• The fox’s last stop is the furrier’s shop

    Ahlvehssuh vehrcheen paghoustuhn eh moushdagahvahjahreen tahraguh

  • The unprotected lamb is eaten by the wolf

    Ahndehr votchkhahruh kaiyluh gehrehr eh

  • You don’t sell the fish while it is still swimming in the river

    Tzouguh chouroum ahrehvdour chen ahnoum

    You don.t sell the fish while it is still swimming in the river (You don’t sell the fish before you catch it)

    Another way to say this is judehruh ahsnahnuh guh hahmrehn – count your chicks in the fall (this has the same meaning as don’t count your chickens before they hatch)

    There is a short story by Hohvhaness Toumanian that illustrates this proverb – “The travelers.”

    One day a red rooster flew up on the roof of the farmer’s house to have a panoramic view of the world. He stretched his neck as long as he could, but couldn’t see much. There was a vast mountain nearby that hindered the view.

    “Dog brother, maybe you know what lies on the other side of the big mountain?” asked the rooster to the dog resting below in the farmhouse yard.

    “I don’t know either!” said the dog.

    “For heavens sake, how long should we live without knowing what’s beyond our little world. Come on, let’s go and see what’s in this vast world.” The farm dog agreed. On the spur of the moment, they both left on their adventure.

    They walked and walked until the sun set. They reached a forest where they decided to take rest. The dog brother curled up under a bush. The rooster flew up a nearby tree and landed on a branch. They both closed their eyes for rest.

    At dawn, the rooster called out, Cocka-doodle-doo.

    “Good God, where did that come from? My lucky day, a good breakfast,” thought the fox who ran as fast as he could toward the rooster.

    “Good morning, cousin rooster. What are you up to in these parts?”

    “I have come here to see the world,” said the rooster.

    “Oh, what a wonderful adventure you have embarked on,” said the fox. For me, it has been such a long time that I am trying to find a good friend. It is my luck that we have met today. So let’s join together, come down we’ll go quickly,” said the fox.

    “I agree,” said the rooster. “Wait, perhaps my friend wants to come to. I’ll come down and we’ll go.”

    “Where is your friend, rooster cousin?”

    “He’s under that bush over there.”

    The fox thought to himself, “His friend must be a rooster like him. I’ll eat him first since he is already on the ground.” The fox ran to the bush. Suddenly the dog came out from under the bush. Seeing the dog scared the hell out of the fox, who high tailed it as fast as he could away from the dog.

    “Wait a minute, fox brother, don’t run so fast. We want to go with you. How can we be friends and travel partners if you run away?” called out the rooster as loud as he could.

  • Chakh chakh tahkavor – the hammermill king

    This is a story by Hohvahness Toumanian
    (chakh chakh is an approximation of the sound that the wheel of a grain mill makes when turning)

    There was and there was not a poor miller. He wore a torn sheep skin and wool coat, a flour dusty cloth covered his hair. He lived on the bank of a river in a dilapidated mill. He had an ashen, unleavened loaf of bread and a piece of cheese.

    One day he went outside to release some water from the mill. When he returned, his cheese was missing. Another time, he went outside to let more water run into his mill. When he returned, the bread was gone. He thought, “Is there someone or is there not someone doing this mischief?” He thought and thought. Then he set a trap inside the mill and went to sleep. The next morning, he woke up to find a fox caught in the trap.

    “Hey, you foul thief, you ate my cheese and bread. Hey, now I’ll show you what it is like to be a piece of stolen cheese. Saying this, the miller picked up a metal bar to smash to death the fox. The fox began to beg and plead: “Please don’t kill me for a little piece of cheese. Get me out of this trap and I’ll do many good things for you.’

    The miller listened attentively and finally let the fox out of the trap.

    The fox went away to a trash dump. It happened to be the dump where the palace waste of that country’s king was deposited. The fox walked and rummaged in the waste piles. The wily animal found a gold piece. He quickly ran toward the palace to talk to the king.

    The fox addressed the king: “May the king live long (takavoruhn ahbradz gehnah), please loan me your large weighing bowl (gohduh – a large bowl of specific size used for weighing large quantities of gold and other precious items of value). The hammermill king has a certain quantity of gold. I’ll weigh it and bring back to you.

    Tell me, who is this hammermill king? asked the local king who appeared perplexed and surprised.

    “You don’t know him yet,” answered the fox. The hammermill king is a very wealthy monarch and I am his vizer (chief minister). Please give me the bowl. I’ll go weigh the gold, then you’ll know who he is.

    The fox took the weighing bowl. He devised a clever plan. He stuck the gold coin he found in the dump into a crevice of the bowl. The fox came back that evening to return the weighing bowl.

    “Oh,” said the fox. “We had a hard time weighing all that gold.”

    “It’s hard to believe this fox needs such a big weighing bowl to measure the hammermill king’s gold,” thought the king. He struck the bowl with his hand. It made a hallow sound and the gold coin fell out of the crevice of the bowl. The king picked it up.

    A couple of days later, the fox came back to ask another favor of the king. He said, “My hammermill king has a quantity of precious jewels and natural pearls. Please loan me your weighing bowl again and I’ll bring it back tonight after weighing them. The fox picked up the large bowl and went away. The fox was able to find a pearl. He stuck it into another crevice of the weighing bowl. He brought it back that evening.

    “Oh,” said the fox. “We nearly died weighing all those precious jewels.”

