In Albania, it's a wise proverb that has no meaning

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The Independent Online
FOR MANY years now I have been collecting a series of Albanian proverbs. These are different from normal proverbs in that they seem at first sight to make a lot of sense until you examine them closely, when they somehow just melt away into invisibility. And so today I am proud to bring you another freshly picked handful of Albanian proverbs . . .

A day borrowed is a day on loan.

It is a straight road that has no turning.

When you finally get to the other side, you will find that it is not the other side at all; it has now become this side.

If there were a prize for finishing last in a horse race, it would never end.

That's all very well, but would roes by any other name taste any less horrible?

If birds were not waterproof, then nests would have roofs.

Whatever it is that symbolises cowardice to a seagull, it is not a white feather.

We dress only to please others, rather than ourselves. That is why underwear, which provides us with most of our contact with our clothes, is so boring, and the exterior clothes that we never feel are made so lusciously. If this were not so, fashion models would always parade in underwear.

Fashion parades for girls and military march-pasts for men.

It may not glitter, but it might be gold.

We may only limp with one leg, but the other leg cannot help noticing.

If ye sow as ye shall reap, ye are in for a big surprise. (Note: As far as I can tell, this seems to be a rather obscure reference to Albanian farming methods).

Birds fly high

In the Italian sky

For they know that to fly lower

Is a sure way to die. (Rough translation. It is well known in the Adriatic that no small bird is safe over Italy).

When a blind man says: 'Ah, yes, I see]' then we laugh. But we would also laugh if he said: 'Ah, yes, I hear]'

We all moan and groan about the presence of hair in our nostrils - and then we all go and grow moustaches on our upper lips]

Keep peace at home. Beat someone else's wife.

Only thieves and boxers wear gloves in warm weather.

If we shake hands to show that we have no sword hidden, then in countries where they clasp each other with both hands, they must really mistrust each other]

We may lock ourselves into our bathrooms but not into our bedrooms.

All weapons start life as instruments of death and end up as works of art. (Note: This particular proverb reappears variously as 'The greatest sword is that which is designed to be hung on the wall' and 'When a sword is too precious to be taken into battle, then men will cease to wage war.')

Never trust an Italian who tells you that you cannot trust Italians.

Autumn is the time of the year when nature discards all its waste products for recycling, and mankind applauds the wonderful beauty of it. It must be the ultimate glamorisation of rubbish.

It is the legs of a racehorse which do all the work, but it is his nose which passes the post first and wins.

No actor has ever suffered from stage fright during the


If we could understand birdsong, it would cease to be beautiful.

All these and many, many more gems will be available in the 'Bumper Book of Albanian Proverbs', due to be published in time for next Christmas.