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Proverbs is an important part of Yoruba language culture; it is a powerful speech machine that enriches the language. Hence, a Yoruba adage says, ‘Òwe l’ẹsin ọrọ; ọrọ l’ẹsin òwe, bi ọrọ bá sọnù òwe la fi nwa’. That is, proverbs is the horse-word of speech, speech is the horse of proverbs,when an issue is amiss, we locate it with proverbs.
Apart from enriching the language culture, Yoruba proverbs can also be used for various purposes including:
• To enhance a better understanding of, or emphasise an ongoing discussion.
• To encourage good behavior in the society.
• To discourage and correct the vices in the society.
• To commiserate with the bereaved and rejoice with the joyful.
• To promote age-long cherished Yoruba moral values of industry, honesty, and transparency.
• To summarise a lengthy discussion with wisdom.
• To guard and prevent sensitive information from getting into wrong hands.
Proverbs are also known as the wise sayings of the elders. In other words, they are regarded as the exclusive preserve of the elders. Hence, young fellows do not use proverbs, without permission, when discussing serious issues with the elders, otherwise it is taken as an insult.
Please find a proverb below:
A à lè pé a á j’ẹran k’á má a pe mààlúù ni bùọdá.
One cannot, because of wanting to eat meat, be calling cow ‘senior brother’.
It is used to explain the need to maintain one’s integrity: that one should not throw courtesy to the winds because of a perceived need. It is an admonition not to sacrifice tomorrow’s future for today’s momentary pleasure.
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