    Later, the king slapped the bowl and a precious pearl fell out of one of the crevices. The king was stunned. He thought to himself. “How much wealth must this hammermill king have? He needs such a big weighing bowl to measure his gold, precious jewels and pearls.”

    Several days passed. One day the fox came to see the king to arrange a marriage. The fox: “The hammermill king has a desire to marry. He would like to marry your daughter.”

    The king became very pleased. He felt like the whole world belonged to him.

    “Go right away,” he said. “Go quickly. See that all the preparations are made for the wedding.” The king’s place was turned upside down in the excitement of preparation for the marriage. Everything down to the finest detail was made ready. The fox rushed back to the hammermill king. He wanted to give him the good news (the way to announce good news in Armenian is to say “may your eyes light up” – ahckuht louyees).

    The fox said, “Well, well, my friend, I asked the king to let you marry his daughter. He agreed. Get ready. You are going to get married now.”

    “My God,” exclaimed the hammermill king. “May your house crumble to the ground, you crazy fox.” (kou dounut kahntvee – may your house crumble to the ground is a phrase of disapproval in Armenian).

    “What have you done,” said the frightened miller. “Who am I to merit marrying the king’s daughter.” (when making a comparison of two unequal things or persons in Armenian, one says: yes ohv, tahkavoreen aghckuh ohv – who am I and who is the king’s daughter).

    “I have no income, no house or property, and no decent clothes. Now tell me, what am I to do?” (votch ahbrusst ounehm, votch dounn ou degh, votch mee tzehrk shohr. Heemee yes inch ahnehm?)

    “Don’t be afraid, I’ll make all the necessary arrangement,” said the fox. He tried to allay the anxiety of the destitute miller. The fox ran back to the king’s palace. He spoke with the king. “Oh my god, the hammermill king organized a grand procession to come here for the marriage. On the road, a large number of enemy soldiers suddenly surrounded the king’s procession, killed many of the king’s guards and stole everything of value. Fortunately, the king escaped unharmed and is hiding in an abandoned mill on the bank of a creek. He sent me to give you the bad news and also fetch some clean clothes to get married. After the marriage, he wants to get revenge for such an insult by giving hot pursuit of the perpetrators. The king immediately got everything ready for the fox to deliver to the hammermill king. He ordered a large contingent of his mounted soldiers to accompany the fox so that his future son-in-law could be escorted with royal pomp and honor to be married.

    The fox and the soldiers arrived at the door of the dilapidated mill. The poor miller quickly took off his rough sheepskin coat and put on the royal clothes. He mounted a stately horse . He was surrounded by the mounted honor guard. Ahead of him were the mounted soldiers and behind as well. The procession parted toward his future father-in-law’s palace. They arrived at the richly endowed palace. The poor miller had never seen such dazzling opulence. He stared at all four corners of the palace with an air of confusion, his mouth open and at times touching and looking at his royal clothing in disbelief and astonished beyond his wits.

    “Brother fox, why is your king staring at everything as if he has never seen a royal house,” asked the king? “It seems as if your king has never seen a palace before nor worn royal robes.”

    “No sire, it is not that at all,” replied the wily fox. “He is observing carefully and comparing your palace and possessions to his and thinking how extensive his opulent possessions are compared to yours.” (teh eehr ounehtzadzuh vohr degh, ehss vor degh – his opulence is so much and this your’s seems so little)

    They sat down for a royal dinner. Many different types of foods were served. The simple miller couldn’t choose which one to eat, nor how to eat it.

    “Why is he not eating, brother fox,” asked the king?

    “He is sadly reflecting on the robbery that took place when he began he was coming here. You can’t even imagine, my dear sire, how valuable were the things that were stolen, and how nasty and demeaning is was for my king. How can he eat in peace now,” said the fox with a sigh of frustration.

    “Don’t fret for that, leave your worries aside, my dear son-in-law. This is the way of the world. Sometimes these things happen.” The king tried to console his son-in-law. “This is your wedding! Let us be happy. Let’s have a good time now.”

    They began to regale with joy. They ate, drank, play musical instruments and dance. They continued the marriage festivities for seven days and seven nights. The fox became the best man for the hammermill king.

    After the wedding festivities, the king gave a huge dowry for his daughter to his son-in-law. With great pomp and merriment the king accompanied the newly weds to the palace of the hammermill king.

    “All of you proceed together. Take your time and enjoy the scenery. I’ll go ahead and get everything ready at my king’s palace for your grand reception there,” said the best man. The fox ran as fast as he could until he reached a pasture where a large herd of cows were grazing. He asked the cow herders, “Who owns these cows?” They answered, “Shah Mar.”

    “Don’t you dare repeat Shah Mar’s name again!” said the fox. “My king is very upset with him. He is coming behind me with a large army. Whoever repeats the name of Shah Mar will have his head cut off. If you are asked who these cows belong to, say the hammermill king. If you don’t, the devil will take you to hell.” (teh cheh, vaduhn (sadahnahn – devil) yegehl eh tehz dahnehl – if not, misery will be your lot (literally misery will take you)

    The fox continued to ran faster and faster. He saw a flock of sheep mounting the steeps of a mountain.

    He asked, “Who do these sheep belong to?â”The sheepherders answered, “Shah Mar.” The fox instructed the sheepherders in the same way as the cowherds.

    The fox continued to run and run He came upon vast cultivated agricultural fields with the farmers and laborers working.

    “Who do these fields belong to?” asked the fox. They said, “Shah Maree.” The fox instructed the farmers in the same way.

