Kasem Proverbs

I’m now going through Kasem language notes made long ago on 3×5 index slips. These are providing words and expressions to add to the Kasem dictionary. Here are some proverbs I don’t remember seeing before and an explanation of their meaning. Do we have equivalent proverbs in English?

Ba ba kwei nabeinnu ba ma dole naao.

They don’t throw cow-dung at a cow.

The point of this is that it is not acceptable to make a gift to someone of something they already have in abundance. Taking coals to Newcastle?

Nɔɔno bá wane o faŋe o gaale o tete lunluŋu.

No-one can jump further than their own shadow.

There are limits to human endeavour. This is something like: You can’t pull yourself up by your own bootstraps.

Nɔɔno ba zwɛ kandwa o ke o men-dona wone.

No-one takes a handful of stones and puts them in his millet snack.

You don’t deliberately do something which will harm your own interests. It takes a lot of patient work to remove stones from rice, for example, so you wouldn’t knowingly reverse the process. Any English equivalent?

Sweet-heart gifts

In a couple of days we leave for a 6-week visit to Ghana to work with the translation team on the Kasem Bible. We are working towards having the Bible ready to start the publication process in November this year, and there are a lot of details to pick up on. Here is one example.

There are several different kinds of sacrifices and offerings described in the Old Testament, with details of when they are to be offered and for what purpose. Alongside these “obligatory” offerings, there is the opportunity for the people of Israel to bring “freewill” offerings that are presented to God on a voluntary basis. These might be to help with a particular need within the community of God’s people, e.g. work on the sanctuary (Exodus 36:3), or to express personal thanksgiving for God’s blessing (Deuteronomy 16:10).

In checking the consistency of  how we had translated the Hebrew term נְדָבָה (nǝdabah) I found we had used two expressions. Firstly there was “own-thinking gifts”, focusing on the element of choice. But we had also in some places used “sweet-inside gifts”, focusing more on the generosity of a gift one is not obliged to make. Kasem uses a lot of idioms based on body parts to express attitudes and emotions. In this case the “inside” (wo) is the equivalent of the heart, as used in English expressions. These would be gifts made from a sweet-heart (wo-ywoŋo pɛɛra), expressing the generous attitude with which they are made.

We have to decide which of these expressions would be better for translating “freewill offerings” and then check the consistency of translation for all 26 occurrences of the Hebrew term. This process needs to be repeated for many terms and expressions. We thank God for excellent software to assist in the task.

As a final warning, Kasem idioms are not always what they seem. To have a warm heart (n wo lona) means you are stingy. So I hope today your heart is sweet rather than warm.