March 2nd, 2017
"Patience" is a great poem about the importance of forbearance. Often you’ll just hear the 1st verse recited like a proverb. You can listen to the poem below and read along with the text. MP3 of the Poem Patience Patience By Anna M. Pratt If a string is in a knot, Patience will untie it. […]
March 15th, 2016
Bill Bruehl wrote asking about an Irish saying. Here’s his email… 80 years ago my grandfather, an Irish immigrant, used to say this: “When I was goin’ up hummer hummer jary I met a regum a tegum takin’ away me alli ca pal…” There is more to it that I forget. My Uncles knew it […]
January 19th, 2016
Sadao Mazuka wrote from Japan about the name “Gonbei” which refers to a guy whose name is unknown… “The name ‘Gonbei’ or ‘Gonbee’ is a kind of pronoun for a random person, like ‘some guy’ or ‘John Doe’. When people don’t know the name of someone (male), they say ‘Gonbei No-family-name’ (名無しの権兵衛 [nanashi-no Gonbei]). There’s […]
November 27th, 2015
Monique wrote from France about sayings related to days of the week. Here’s her email: Are there any idioms in English about the days of the week? In French, when we put a button in the wrong buttonhole, we call that "Boutonner lundi avec mardi." (Buttoning Monday with Tuesday.) We also have the proverb, "Qui […]
November 22nd, 2015
There are many proverbs around the world about eating well. There are other proverbs about making sure you eat when you have the chance. For example, I grew up with the saying, "Eat your food! People are starving in China." Monique sent some French and Spanish proverbs about eating when you can. She wrote… "About […]
November 20th, 2015
There’s an interesting book that features food wisdom and proverbs from around the world called "Food Rules" by Michael Pollan. The book is about learning to think about eating in a more healthy way. The sayings are interesting. I’ve tried to find some of the non-English sayings in their original languages – sometimes I found […]
November 3rd, 2015
The saying, "Cross my heart" (sometimes followed by "hope to die") is a way children swear that what they say or promise is completely true and sincere. When I was a child, growing up in New York, we said… Cross my heart and hope to die, stick a needle in my eye. While you say […]
March 16th, 2015
Check out this site about Disappearing Idioms. It covers the origins and meaning of some idioms that are going out of use.
March 12th, 2015
Cecyle wrote to us looking for help with a saying her mom would recite… Hi Lisa, My mother used to repeat a saying (about 20 lines) about common sense things that we should all do. I only remember a few lines: If you put it down, pick it up, If you get it out, […]
October 8th, 2014
Did you ever wonder whether specific proverbs and idiomatic expressions are still used in the English language? Here I discuss some phrases that begin with the letter "A" and how well-known they are. These proverbs are specifically about animals. They can be found on the site The Phrase Finder. The discussion here is specially from […]
April 29th, 2014
Monique wrote from France, "I just caught the end of the Spanish news on T.V. The lady presenting the weather forecast said a proverb about April: ‘Buenos amigos y buenos abriles, uno entre miles.’ Meaning, ‘Good friends and good Aprils, one out of thousands.’" Thanks for sharing the proverb and your photo Monique! -Mama Lisa […]
March 28th, 2014
I recently posted a song about Mt. Fuji and a haiku poem about a snail climbing Mt. Fuji. While I was working on them, I came across mention of there being a tradition in Japan of people wanting to climb Mt. Fuji during their lifetime. I asked Sadao Mazuka who’s from Japan about this tradition. […]
April 1st, 2013
"La nuit porte conseil" is French for "sleep on it". It means, think about it overnight and don’t make a decision until tomorrow… often good advice! The photo is this saying on the door of a Broom closet in Herald Square (New York). –Mama Lisa
March 12th, 2013
Here’s an Irish Blessing just in time for St. Patrick’s Day… Irish Blessing May your pockets be heavy And your heart be light. May good luck pursue you Each morning and night. Happy St. Patrick’s Day! -Mama Lisa
January 7th, 2013
The poem, Perseverance or Try Again by William Hickson appeared as a song in his book "The Singing Master" in 1836. It’s believed he coined the proverb "If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again": ‘Tis a lesson you should heed– Try, try, try again; If at first you don’t succeed, Try, try, try […]
April 11th, 2012
“Who Laid an Egg?” is a kids saying meaning, “Who farted?” The cartoon above is a play on the expression by 5th grader Lila Pomerantz.