    He ran and ran. He encountered expansive fields of hay. “Who do these fields belong to?” asked the fox.

    The hay gatherers said, “Shah Mar’s.” He instructed them as he did the others.

    The fox finally reached Shah Mar’s palace.

    “Shah Mar, O Shah-Mar,” called the fox as he ran toward to king. “May your house not be destroyed. You are innocently unaware of the evil that is looming. The king is upset with you. He is approaching your palace with a large army bent of killing you and pillaging everything you have and leaving only desolation and despair. You may not remember, but once I ate a little chick in your company. I have never forgotten your generosity and the good taste of that meal. That is why I have come running in great haste to give you this dire news. You must quickly get out of here by any means before that terrible tyrant reaches your palace.”

    “What can I do? Where will I go?” asked the frightened Shah Mar. He could see the rising cloud of dust of a large number of men and horses of the invading king in the horizon.

    “Run, get away as fast as possible with a sturdy horse. Go far away from this doomed land, and don’t look back.”

    Shah Mar mounted his best horse and escaped as fast as he could from his domain

    The wedding party and the troops approached the palace of Shah Mar. They were sounding off trumpets, banging on drums, singing as loud as possible while surrounded by a huge contingent of mounted and armed soldiers. The riflemen continually shot rounds of bullets into the air. There was am awful din of noise.

    The hammermill king and his wife were riding in a gold-plated chariot There was a multitude of soldiers in front and back of their chariot. The troops reached a large field where they saw a herd of cows pasturing. The mounted troops asked the cowherd men: “Whose cows are these?”

    “The hammermill king’s cows,” answered the cowherds.

    They continued on their path. They arrived at a large area of cultivated land.

    They asked the farmers: “Who owns these abundant fields?”

    “The hammermill king,” they replied.

    They continued on and reached the vast fields of hay.

    They asked the laborers: “Who is the owner of these fields?”

    “The hammermill king,” they replied.

    All were astonished. The hammermill king was on the verge of losing his mind. He couldn’t believe his ears.

    The troops arrived Shah-Mar’s palace. The best man fox was already established as the master of the palace. He had made all the appropriate preparations and received the honored guests and newly found relatives. They all began the joyful festivities.

    For seven days and seven nights they enjoyed themselves royally. After the festivities ended the guests returned to their kingdom. The hammermill king along with his wife and his best man, the fox, live now in Shah-Mar’s palace. Until this very day, Shah-Mar is still running frightened out of wits of the hammermill king.

  • The fox brings his tail to bear witness

    ahghvehssuh eer botchuh vuhgah pehrehl eh

    This proverb conveys the meaning that a crafty person like a fox brings his friends to bear false witness to support his deceit.



  • Fortune shines when the husband and wife do not quarrel, fools are kept at a distance from positions of responsibility, salt is kept dry, fields are green, and women, children, and elders are safe and happy.

    paghduh guh jubdhee mahrtotz vuhrah yehp gheen yehv ahmouseen chen guhrveel, ahnkhehlknehruh bahsdohnyah chounehn, ahghuh chor, ahrduh gahnanch, gheen, yehrehkhah yehv dahreekohdnehr ahbahhohv yehv ouragh gahbreen

  • Fortune visits only once.

    Fortune visits only once. Take advantage of an opportunity. ( paghkhtuh mehg ahnkam gaiytzehleh)

    Before my mother immigrated to the United States, she had heard that America was such a rich country that money was on the ground and could be picked up at will. These were tales in the old country about the opulence of America. When she arrived on Ellis Island and right after she disembarked from the boat and was walking toward the immigration booths, she noticed a crisp American ten dollar bill on the ground. She thought, “Everything I have heard about this marvelous country is true. Money is on the ground everywhere just begging to be picked up and spent. But I don’t think I should bend down and pick up this money as it would be disrespectful for me. I have just got off the boat and haven’t even entered the country officially. I may appear to be a greedy money grabber if I bend down and take the money. I’ll wait until I am in the country and landed. Then, like any other American, I’ll pick up the money off the ground.”

    Suffice it to say, my mother never found another ten dollar bill on the ground in America the rest of her life. She had to work hard to earn an honest living. She also had to adjust to life and culture in America.

    She was invited by new American acquaintances for dinner in their home. It was the first time an American family invited her
    for “hyiourahsehroutioun”(this word has a special meaning in Armenian – it means literally “loving your guest” or in a general sense “respect and appreciation for your guest.”)

    The custom in Armenia was that when a person arrived as a guest at someone’s home, the host would ask the guest to sit at the dinner table to dine. The guest would politely say, “Oh, I am not hungry, thank you.” The host would ask a second time and eventually a third time. The guest would accept on the third invitation. This was a protocol of respect and fun. However, when the American family asked my mother if she would dine, she customarily declined respectfully saying she was not hungry. The host family did not insist and asked her permission to dine while she waited. My mother was expecting them to ask her a second and third time. But, they didn’t and my mother just sat there as they ate. She thought, “These Americans are unlike my people. They only ask one time and then sit down to eat while the guest starves.”

  • The camel doesn’t eat dates everyday.

    ahmen ahdhen oughduh ahrmav chee trkehl

    Good fortune doesn’t always shine on a person.

  • some people carry a heavy burden, some have a good appetite

    vohmahntz kashgahk, vohmahntz ahkhorjak

    This proverb implies that some people are rich and sick and some people are healthy (meaning they have a good appetite), but are hungry.

