Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Polish proverb no.2

Continuing on with SLC’s ambitious goal of making you aware of the vast array of proverbs available to enrich and enliven your days, here’s an oldie but goodie, straight from the archives of the Best Polish Proverbs Ever:

When the bitch gets off the wagon, horses have an easier time

(Polish version: “Baba z wozu, koniom lżej” – note that a baba is slightly gentler – somewhere between a woman and a bitch – but I can’t think of another word that captures the derogatory flavor of it, so in my translation it remains bitch)


So often the older proverbs have a certain folksiness to them, with references to pigs, horses, wagons.
But why is this one not gender neutral? Or why aren't we celebrating the departure of that bastard?
Who knows. Fact is, though, that in Poland, two thirds of divorces are initiated by women. [Though you can’t infer much about marital bliss from crude numbers, nor from the very low divorce rates, since the divorce procedure in Poland is complicated and courts will oftentimes not grant a divorce if the judge, in her or his divine wisdom, opines that the children will be better served if the couple stays together.]

Maybe this proverb was born out of a need to console the guy whose woman flew the coop. But I’ve heard it used in a broader context: it’s tantamount to saying “good riddance!” Except that the saying “good riddance” came to us from Shakespeare himself (Troilus and Cressida), whereas this proverb is… well, straight out of the shed where horses and wagons are kept.

In any event, feel free to use the proverb anytime a student drops your class or someone leaves you for another, or you're washing your hands off of some sticky situation. Just shout out after them: when the bitch gets off the wagon, horses have an easier time! Give a smug grin and a dismissive wave and go on with your day.

Rate usefulness of discussion to your understanding of the proverb: *****