[From Folklore of the Isle of Man, A.W.Moore, 1891]




No account of the Customs and Superstitions of the Manx would be complete without touching upon their proverbs and characteristic sayings. For nothing shows the peculiarities in the character and prevailing habits of thought of a people more vividly than its proverbs. Any one reading the Manx proverbs would at once say that many of them were similar to those of other peoples, but this does not necessarily show that they are not of native origin. It is, indeed, a well-known fact that there is a remarkable similarity in the proverbs of all peoples, e.g., our comparative philologists tell us of the likeness between the proverbs of the Zulu and the Finn. Yet this simply proves that human thought runs in a common groove, and does not disprove the separate origin of the thoughts of each people. In fact the proverbs of different peoples, which may be defined as the result of their common-sense welded into trite sayings, are similar, because their ordinary ideas and wants are sure to be much the same. Still, national characteristics do appear in proverbs, and, as will be seen from those which follow, the special Manx attribute, that of caution, is no exception to this rule. These proverbs, which appear in the various forms of Maxims, Axioms, or Precepts, are, for convenience, classified under the following headings :–

(1) Proverbs relating to General Truths ;
(2) Proverbs inculcating Caution, Contentment, Thrift, Independence, Industry and Charity;
(3) Proverbial Weather Lore;
(4) Miscellaneous Proverbs and Sayings.

The following Proverbs are summary statements of General Truths:–

Cha jagh moylley ghooinney hene rieau foddey voish eghorrys..
"A man's praise of himself never went far from his door"– i.e. self praise is no recommendation.

Boayl nagh vel aggle cha yel grayse.
"Where there is no fear there is no grace."

Eshyn nagh gow rish briw erbee t'eh deyrey eh hene.
"He who will acknowledge no judge condemns himself."

Ta bee eeit jarroodit.
"Eaten food is forgotten."

Cha vel fer erbee cha bouyr, as esh yn nagh jean clashtyn.
"There is no man so deaf as he who will not hear."

Gowee bleb rish voylley, as gowee dooinney creeney rish foill
"A fool will receive praise, and a rich man will receive blame."

Ta fuill ny s'chee na nshtey.
"Blood is thicker than water."

Ta sciurrys y laue dy choyrt, scuirrys yn vecal dy voylley.
"When the hand ceases to give, the mouth ceases to praise." James, the 7th Earl of Derby, made use of this proverb, in complaining of the ingratitude of Captain Edmund Christian; whom he had made Governor of the Island, and upon whom he had conferred many benefits.

Caghlaa obbyr aash.
"Change of work is rest"–a very notable and true proverb.

Ta ynsagh coamrey stoamey yn dooinney berchagh, as f'eh berchys yn dooinney boght.
"Learning is fine clothes of the rich man, and it is riches of the poor man"–i.e., It is of some value in the one case, but of much more value in the other. The following Italian proverb conveys a similar idea–"Knowledge is silver among the poor, gold among the nobles, and a jewel among princes "

Myr sniessey d'an chrane s'miljey yn eill?.
"The nearer the bone the sweeter the flesh."

Ta drogh hammag ny share na magher foshlit.
"A miserable bush is better than an open field." This is similar to the Scotch proverb, "a wee bush is better than nae bield." This imagery can be well appreciated in a country so swept by the wind as the Isle of Man. The meaning is, in effect, "Half a loaf is better than no bread."

Cha dooar rieau drogh veaynee corran mie.
"A bad reaper never got a good sickle" i e- "A workman quarrels with his tools."

Cha deinee rieau yn soogh y shang.
"The greedy will never feel for the hungry."

Un eain gys lee, as jees gys obbyr.
"One call to meat, and two to work."

Obbyr dyn sharrey, obbyr dyn booise.
"Work without desire, work without thanks"– i.e., "Proferred service stinks."

Sooree ghiare, yn tooree share.
"Short courting, the best courting."

Boayl ta gioee ta keck, as boayl ta mraane ta pleat.
"Where there are geese there is dirt, and where there are women there is talking.".

De ye aashagh 'syn oie, monney shibber nagh ee, er nonney nee oo plaiynt er laccal dty laynt.
"To be easy in the night much supper don't eat, or else thoul't complain at wanting thy health."

Myr sniessey da'n oie, slhee mitchooryn. "
The nearer to the night, the more rogues."

Cha row rieau cooid chebbit mie.
"Never were offered wares good."

T' n yeean myr e ghooie my vel clooie er y chione.
"The chicken is like its kind before down is on its head."

Ta fys ec dy chooilley ghooinney c'raad t'an vraag gortagh eh.
"Every man knows where the shoe hurts him."