  • There is good fortune that brings ruin and bad fortune that leads to good results

    Paght gah portzank guh perheh, portzank gah paght guh pereh

    There was a village in Punjab, India. One day all the chickens died in the village. The village elders called a meeting and decided that such an exceptional occurrence must have a meaning that they were not able to ascertain. They resolved to seek the advice of a strange saint who lived in a tree on the outskirts of the village. They walked to the saint’s tree and addressed him. “O venerable sadhu, all the chickens in our village suddenly died. What is the meaning of this.” The saint began to laugh hysterically for five minutes. All the elders were uncomfortable with his strange behavior, but they remained respectfully silent until he composed himself and finally spoke. “This is God’s special blessing on you.” After this short statement the sage remained silent. Some of the elders were disappointed by the saint’s answer. While walking back to the village, the skeptics began to criticize the strange behavior of the saint and questioned his sincerity. The senior elders defended the saint and said that his seeming strange behavior was not a subject of criticism. Such a saint should be always respected because he continually demonstrates severe renunciation and has never deviated from his vows of chastity and poverty. The next day, all the dogs in the village died suddenly. The elders returned again to the saint and asked his opinion. He again began to laugh hysterically for ten minutes making all the elders very uncomfortable with his strange behavior. Finally, after composing himself, he stated that this again was the special mercy of God and remained silent. The skeptical elders protested and began to raise their voices in protest, but the others quelled their voices and cautioned them to remain respectful in the presence of the saint. As they returned to the village the skeptics argued that asking the advise of the saint was useless. All he replied was that this is the special mercy of God. What if the entire village was destroyed, would he insist still that it is the special mercy of God. How can they expect a rational reply from the saint? He lives in a tree like an animal and barely eats. How can he know anything about the mercy of God. Other elders again remonstrated that to speak disrespectfully of the saint would bring ruin to the village. Although his behavior seemed irrational, still they should carefully consider his words and try to understand the meaning.

    The next day, all the fires in the village went out. This was a serious problem as they would have to go to the next village to acquire hot coals to start the fires again. They would also not be able to cook food that day. Again they approached the saint and asked his advice. He began to laugh hysterically for fifteen minutes and finally calmed himself. Needless to say, all the villagers were uncomfortable and even the most staunch defenders of the saint began to doubt his sincerity. Finally the saint pronounced very solemnly that this was the ultimate mercy of God on the villagers. This time there was only one elder who continued to defend the saint. All the others were convinced that it was a waste of time consulting him as his only answer was that this is the mercy of God. What kind of mercy is that. Continual adversity cannot be mercy they thought.

    The one staunch elder, however, kept the others at bay. They did not insult the saint to his face, but they decided by majority vote not to consult him again. They were convinced except for the one elder that these adversities were the result of God’s mercy, but rather chance occurrences that they could not attribute any divinity. The next day a huge army of fierce Muslim invaders approached the village. The Muslims had been pillaging all the Hindu villages, razing them and killing all inhabitants. As the hoard of Muslims neared the village, the general stopped the army’s march and looked and listened carefully. All the inhabitants of the village were hiding and were frightened beyond their wits. The general remarked, “There is something strange about this village. There are no dogs, no chickens and all the fires are out it seems for days. This must be an abandoned village and most probably it is haunted. We will ignore this village and proceed to the next one.”

    The villagers realized that the words of the saint were true. Although they thought he was an eccentric fool, it became evident that he was truly in touch with God and was able to foresee the future. There is bad fortune that leads to good results and good results that sometimes lead to bad fortune.

    There is another interesting story about a three breasted Princess.

    A king had a newly born daughter. On examination, the little girl was born with three breasts.The king called his advisers and asked their opinion. They claimed it was very inauspicious. They advised the king to abandon the baby in the forest. The king prudently asked his priest for advice too. The priest confirmed that it was a bad omen for the king to have a three breasted daughter. He suggested the king not see her. However, he instructed the king to have the girl raised outside the palace. When she came of age the king could have her married and then send the girl and her husband to a far away place to live.

    When the girl grew up to marriageable age, the king sent town criers to announce to the public, “The king is offering his daughter with three breasts in marriage along with ten thousand gold coins. But the groom and his bride will then be banished forever from the kingdom.

    After many days a blind man who had a hunchback friend heard the proclamation. He discussed the possibility of accepting the king’s offer. He said to his friend, I am inclined to accept this offer because our life here is miserable. We are struggling to exist with no money. He said

    An empty stomach is not a good friend
    It has no grace, it leads to a dead end
    One who is well fed is kind and witty
    Giving, sharp minded, full of energy”.

    After his statement, the blind man went to the palace to accept the king’s daughter in marriage. On hearing the offer, the king said, “Whatever he may be, give him my daughter and the gold and let him immediately depart.

    The marriage was completed and the blind man, his new wife and the hunchback friend left the kingdom in a fisherman’s boat for a distant land. When they reached a foreign country, they purchased a house and lived comfortably for some time.The princess develop a liking for the hunchback. They began to make love secretly. One day the princess suggested that they would be much happier if her husband was dead. She suggested they poison her husband.

    The hunchback reluctantly agreed. He went out in search of poison in the forest. He found a dead snake which he brought back to the princess for making a soup. She made of pot of boiling water with the snake and vegetables and spiced the mixture to taste. The blind man’s wife asked her husband to stir the boiling pot while she attended to the laundry. She added that she was making a very tasty boiled fish and vegetable soup. The blind man stirred the soup ardently.