April 3rd, 2012
Maryam wrote from Iran explaining about the Persian tradition of “divination” by consulting the Oracle of Shiraz Hafiz for guidance. Divination is a way to find out an answer to a question you have about your future (will you marry the one you love, will you get that job, etc.) To understand about the “Oracle […]
April 2nd, 2012
I saw a note on Facebook about the saying “Mama had a baby and its head popped off”. It’s said when you see a dandelion. While saying it you pop off the dandelion head like in the video below. I had never heard this one. It’s a bit like what kids say when they walk […]
March 27th, 2012
The last three days of March are said to be "borrowed from April." March said to April. I see 3 sheep upon a hill; And if you’ll lend me three days I’ll find a way to make them die. The first of them was wind and wet, The second of them was snow and sleet, […]
March 20th, 2012
Jeremy Shatan wrote from New York: "It’s the vernal equinox, the first day of spring. Around this time of the year, my mom would always say: ‘Spring has sprung, the grass is riz, the boid is on the wing.’ Yes, just like that." This saying is all in "New Yorkese", a New York accent. It […]
January 27th, 2012
A while ago, I talked about how my daughter’s class made drawings illustrating the literal meanings of idiomatic expressions. This is a great way to help children, and people learning English as a second language, to understand these sayings.. One drawing my daughter did was an illustration of the expression "follow your nose". "Follow your […]
November 30th, 2011
My daughter’s fifth grade class was given a really interesting assignment. The teacher asked them to make drawings that illustrated the literal meanings of common sayings. In American English "You’re on a roll" means you’re going from success to success. Here’s a drawing my daughter did of the literal meaning of being on a roll! […]
June 13th, 2011
Photo of Poison Ivy There’s a saying to help identify Poison Ivy… "Leaves of Three, Let it Be!" So if you see a plant that has three leaves be extra careful! See the photo above of poison ivy? The leaves look a bit like ivy. Unfortunately, I took this in my own backyard!
May 12th, 2011
The Idiom: The Frog in the Well – 井底之蛙 (jǐng dǐ zhī wā) – is a Chinese idiom that refers to a narrow-minded person who doesn’t see the larger world around them. The Story: The story is about a frog who lives happily in a well. He has no idea what’s outside of that well. […]
February 24th, 2011
“The heart that truly loves never forgets.”
November 11th, 2010
The expression Like a Bull in a China Shop literally refers to a lumbering, clumsy person damaging things… imagine someone stumbling around a shop full of delicate items, flailing, knocking things over and breaking them. That’s what you’d think would happen of you let a bull loose in a real china shop. Wouldn’t he charge […]
July 28th, 2010
Ayako Egawa wrote to me from Japan about the proverb, “The Grass is always greener on the other side.” The proverb means that people always think that others have it better in life, even if it’s not the case. Interestingly, Ayako said that this proverb also exists in Japan. Here’s what she wrote: Hi Lisa, […]
April 11th, 2010
Here’s an Angolan Proverb about mothers of babies. It’s over a century old… Nzamba k’anemenê mukombe uê, 0 mama k’anemenê mon’ê. English Translation The elephant doesn’t know its trunk is heavy; So a mother doesn’t feel the weight of her babe.
April 1st, 2010
“Se bon ki ra” is an old Haitian proverb meaning “good is rare”. It’s meant to be a reminder to treasure your unique experiences in life.
March 6th, 2010
Monique Palomares works with me on the French and Spanish versions of Mama Lisa’s World. She sent me some proverbs about March from different European countries in response to a post I did about Italian Proverbs about March. Here’s what Monique wrote… Here are some proverbs in Occitan, Catalan, French, Spanish, Portuguese and German about […]
March 2nd, 2010
Yesterday, I was talking with a lady, whose parents are from Italy, about how happy I am that it’s finally March. She said, “Why?” I said because February is finally over. She said, “Marzo è pazzo”. It’s an Italian saying meaning “March is crazy”… you can never depend on March weather. This same saying can […]
February 5th, 2010
Frank wrote to me: A long time ago, my dad told me a rhyme in Slovenian about St. Matthew. I can’t write it in Slovenian but the English translation is as follows: St. Matthew breaks up ice. If he doesn’t have it, he makes it. Do you know the origin of the rhyme and when […]
February 2nd, 2010
The significance of Groundhog Day is really that it marks the midpoint of winter. We’re halfway there folks! Here’s the famous saying that’s told on this day… MP3 Recording of Groundhog Saying If the groundhog sees his shadow We will have six more weeks of Winter. If he doesn’t see his shadow, We will have […]
February 1st, 2010
On February 2nd, Candlemas is celebrated in France every year. It’s called the Fête de la Chandeleur or Feast of Candlemas. It’s the exact mid-point of Winter. Here’s a French proverb sent to me by Monique of the French Mama Lisa’s World. I tried to rhyme the translation for you below… Proverb: “Que la Chandeleur […]
October 19th, 2009
Oscar Teliz told me his grandmother used to say in Spanish, “No hay mal que dure cien anos, ni cuerpo que lo soporte” which is an obscure saying meaning, “No bad occurrence will last forever, and if it did, you wouldn’t be able to stand it anyway.” My grandma always said, “What will be, will […]
September 18th, 2009
