• Ilinca Stroe

Stupidity Seen by Wisdom. 15 Romanian Proverbs about Fools and Foolishness


Whatever other peoples’ relationship with stupidity, the Romanians’ is special. Stupidity has us almost in awe. An everyday fact in our life, we can never stop wondering at its pervasiveness, astonishing variety, endurance. We marvel at it just as often as we feel indignant about it. We find it as much outrageous as we do entertaining. It makes us roar with laughter and clench out teeth in furious disbelief.



Not always necessarily a matter of low IQ, stupidity in our culture can be related to the lack of common sense, stubbornness, ignorance or even carelessness and indifference. It is certainly an old acquaintance of ours, stupidity, which has kept us fascinated for centuries. In the Romanian dictionary of synonyms there are as many as 65 words (including regional terms) meaning “stupid”. We also have in our collective psyche a folk (counter)hero as old as time, the village fool. There’s a delicious “Story of Foolishness”, too, summed up here, crafted by one of Romania’s greatest storytellers, Ion Creangă. And then, of course, there’s the ominous judgement placed on the nation right after the overthrow of the communist regime, by one of its nomenklatura members self-styled a prophet (Silviu Brucan): “stupid people”. A label which even today Romanians invoke bitterly whenever our politics runs amok…


But it is Romania’s proverbs about foolishness that shed revelatory light upon what stupidity means to us. Time immemorial, proverbs (from Latin proverbium, “a common saying, old adage, maxim”, literally from pro = “forth” and verbum = “word”) carry a people’s distilled wisdom, its mindset and worldview in a nutshell. So let us go through 15 Romanian proverbs about foolishness to get an insight into how we view it, process it and… enjoy it. And to try to sketch the portrait of this deep-set, ancient and all too human feature.



1. “Prostia din naștere n-are leac” / “There’s no cure for innate stupidity”

Apparently, it has the permanence of all natural pehnomena.



2. “Prostul dacă nu-i fudul, parcă nu e prost destul” / “A fool is not a fool until he’s strikingly cool”

Someone stupid finds it irresistible to show himself off.


3. “Prostul moare de grija altuia” / “The fool dies out of concern for others”

In other words, it is quite an intelligent choice to mind your own business.


4. “Prostul întâi o croiește și apoi o gândește” / “The fool first carries things out, then plans them”

If you’re unable to figure out the logical steps towards a job well done, you risk being seen as a fool…



5. “Intri bou și ieși vacă” / “You get in a bull and get out a cow”

Going through experiences without letting them really change you significantly shows low intelligence.



6. “Cu proștii și cu foarfecele să umbli ușor” / “Fools and scissors should be handled with care”

Stupidity can cut dangerously deep. No kidding.



7. “Prostul nu se lasă până când nu spune tot ce știe” / “A fool won’t be put off until he’s spilled all the beans”

Don’t entrust a fool with secrets, as being overtalkative is very, very tempting to him.



8. “Cand râde prostul, înțeleptul suspină” / “When a fool laughs, a wise man sighs”

The loud triumph of stupidity makes intelligence despair.



9. “Unora li s-a dat cap ca să nu le plouă-n gât” / “Some people were equipped with a head so it doesn’t rain directly down their throat”

A head that was not gifted with wit is merely a block of material.



10. “Când te iei după un prost, mai mare prost ești” / “If you follow a dolt, you’re the bigger dolt”

Be clever enough to not be charmed by a fool.



11. “Prostul cară lemne la pădure” / “The fool carries wood into the woods”

It is the mark of stupidity to work hard for an absurd purpose.



12. “Răzbunarea e arma prostului” / “Revenge is a fool’s weapon”

Turned on its head, this saying might suggest that forgiveness is just another side of intelligence.



13. “Proştii mor, dar prostia e nemuritoare” / “Stupid people die, but stupidity is immortal”

This adage comes from Romania’s greatest satirist, Ion Luca Caragiale, an expert mocker of stupidity in Romanian politics. If it hadn’t been true, he would’ve been left with nothing to satirise…


14. “E mai prost cine se pune cu prostul” / “He who engages with a fool is even more of a fool”

Stupidity is best avoided.



15. “Ştiu că sunt prost. Dar când mă uit în jur, prind curaj”/ “I know I’m stupid. But when I look around, I feel encouraged”

This piece of wit comes from the author of “The Story of Foolishness” himself and it might imply two teachings: A) when it comes to stupidity, the sky’s the limit; B) never feel down about how stupid you are, but rest assured – there are always, always bigger blockheads around.





International House Bucharest, through its Romanian Language Department, runs online and face-to-face Romanian courses and cultural integration workshops for foreigners living in Romania or interested in the country’s culture, language or history. For more information, click here. To enrol, contact romanian@ih.ro. You can also watch our video series “Your Romanian Class” and subscribe to our YouTube channel, or listen to our series of podcasts “Ascultă româneşte”.



Picture credits

<www.facebook.com/Prostul-Satului-260148700757728>



Sources

<www.povesti-pentru-copii.com/ion-creanga/prostia-omeneasca-poveste.html>

<www.portal-info.ro/proverbe/proverbe-despre-prostie.html>


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