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:
I found that someone wrote a proverb on the wall [on Facebook], “The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence”.
I’m surprised that we Japanese have the same proverb with almost the same words or expression, "隣の芝は青い".
It means people always think they would be happier in a different set of circumstances. (Usually it implies that the other circumstances really are not any better.)
I think that many proverbs are common across the world, but even if they have the same meaning, they are sometimes used with different expressions or words in each country.
But this proverb is exactly the same in English and Japanese!
So, if you are interested in it and have time, would you ask your friends on Facebook if this proverb is common in other countries, too?
It would be interesting to know how people say this proverb!
Thanks in advance.
What is interesting is that this specific proverb originally comes from an American song called, “The Grass is always Greener in the other Fellow’s Yard” by Raymond B. Egan and Richard A. Whiting (published in 1924). Here’s the chorus:
The grass is always greener
In the other fellow’s yard.
The little row
We have to hoe,
Oh boy that’s hard.
But if we all could wear
Green glasses now,
It wouldn’t be so hard
To see how green the grass is
In our own back yard.
The idea behind the “The grass is always greener” goes back to the poet Ovid (43 BC – 17 or 18 AD). In his “Art of Love” he wrote, “The harvest is always richer in another man’s field”. There are other proverbs with the same sentiment: “The apples on the other side of the wall are the sweetest”, “Our neighbor’s hen seems a goose”, and “Your pot broken seems better than my whole one”. These all have the idea of others having it better off, even if it’s not true.
We’d love to learn about other proverbs from around the world similar to “The Grass is Always Greener”, and also if the same proverb exists elsewhere. Please share your versions, with translations if possible, in the comments below.
Thanks in advance!
Proverbs: A Handbook (2004) by Wolfgang Mieder
A book of quotations, proverbs and household words (1907) by Sir William Gurney Benham
Dictionary of Proverbs (2006) by George Latimer Apperson, M. Manser
Verbivore’s Feast: Second Course: More Word & Phrase Origins (2006) by Chrysti M. Smith
This artilce was posted on Wednesday, July 28th, 2010 at 3:45 pm and is filed under Countries & Cultures, English, English Proverbs, Japan, Japanese, Languages, Mama Lisa, Music, Proverbs, Questions, Sayings, The Grass is Always Greener, USA. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.