The proverb “Good fences make good neighbors” has been around for a couple of centuries in different forms. One place it can be found is in Poor Richard’s Almanack by Benjamin Franklin. His version is: “Love your neighbor; yet don’t pull down your hedge.” It’s interesting that the specific wording of the proverb, “Good fences […]
September 15th, 2009
Back in July I wrote a post about the proverb “Time and Tide Wait for No Man“. MC commented, “It has nothing to do with the sea, it’s ‘tide’ as in ‘noontide’.” Noontide means noon or midday. I still think it has to do with the tides. Answers.com agrees: “This proverbial phrase, alluding to the […]
July 24th, 2009
Now’s a good time to keep this proverb in mind… if you’re going to take a walk on the beach or near a river… you may want to check a high tide chart… because… Time and tide wait for no man. My husband and I almost learned this lesson the hard way today. We were […]
June 15th, 2009
Friendship is no plant of hasty growth, Though planted in esteem’s deep-fixed soil, The gradual culture of kind intercourse Must bring it to perfection. By Joanna Baillie
May 15th, 2009
Paul Gogojuice asked the following question on the Mama Lisa’s World Facebook Group: Hi all. My grandmother is full Finnish and as a child she always had 2 different sayings that she’d say to us. I don’t know how to spell them or anything, but I’m going to do my best to explain them. The […]
April 22nd, 2009
Here are some proverbs for Earth Day… Old Proverbs: -The Earth produces all things and receives all again. -Earth is the Best Shelter -What the heaven showers down, the Earth drinks up. (Greek Proverb) This one is not about the Earth, but it involves the Earth. -Six feet of earth make all men of one […]
May 28th, 2008
Kishan emailed me requesting a poem about cleanliness. Here are some rhymes and poems I found that are generally about cleanliness, keeping clean or washing up… First, here’s a traditional nursery rhyme that mentions having a clean face: The Clock There’s a neat little clock, In the schoolroom it stands, And it points to the […]
February 12th, 2008
I have a correction to make – and investigating my error has led me to an interesting discovery. Way back in 2005, I was asked about the saying, “Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.” At the time I attributed it to Benjamin Franklin. The saying was in […]
July 25th, 2007
I love to hear the different ways people spoke in the past. It’s similar to how I enjoy hearing different languages. You can imagine life in another time or place. Quite a while back, Arlene Charest wrote me with some rhymes and sayings she remembered from growing up in the 1940’s. I felt these are […]
August 8th, 2006
As you may already know, a housewarming is a party for someone who has just moved into a new home. Last month I wrote a little about housewarming traditions. Since then, I’ve discovered that many people are interested in learning more about housewarming traditions, gifts, sayings and poems. I found some proverbs related to buying […]
July 23rd, 2006
If the first of July, it be rainy weather, ‘Twill rain, more or less, for four weeks together. * Hot July brings cooling showers, Apricots and gillyflowers. * Those who in July are wed, Must labor for their daily bread. * Bow-wow dandy fly, Brew no beer in July. * Whatever July and August do […]
June 15th, 2006
Here are some English proverbs and nursery rhymes about June… June brings tulips, lilies, roses, Fills the children’s hands with posies. *** Marry when June roses grow, Over land and sea you’ll go. *** A good leak in June Sets all in tune. *** A dripping June Puts all things in tune. *** Calm weather […]
June 2nd, 2006
Today Devon over at Head, Shoulders, Knees and all that wrote a blog post about sneezing in Japan. He said in Japan they say hak-shun when they sneeze. In English we say a-choo. After Japanese people sneeze, no one says anything special. In English we say God bless you or Gesundheit. Gesundheit is a German […]
May 1st, 2006
I received this email today… Do you know the words to: First of May is Petticoat Day; Second of May is shoelace Day; What comes next? Thank You, Rose Ann If anyone knows the words to this saying, please comment below. Thanks! -Lisa
April 13th, 2006
It’s interesting to compare proverbs from different countries. Here are some I found from around the world. If you know of any others, you’re welcome to add them in the comments below. English Proverbs about April -April showers bring May flowers. -Sweet April showers, do spring May flowers. -April comes in with his hack and […]
Please contribute a traditional song or rhyme from your country.
More about Proverbs...
With Lullabies From Around The World
A Mama Lisa Book! Over 50 lullabies and recordings from all over the world. Each Lullaby includes the full text in the original language, with an English translation. Order Here!
With Our New Book 'Kid Songs Around The World'
Whoever the children are in your life - your kids, your grandkids, your students, even yourself (in your heart) - 'Kid Songs Around The World' is a wonderful way to help them experience other languages and cultures.
In 'Kid Songs Around The World' we've gathered 100 of our favorite songs and rhymes from all the continents of the globe.
Each song includes the full text in the original language, with an English translation, and most include sheet music. All include links to web pages where you can listen to recordings, hear the tune or watch a video performance. Each includes a beautiful illustration.
Many have commentary sent to us by our correspondents who write about the history of the songs and what they meant in their lives.
We hope this book will help foster a love of international children's songs!