Oie mooie as oie elley sthic.
Olk son cabbil, agh son kirree mie.
"One night out and another in,
Bad for horses, but good for sheep."

Ta greim ayns traa cooie, sauail nuy.
"A stitch in due time saves nine." -

Foddeee fastyr grianagh ye ec moghrey bodjalagh.
"A sunny evening may follow a cloudy morning "–i.e., Nil desperandum.

My ta keim 'sy laair, bee keim 'sy lhiy.
"If there's an amble in the mare, it will be in the colt."

Ta boa vie ny gha agh drogh lheiy ee.
"Many a good cow hath but a bad calf."

Keeayl chionnit, yn cheeayl share -
Mannagh vel ee kionnit ro ghayr.
"Bought wit, the best wit,
If it be not bought too dear."

The following are especially connected with Morality

T'an aghaue veg shuyr da'n aghaue vooar.
"The little hemlock is sister to the great hemlock "-i.e.,
"The little sin is sister to the great sin."

Ta cree doole ny share na kione crontagh.
"A kind heart is better than a crafty (knotty) head."

Ta dooinney creeney mennick jannoo carrey jeh e noid.
"A wise man often makes a friend of his enemy."

Eshyn ghuirrys skeealley hayrtys skeealley.
"He who hatches tales shall be caught by tales."

Ta chengey ny host ny share na olk y ghra.
"The silent tongue is better than evil speaking."

Eshyn lhieys marish moddee, irrys eh marish jarganyn.
"He who will lie down with the dogs will rise up with the fleas "–i.e.,
"Evil communications corrupt good manners."

Yiow moyrn lhieggy.
" Pride will have a fall."

Cha vel eh cheet jesh da moyrn dy jannoo red erbee ta laccal leshtal.
"It does not become pride to do what needs an apology."

Cha bee breagery credjit ga dy ninsh eh y n'irriney.
"A liar will not be believed tho' he speaks the truth."

Cha nec tra ta'n cheyrrey gee yn ouw te cheet r'ee.
"It is not when the sheep eats the march-penny it tells a tale" (literally, "it comes to her")–i.e.., The result of evil-doing is not always apparent at first. The ouw is a slow poison.

Tasht prughag, as ee lughag
"Store miser, and eat mouse."

Ta un cheyrrey screebagh mhilley yn slane shioltane.
"One scabby sheep infects (or injures) the whole flock.

Ta keeayll ommidiys ny sloo my t'ee ee dooinney creeney dy reayll.
"Wisdom is folly unless a wise man keeps it."

S'mie ye daancy, agh s'olk ye ro ghaaney.
How good to be forward, but how bad to be too forward.

The following Proverbs appear to inculcate Selfishness

Faggys ta my lheiney, agh ny sniessey ta my crackan.
"Near is my shirt, but nearer is my skin."

Cha stamp rieau yn dow doo er e chass.
"The black ox never stamped on his own foot."

Dy chooilley ghoolnney er e hon hene, as Yee son am ooilley.
"Every man for himself, and God for us all."

Baasey derrey voddey, bioys y voddey elley.
"The death of one dog is the life of another."

Ceau craue ayns becall drogh voddey.
"Throw a bone into a bad dog's mouth "–i.e., Give a sop to any one who annoys you, though he does not deserve it.

Sniessey yn ullin na yn cloan.
"Nearer the barn than the children "–i.e., Our own welfare is more important than our children's.

Slaa sahll er toinn muck roauyr.
"Daub grease upon the rump of a fat pig "–i.e., Flatter the prosperous.

The following Proverbs illustrate one of the chief characteristics of Manxmen, i.e., Caution

Ta alie meeley jannoo bry millish.
"Slow fire makes sweet malt "–i.e., Don't be in a hurry. Don't jump to a conclusion.

Foddee yn moddey s'jerree tayrtyn y mwaagh.
"Perhaps the last dog may catch the hare "–This enforces precisely the same conclusion as the previous proverb.

Lurg roayrt hig contraie.
"After spring tide will come neap "–i.e., Don't be elevated by present good fortune, a reverse may come.

Coontey ny hem roish ta ny hoohyn guirt.
"Counting the chickens before the eggs are hatched."

Myr smoo siyr, smoo cuinrail.
"The greater hurry, the greater hindrance.'

Leah appee, leah lhoau.
"Soon ripe, soon rotten." This seems to carry much the same idea as "Slow and steady wins the race."

Moyll y droghad myr heu harrish.
"Praise the bridge as thou wilt go over it"–i.e., Don't be in a hurry to praise a thing before you try it.