    As he stirred the soup, poisonous vapors wafted into his nostrils and eyes. In some miraculous way the vapors healed his blindness. Gradually he gained his eyesight and looked about the house. He noticed the pot of soup and realized that it was not a fish but a poisonous snake cooking down into a broth. He suspected that there was a plot to kill him by poisoning.

    He decided to act as if he was blind so that he could find out who was trying to poison him. In a few minutes the hunchback appeared and went to the princess who was doing chores and began to kiss and fondle her. The blind man saw this and became infuriated. He walked toward the two love birds as if he was blind. As he approached they parted and the wife went back to her chores. He walked up to the hunchback who was unaware that the blind man could see. The husband bent down and then grabbed the feet of the hunchback and began to whirl him around in a fit of anger. The wife approached the two in a hurry to stop her husband, but he dashed the hunchback against her chest.

    The unexpected happened. The blow of the hunchback’s hump on the wife’s chest pushed in the third breast which disappeared. At the same time, the hunchback’s hump straightened and also disappeared.

    All three were favored by an act of fortune even though it was the result of a sinful act. The quirk of fate became the good fortune of the three. Therefore, the Armenian proverb says, “There is good fortune that brings ruin and bad fortune that leads to good results.”

    We should, however, be convinced that foolish and sinful acts lead eventually to misery. Although we may be controlled by fate, still our acts may have an influence on fate. We should never act rashly and we should try our best to avoid sinful acts.

    Once there was a man sitting on a branch of a tree and sawing it off at the point it grew out from the trunk. Another man walking by noticed the foolhardy endeavor and remarked, “Sir, if you continue to do what you are doing, you will cut the branch off and fall down. Perhaps, you will injure yourself severely.”The man on the branch rebuked the person who made the well intentioned comment, “Mind you own business, I know what I am doing. I don’t need your advice.”

    The stroller realized that the man on the branch was too arrogant or foolish to listen to his advice. He continued on his path convinced that something unfortunate would happen to the foolish man. Sure enough, in a short while, the man on the branch fell off the tree and screamed in agony. His cries for help pained the stroller, who ran back to try and help. The fool broke his arm as a result of his fall. When the stroller approached to help, the fool said,
    “You are truly a man of vision. How did you know I would fall and hurt myself?”
    The stroller replied,
    “I am not a soothsayer or prophet. I simply observed your sawing the branch off and understood you would probably fall down and injure yourself. Foolish or passionate acts often lead to misery. One should never act rashly. Rather, one should listen to the advice of experienced persons before acting.”

    We do not have to be a prophet to know what will happen in the future. You can tell by observing the behavior of people. There are three qualities that control the actions of people in this world. They are goodness, passion and ignorance. The actions of people who are endowed with goodness

  • One person’s good fortune just finished, yet another’s just begun

    Megoun paghteh verchatzav, oureesheen ter nor uhsguhsav



  • Write it on ice

    bouhzeen (sahroueetz) vrah kuhrrheh

    This saying is used when one wants to impress on another to forget or give up something. Obviously, if you write on ice, it will eventually melt and be forgotten. “Bouhz” is the Turkish word for ice. The Armenian word is sahroueetz.

  • Charlie (Garabed in Armenian) committed a sin and the priest extracted a tithe

    Meghkuh kordzetzch garabeduh, doukank kashehtz hairabeduh

    Asking for forgiveness and paying a tithe or doing service as amends for a sin are beneficial, but there is no guarantee that the desire for wrongdoing has been removed.

    A close friend of mine was married to a very attractive woman and was blessed with two beautiful young daughters. He became involved with another woman and his involvement caused the breakup of his marriage and his financial ruin. He had a nervous breakdown and became dysfunctional. I invited him to live with me so that I could help him get a grip on his life again.

    After a month with me he began to feel much better and was able to resume his work. During his recovery I didn’t probe into his relationship with the other woman or even speak much about his problems. When he was better, we began to talk about what happened. During one of our talks I mentioned the name of his girlfriend and remarked how lucky he was to be free of his lusty desires for her. He fell silent and dropped his head slightly and spoke under his breath, “I wouldn’t say that, I am still very attracted to her.”

    While saying this, his face seemed to glow with an impish smile that revealed the mischief still present in his heart. I was shocked to see that he was not over his infatuation with this woman even at the expense of losing his wife and family. As devastating as the breakdown of his family life was, he was still strongly attracted to his girlfriend. He gradually regained his composure and apologized to his wife and asked for forgiveness. His wife remained skeptical but encouraged him to see the children and gradually show his good faith.

    He chose to maintain a distant relationship with his family while continuing his affair with the girlfriend and eventually moved in with his lover and divorced his wife. Asking for forgiveness and atoning for wrongs is beneficial but not the real solution of the problem. Purifying the root of wrongdoing is much more significant than sinning and atoning. This proverb emphasizes the mechanical process of atoning for sins by paying a tithe or doing some kind of activity of atonement. This might help temporarily, but it will not cure the sick mind.

    There is a story that is very instructive for curing a lustful mind. Once a very attractive woman was approached by a lusty man, he fell at her feet and implored her to become his lover. She was appalled by his rash show of lust for her. She decided to instruct this rash fool about the nature of a woman’s beauty. She requested him to come back in one week and she would do his bidding. She explained that a week’s separation would make her so yearn for him that she would be more anxious to please him.

    He was so excited by her flirt that he protested that she should please him immediately. She insisted so much that he finally agreed to come back in a week. When he finally left, she decided to collect all her bodily fluids and stools in a bucket. She took different powerful purgatives and gradually was able to fill a large bucket. Because of her continual cleansing, she became thin and gaunt and lost her youthful countenance.

