Nails, Gluttons, and Teaching Fish: Three More Proverbs

“Proverb: from para [along, against] the oimos [road, way] which shows [or defines, signals] the path or road—hence, paroimia. The Proverb is a useful utterance in part because it conveys its meaning within some measure of occlusion as well as much understanding in its depths.”

Παροιμία: Παρὰ τὸ οἶμος, ὃ σημαίνει τὴν ὁδὸν, οἰμία καὶ παροιμία. ῎Εστι δὲ παροιμία λόγος ὠφέλιμος μετ’ ἐπικρύψεως μετρίας αὐτόθεν ἔχων τὸ χρήσιμον, καὶ πολλὴν τὴν ἐν τῷ βάθει διάνοιαν.


“He hammers a nail with a nail: This is a proverb for when you hurry to clean up one mistake by making another. This is impossible.”

῞Ηλῳ τὸν ἧλον ἐκκρούει: παροιμία. ἀντὶ τοῦ ἁμαρτήματι τὸ ἁμάρτημα σπεύδεις ἐξελάσαι· τὸ δὲ οὐχ οἷόν τε.


“Herakles is being entertained: A proverb for those who proceed slowly. This is because people who welcome Herakles are occupied for a longtime since the hero is a glutton. The etymology of his name comes from a certain oracle: “Phoibus names you Herakles for you will earn immortal fame [kleos] in performing labors [êra] for men.”

῾Ηρακλῆς ξενίζεται: παροιμία ἐπὶ τῶν βραδυνόντων. οἱ γὰρ ὑποδεχόμενοι τὸν ῾Ηρακλέα βραδύνουσι· πολυφάγος γὰρ ὁ ἥρως. ἡ ἐτυμολογία τῆς κλήσεως ἀπό τινος χρησμοῦ· ῾Ηρακλῆν δέ σε Φοῖβος ἐπώνυμον ἐξονομάζει· ἦρα γὰρ ἀνθρώποισι φέρων, κλέος ἄφθιτον ἕξεις.

[This etymology is problematic—expect a post about this in a few days]

Comic Vase
Herakles was a heroic…eater

“He fishes: this means someone hunts for fish. There is also a proverb: “you are teaching a fish to swim”. This is applied to those who teach what people already know.”

᾿Ιχθυάᾳ: ἰχθῦς ἀγρεύει. καὶ παροιμία· ᾿Ιχθῦν νήχεσθαι διδάσκεις. ἐπὶ τῶν διδασκόντων ἃ ἐπίστανται.

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