Unique Proverbs and Idioms – Zany, Meaningful, and truly Sri Lankan

The Sinhalese language completely unique to the world has some wondrous phrases that add to the colour and expressiveness of its statements. Locally contextualized and rich in culture they are full of wisdom and wit.

“Parangiya Kotte giya wage.”

This means arriving to a location through a much longer route whilst a shorter one exists. The backstory references happenings of the 16th century, where a fleet of Portuguese sailors and merchants were misdirected through a much circuitous route than necessary in their attempt to reach Kotte (the 7th kingdom of power in historical Sri Lanka). This had been done in order to conceal the right direction and the proximity of the royal palace.

“Inguru deela miris gatta wage.”

This statement refers to exchanging something dangerous for something even more dangerous. It relates to 17th century historical politics. The incident being referenced here is the Sri Lankan King inviting dealings with the Dutch to get rid of the Portuguese.

“Rawula gini ganna minihata suruttu patthu karanawa wage.”

This simply means adding fuel to the fire and engaging in some form of activity that would make worse an already bad situation.

“Vandurata deli pihiya dunna wage.”

This expression is often stated in relation to someone inexperienced being given a dangerous object. An individual who may not understand the value or danger of his received gift may frolic with it and create turmoil.

“Pandithayanta edande yanna be.”

It means that a know-it-all will over-intellectualize even the most trivial and therefore fail at the simple things in life. “Edanda” traditionally is a very thin wooden plank used for village crossings over narrow waterways.

“Labunoth aliyek, giyoth wachanayak.”

Simply saying, there is no harm in asking. It references a conversation between a father and son watching a rich merchant passing by on elephant back. The son wants to request the merchant for his elephant and the father warns him saying that it is futile. The son wisely replies using this phrase to enlighten the father that they have very little to lose in only making a request.

“Unahapuluwage petiya uta menikak lu.”

This expression meaningfully explains the consideration of a parent towards a child, that a parent will see no flaws in its offspring. The reference to a Loris is important since this animal is considered as a symbol for the unattractive in the local context.

“Horage ammagen pena ahanawa wage.”

This saying relates to an instance where unknowingly a complicit is taken into confidence to find evidence against a wrong doer. It references a local belief in soothsaying to find answers to a problem being faced.

“Ugurata hora beheth bonnawa wage.”

This statement is generally used in a context where one attempts to hide the truth from someone who knows better. It may also refer to a context where an individual is found to be lying to him or her own self.

“Pirunu Kale Diya Noselve.”

Simply put, this means empty vessels make more noise. “Kale” is an earthen pot used traditionally to carry water. When half full the water juggling inside tends to make an echoing noise.  

References: “Parangiya Kotte giya wage” referenced historical details accessed from NewsIn Asia Feature [https://newsin.asia/story-behind-the-sinhalese-proverb-parangiya-kotte-giya-wage/ ]

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