    When the day arrived, the impatient man returned with his wildest expectations in mind. The lady sat in a corner of her room with a shawl over her head. When he approached, he fell at her feet and addressed her tenderly, “Dearest, I have come to consummate our love.” Because of her fasting and elimination, her voice had become higher pitched and grizzled like an old woman. From behind her shawl she said, “So you’ve come, you fool.” She laughed like a hoary witch.

    The man was shocked. He thought, “This can’t be my soft and tender lover. This person sounds like and old hag.” He asked, “I don’t believe you are the same person, please take away your shawl and show me your face.”

    The woman withdrew her shawl. He saw a weakened woman, pale and ghostly. He was shocked. “My God, what has happened to you? Where is your stunning beauty?” The woman said, “I have kept it in the bucket over there. Go and see.”

    He was disoriented. As he approached the bucket hastily, he accidentally kicked it and it spilled its precious contents. He was disgusted and shocked. “Woman, how can you say this is your beauty?”

    She replied, “Oh foolish man, a woman’s body is just a bag of stool, urine, mucus, blood, bile, and many other nasty things. Now you see my “liquid beauty.”

    If we carefully examine our object of desire and and analyze its constituents or what makes it up, then we can gradually overcome its surface attraction and understand its real nature. For example, I might see a very attractive woman and be attracted to her. But if the same woman has be seriously injured by a car accident and her stomach has been cut with her guts hanging out, then my attraction to her disappears and it replaced with fear or horror at the sight.

    Similarly, if I look at person’s body as a bag containing certain ingredients and I analyze those ingredients, then my attraction for the external appearance will definitely be compromised by understanding what is inside the bag.



  • The camel grazes at close range but sees far into the distance

    oughduh mohdik eh ahradzoum, paiytz hehrou eh deshnoum

  • First get the yoke and bit ready before you twist the ears of the violent bull

    Ahratch loudz ou gahmk bahdahrasteer, hehdo gahdkahdz yehzeen ahgahnckuh puhrneer

  • When you open your mouth, open also your eyes

    Pehrahnut pahnahloun, ahckut pahtz

  • Think first how and where to cross the river so wide, before you set foot in it and endanger your hide

    Ahratch kehdeen ahntzkuh kuhdeer, yehdkuh chouruh mudeer



  • Warm up a frozen snake and it will bite you

    sahrahdz otzuh daktzour, kehzee guh khaiteh

  • He is sitting on an ass, looking for an ass.

    Ehs eh hedzer, ehs guh puhndereh

    There was once a smuggler who was very successful. He lived in a poor country of sheep herders and farmers. The smuggler conveniently lived near the border of a neighboring country that was prosperous. He was moderately wealthy and no one could figure out how he was so successful. There were only rumors that he made his money by smuggling.

    He crossed the border every month riding a donkey laden with sheep’s wool. The border guards would carefully examine the merchandise and make him pay the taxes. There was one custom’s official that was particularly suspicious of him, but he was never able to find anything that would justify arresting him for smuggling. Many years went by and finally the suspicious custom’s official retired as did the smuggler.

    One day the custom’s official paid a visit to the smuggler. He asked the smuggler if he could talk with him. They sat down together. The custom’s official gradually brought up the subject of smuggling. He said,
    “My friend, I am retired and so are you. I have been suspicious of you for many years, but I never could verify if you were smuggling goods. Yet, I see that you have done very well for yourself. I promise you I won’t use any information you give me against you. But, please tell me, what were you smuggling into my country all those years?

    The smuggler smiled. He said,

    “You promise not to tell?”

    “Yes, I swear on the grave of my mother.”

    “I was smuggling a donkey a month into your country. Our donkeys sell at a premium price to your farmers.”

  • The crazy man spoke and the simpleton believed him

    Khevuh uhsatz khelokuh havadhatz

    People often make unsubstantiated statements that are speculative or outright false and unrealistic. Statements that cannot be verified with fact or authority should not be accepted. Yet, foolish persons easily accept baseless statements as true.

    There is another proverb in Armenian, “Halebuh hoos cheh neh, santokhuh hos eh.”

    An Armenian merchant went from his village in Armenia to Aleppo, Syria. On his return he told everyone that he saw an ass climbing up a staircase in Aleppo. On hearing this, a man remarked, “Our village is not Aleppo, but we do have a staircase (or literally Aleppo is not here, the staircase is here).” The implication is that if asses can walk up staircases in Aleppo, we have plenty of staircases (and asses) in our village to test your statement to see if it is true or not.



  • The tongue of the fool is always long

    ahnhounahr mahrtee lehzoun yehrgahr guhleenee

  • Our home will be trashed by letting crazies in to crash

    mehr dounuh pohs, ouhr vohr khehnt gah hohss

    A good home will be disrupted by letting crazy people live there. In fact, any endeavor will be
    disturbed by the involvement of crazy people. Crazy people can be extended to include anyone who acts irresponsibly.

  • The powerful flood waters swept away the entire watermill. Yet, he (the fool) is looking for the door knob of the watermill.

    chaghatzkuh hohrtzahnkuh dahrehr eh, chaghchaghuh guh puhnduhreh

    chaghatz means the watermill which was a good sized building for grinding grain. The stone grinder was powered by a water wheel or turbine with a mechanical process.

    chaghchagh means a door knob or a hammer-like iron door knocker.

