbs. It is by far...

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