Eddyr daa stoyl ta toinn er laare.
"Between two stools the bottom is on the floor"–or, you will fall on the floor.

Tra s'reagh yn chloie, share faagall jeh.
"When the play is merriest it is better to leave off.

Stiark keayrt ta dooinney siyragh ass seaghyn.
"Seldom is the time that a hasty man is out of trouble."

Cha jean un ghollan-geavee sourey, -
My un chellagh-keylley geurey.
"One swallow will not make summer,
Nor one woodcock winter."

Mollee yn molteyr oo my oddys eh
"The impostor will cheat thee if he can"–i.e., A man of bad reputation is never to be trusted.

Shareyn olk shione dooin, na yn olk nagh nhione dooin.
"Better the evil we know than the evil we do not know."

Tra ta thie dty naboo er aile gow cairail jeh dty hie hene.
"When thy neighbour's house is on fire take care of thine own house."

Ta ashag 'sy laue chammah as jees 'sy thammag.
"A bird in the hand is as well as two in the bush."

Ta lane eddyr raa as janno.
"There's much between saying and doing."

Ta lane caillit eddyr y lane as y veeal.
"There's much lost between the hand and the mouth "–i.e.,
"There's many a slip 'twixt the cup and the lip."

Ec shibber Oie Ynnyd my vees dty volg lane,
My jig Laa Caisht yiow traisht son shen.
At Shrove Tuesday if thy belly be full,
Before Easter Day thou mayst fast for that."

Eaisht lesh dagh cleaysh, eisht jean briwnys
"Listen with each ear, then do judgment." -

The following may also be put under the heading of cautious proverbs as their moral is "Do not be deceived by appearances

Cha nee yn woa smoo eieys smoo vlieaunys.
"It is not the cow which lows the most will milk the most."

Siyn follym smoo sheean nee.
"Empty vessels will make the most noise."

The following seem to inculcate virtues of Contentment and Kindness

Tra hig yn laa, hig yn coyrle lesh.
"When the day comes, its counsel will come with it "–
"Sufficient for the day is the evil thereof." - -

Shegin goaill ny eairkyn marish y cheh.
"We must take the horns with the hide."

Cha nee eshyn ta red beg echey ta boght.
Agh eshyn ta geearree smoo.
"'Tis not the man who has little that's poor,
But he that desires more."

Eshyn nagh bee mie rish e gharran,
Shegin dan phollan y cur-lesh er e vooin.
"He who will not be kind to his nag must bring the saddle on his own back "–
Kindness is the best policy.

The following inculcate the virtue of Thrift -

Millish dy ghoaill agh sharroo dy eeck
"Sweet to take but bitter to pay "– i.e.,
When you are enjoying yourself and spending money remember you will have to pay for it.

hig daill gys eeck.
"Credit will come to pay."

Roshee daill y dorrys.
"Credit will stretch the door."

Ta fooiliagh naareydagh ny s'messey na ee scammyltagh.
"Shameful leaving is worse than shameful eating."

Cha daink lesh y gheay, nagh ragh lesh yn ushtey.
"What did not come with the wind would not go with the water."

Dhaa ghrogh eeck t'ayn, geeck rolaue, as dyn eeck eddyr.
"There are two bad pays–pay beforehand, and no pay at all."

Share goll dy lie fegooish shibber na girree ayns lhiastynys.
"Better to go to bed supperless than to get up in debt."

Taa taa pharick* jannoo un ghimmagh.
"Two small lobsters make a big one "––i e.,
"Many a little makes a mickle,"
*Patricks," a slang word for a lobster.

Cha vel sonnys gonnys.
"Store is no sore."

Soddag cham, bolg jeeragh.
"Crooked bannock, straight belly."
The meaning of this is probably that spare living will make strong, able men.

The dignity of Independence is the moral of the following

Lhig dy choollley ushag guirr e hoohyn hene.
"Let every bird hatch its own eggs."

Lhig dy chooilley vuck reuyrey jeh hene.
"Let every pig dig for itself."

Ta dty lhiasagh dty ghoarn.
"Thy recompense is thine ownhand."

A similar idea is conveyed by

Lhlat myr hoilloo.
"To thee as thou deservest."

The following proverbs inculcate industry, Promptitude, and Thorough Work

Litcheragh goll dy lie, litcheragh dy irree,
As litcheragh dy goll dys y cheeill Je-doonee.
"Lazy to go to bed, lazy to rise,
And lazy to go to church on Sunday."

Cha vow laue ny haaue veg.
"The idle hand gets nothing."