    This is a classical humorous Armenian saying. The entire watermill was swept away indicating a very expensive loss of an essential grain grinding facility. Yet, a foolish person is looking for the iron door knob of the windmill.Looking for the door knob of the valuable windmill rather than thinking about finding the windmill shows the pettiness of the seeker’s mind. Instead of looking for something of value, he seeks an object of little worth.

    There is a story about a rich man who earned his wealth by regularly purchasing shares of Calcutta Steel Corporation over a long period. As he approached his death, he was surround by his family members. His four sons were at his bedside on a Friday night. The large extended family was praying for his recovery.
    Suddenly, the rich man motioned slightly that he wanted to speak. His sons raised him gently and everyone perched their heads to hear what would perhaps be his last words. In a soft voice the rich man said, “Monday morning buy Calcutta Steel shares.” He died right after uttering his last words.

    Obviously, the dying rich man’s consciousness was more concerned with the temporary gain on the stock market than saving his own soul at the time of death. Instead of thinking about God, he was focused on Calcutta Steel Stock. This is a sad testimony about how so many people waste their lives thinking about mundane things that have little value. The eternal soul is the precious asset a human being has. It is the source of his consciousness by which he perceives and understands the universe. If he wastes his time seeking a door knob instead of the watermill, he becomes a pathetic example of a person who meditates on the chafe but loses sight of the valuable grain.

    There are many other examples of Armenian sayings and proverbs that contrast the significant with the ridiculously mundane or something ordinary with the extraordinary or impossible. The following are examples.

    hahtzuh kahrehn guh hahneh – he can make bread from a rock – he is an ingenious, hard worker

    mehrehluh guh khuhntahtzuheh – he makes a dead man laugh

    mahzehruh yehrgaiyn, khelkuh gahrdz, she has long hair and a short brain (implying very little brain)

    yehteh khohsgohv peelahv gehpvee, dzohvou chahp youghuh eentzmeh – if you can cook rice with words alone, I’ll donate an ocean of cooking oil (for the task)

  • He who has never built a house imagines that support columns grow like trees.

    ohv dahn chee seenehl gahrdzoum eh souiynehruh pousnohvee yehn

  • Vardan Aigektzi

    Vardan Aigektzi was a famous Armenian who wrote original fables. One of his fables follows.

    The history of mankind can be compared to action of three fools. The first decided to catch the wind. He climbed to the top of a mountain to catch the wind. He tried for a hundred years but wasn’t able to even catch a palm’s worth of wind.

    The second was a man of wealth. He employed a large number of servants and a great amount of money. He sat down on the bank of a great river. His aim was to use the waters of the river to inscribe an elegy. He also labored with his servants for a hundred years. But, he was not able to write even one letter on the waters of the river.

    The third was determined to prove himself the most prominent of the three. He crafted a huge bow and made sharp arrows. He attempted to shoot at the stars and other heavenly bodies during the night. He wanted to pierce a star and rope it to his home so that he would be the only one to enjoy its cooling light. He was not able to even catch a spark. To make matters worse, during the day he ran after his own shadow with the hope of catching it. But, he never caught up to it although he pursued his own shadow for a hundred years.

    Aigektzi illustrates the futility of human endeavor that is directed to foolish pursuits.

    We may think that this is a naive fable that really doesn’t pertain to our practical lives. If we consider
    our modern life and the many efforts of modern science that we witness, we may find real life parallels to Aigektzi’s fable. One such endeavor is the attempt to go to the Moon and other attempts to explore the vast reaches of space. After nearly fifty years of space exploration, the most man has ventured into space is 220 miles to the international space station. There are claims that man has reached the moon. This may or may not be. Even if man went to the moon, there is no tangible result to show for it in the last 40 years. One thing is certain, many billions of dollars have been spent for such a futile endeavor.

    There are other colossal scientific research projects that are just as useless and wasteful of money and resources as the space exploration program. Aigektzi’s fable is as pertinent today as it was in earlier times.

  • They went toward the odor of the BBQ, but it turned out to be the burial of an ass

    khorovadzee hohdee kuhnatzeen, ehss eheen taghghoum

    This is a very witty proverb that brilliantly illustrates the dry folk humor of Armenia. The BBQ is one of the favorite pastimes of Armenia. Roasting a dead carcass is a real treat for Armenians. But, in truth, it is a dead carcass being roasted on a fire. Is there any difference between the carcass of a dead ass or the same being being roasted on a charcoal fire? Both have the fetid smell of decaying flesh.

    Imagine the surprise! Instead of joining a barbeque, the persons following their nose found the carcass of the decaying ass being placed in a grave.

  • The fool – uhnkhehlkuh

    Blind, deaf man walking across a highway
    Sees not danger nor hears the passersby
    So the fool who thinks himself wise in all
    Ignoring good advice will cause his fall

  • khehlatzee tahdahvor

    The intelligent judge

    One night a wolf fell into a hole in the ground set as a trap by a hunter. The wolf began to howl,
    “Help, help.”

    A sheep came to see what happened. The wolf pleaded with the sheep to help him get free.

    “No,” said the sheep, “if I free you, you will eat me.”
    “I swear honorably that I will not hurt you at all.”

    The sheep believed the wolf and helped him get out of the hole.

    When the wolf got out of the trap he said.
    “You saved my life from danger. Now you will save me from hunger.”

    “But you gave your word of honor not to hurt me,” said the sheep.

    “I am a meat eater,” said the wolf. “What else can I do but eat you.”

    The sheep understood that there was no way to free itself. Just then, the sheep saw a dog

    “Oh wise dog, I beg you to become our judge,” said the sheep.

    The dog heard both of their claims and said.

    “How can I believe that you both told the truth. You must reinact the events so
    that I can see with my own eyes what happened.

    The wolf jumped into the trap again and begged the sheep to help him.

    “Oh greedy predator, wait until the hunter comes,” said the dog. Both the dog and the sheep went away.

  • Answer a fool with silence

    Himareen badaskanuh loourr muhnal eh

  • You can’t hold two watermelons with one hand

    Mehg tzerkov yerghou tzmerouk chi perrnuhveer

    In other words, don’t try to bite off more than you can chew. Being over zealous often leads to foolishness and untenable situations.

    Another proverb with the same meaning is – Mehg tzerkov yerghou jhunjughouk chi perrhner. One hand cannot catch two birds.

  • While blowing his nose he poked out his own eye

    Keyntuh sirpeloun bes ahckuh hanetz

  • The bread of the fool goes into the stomach of the wise man

    kheveen hatzuh khellokeen poruh



  • Is it possible to keep a fast with delicious paklava in your hand?

    Pahklavan dzotzuht, bahk puhr-nehl gahrehlee eh?

  • A thousand efforts and tribulations are not worth one teaspoon of tarkhana soup

    Hazar chank ou chakhalla chee arzeer tuhkalma tarkhana

    This soup is the most favorite soup of Armenians from the village of Malatia. The recipe follows tahneh tarkhana (yogurt water soup with herbs and butter)

    Tahn is a water solution of yogurt. Four parts of tahn are mixed with one part of wheat bran. In the villages of Armenia the people used goat’s milk more often than not to make yogurt.

    The tahn and bran mixture is heated in a copper pot until the mixture thickens due to evaporation. During the cooking, the liquid is mixed so that the bran does not settle and burn at the bottom of the pot.

    Once the thickened solution cools, it is ready to form into molded formed something life a patty or thick cylindrical shape and left to dry under the sun until it hardens. The tahn tarkhana can keep at least one years without getting moldy. It is used during winter to make salty or sweet dishes by mixing appropriate ingredients with it in water.

    For example, tahn tarkhana soup is made by dissolving the tahn tarkhana dry extract in boiling water and mixing in butter or ghee with different kinds of greens, boulgur, and especially tarkhan or tarkhoun herb which is tarragon.

    A sweet tahn tarkhana preparation is made by mixing the dry extract in water and adding raisins, other dry fruits such as apricots, apples, figs, etc., and sweet spices such as cinnamon, cardamon, nutmeg and sugar or honey.

    Sometimes a type of wheat flour and water mixture is rolled into a soft dough and slightly basked in ghee and then boiled in water until cooked. These wheat patties are folded into the sweet tarkhana soup to add more body and flavor.

    Tahn tarkhana is a very nutritious extract because it contains live yogurt and wheat bran which is a highly nutritious due to containing the wheat germ and the glutinous outer part of the wheat berry which is replete with vitamins and minerals.

    The easier way to make tahn tarkana soup is to mix four parts yogurt with one part yogurt and cook slowly. Add a cup of wheat or oat bran and mix. Let the soup simmer for at least two hours and stir frequently. Cut fresh herbs and greens such as parsley, ciltantro, mint, turnip , and spinach and add them to the soup when it has cooked down and thickened. Add two tablespoons or more of ghee or butter (you can also substitute with olive oil). While cooking add dry basil and a pinch of tarragon along with hing (asafoetida), an Indian spice that replaces garlic or onion and is a digestive aid as well as a tasty spice. After you add the greens, turn off the heat and cover the pot. Let the soup cool. The more it sits, the better the flavor. Reheat and serve.



When arriving in a new town, if you observe that the men wear their hats on one side, wear yours likewise.

mehg kahghak muh gehrtahs, guh dehssnahs vor khuhl-khahrg-nehruh dzour yehn tuhrehrr, toun ahl dzour teehr


  • Can an insignificant fly ever become more than a fly

    jahnjuhn eench eh, vohr jahnjuhn eench beedee uhlah

    Literally, this proverb says “what is a fly, and what do you think a fly will become (in the future). The implication is that a fly is insignificant now and it will remain insignificant in the future.

    There is a famous story about King Canute the Great (985 or 995 to 1035), who was king of Denmark, England, Norway and parts of Sweden. It is said he commanded his royal throne, the elaborate chair on which he sat, be set by the sea shore. When he ascended the throne, he commanded the tide to halt before it wet his feet and robes. However, the tide continued to rise and wet him
    without respecting his royal order.

    He jumped up above the tide and said, “Let all men know how empty and worthless is the power of kings, for there is none worthy of the name, but He whom heaven, earth, and sea obey by eternal laws”.
    He then hung his gold crown on a crucifix, and never wore it again “to the honor of God the almighty King”.

    King Canute proved to his immediate courtiers and to all men of all time that earthly kings and rulers are insignificant in comparison to the all mighty God of the creation.

    “Can an insignificant fly ever become more than a fly?” is a proverb to remember the noble example of King Canute.

  • the fly is small but it can upset the minds of all

    janjuh mee pahn chee, seerduh guh kharnee

    A fly is not very important. Yet, it can disturb many people by its
    annoying presence. Similarly, one person may upset the mind of many others
    by constantly making negative or inappropriate comments and purposely
    or inadvertently doing annoying things.