Cadley ny moddee tra ta ny mraane creearey.
"Dogs sleep when the women are sifting "–i.e., sifting meal at the mill.

Bwoalil choud as ta'n ylarn cheh.
"Strike as long as the iron's hot."

Jean traagh choud as ta'n grian soilshean.
"Make hay as long as the sun shines."

Lhig- da'n innagh lhie er y chione s'jerree.
"Let the weft rest upon the last end."–i.e., Finish your work. Do what you have to do thoroughly.

The following charitable saying seems to be peculiar to the Isle of Man

Tra ta un dooinney boght cooney lesh dooinney boght elley, ta Jee hene garaghtee.
"When one poor man helps another poor man, God Himself laughs."
The poor in the Isle of Man are remarkably kind and helpful to each other.

The following proverb would seem to be a caution against permitting the abuse of charity by unworthy objects

Cur meer d'an fecagh, as hig eh reesht.
"Give a piece to the raven, and he'll come again.


These are for the most part in connection with the seasons. and certain days, and have been given in Chapter VI. ; but there are a few of more general application, as follows:

Yn chiuney smoo erbee gear jiass sniessey jee.
"The greater the calm the nearer the south wind."
A great calm is an almost certain token of coming storm. The worst storms in the Isle of Man usually commence by blowing from the S.E. or S., and take off when they reach the N.W.

Giare sheear, lianyr shiar.
"Short west, long east." Alluding to the wind. The west winds are much the most common in the Isle.of Man, but when the east winds set in they last longer.

My ta'n grian jiarg tra girree eh,
Foddee shiu jerkal rish fliaghey.
"If the-sun-is red when-the rises,- you may expect rain.

A bright clear day coming in unsettled weather is called "a fox day," as it is not to be depended upon. Throughout the southern part of the Island a cloud on South Barrule Mountain is considered a sure sign of coming rain.


A/yr sloo yn cheshaght share yn ayrn -
Myr smoo yn cheshaght' s'rale yn chioie.
"The smaller the company, the bigger the share,
The larger the company, the better the sport (or cheer)."

Cronk ghlass foddey voym; lhome, lhome tra roshym eh.
"A green hill far from me ; bare, bare when I reach it." This would seem to mean that expectation is much better than the reality. "Distance lends enchantment to the view." Things toiled for that seemed most desirable in the distance are found of little worth when attained.

The following fine manly saying seems to be of purely native origin

Nagh insh dou cre va mee, agh insh don cre ta mee.
"Don't tell me what I was, but tell me what I am"–i.e.,
Take a man for what he is himself worth. Don't consider his origin.

Fuirree vn mwaagh tish e heshey.
'The hare will stop for its mate."

Brishys accyrys trooid voallaghyn cloaie.
"Hunger will break through stone walls."

Raad ta jees ta reih,
As raad ta troor ta teiy.
"Where there are two there is a choice,
But where there are three there is a pick."

Cha vel y Vanninagh dy bragh creeney dys y laa lurg y vargee.
"The Manxman is never wise till the day after the market" (or after the fair).

Cha jinnagh dooinney ta coyrt dy very-akin dy bragh jeirk 'sy dorraghys.
"A man that doth not give to be seen always give in the dark."

Yn oghe gyllagh 'toyn losht' da'n aiee.
"The oven crying 'burnt bottom' to the kiln "–i.e., "The pot calling the kettle black."

Goll thie yn ghoayr dy hirrey ollan.
"Going to the goat's house to seek for wool "–i.e., Going on a fool's errand.

Myr s'doo yn feagh viow eh sheshey
"Black as is the raven he'll get a partner."

Ta sheshey chammah as ayrn.
"A companion is as good as a share.'

Guilley smuggagh, dooinney glen,
Inneen smuggagh, trowse dy yen.
"Snotty boy, clean man; Snotty girl, slut of a woman."
The notion seems to that a dirty girl will never improve, as she is wanting. in proper pride in her appearance, but that a dirty boy will probably improve, as a boy who is too much concerned with his appearance is not likely to do much good in after life.

Stroshey yn theay na yn Chiarn.
"The Commons are stronger than the Lord"–i.e., The Lord of the Isle. The Manx have always been noted for their ability to maintain their independence when it was threatened.

Share farkiaght er baare faarkey, ny er keim rullickey.
"It is better to be waiting on the top of wave than on the church-yard stile "
i.e., "A live dog is better than a dead lion."

Bioys da dooinney as baase da eeasl.
"Life to man, and death to fish ."

This was a regular toast at public dinners. Its meaning being of course an abundant fishing, without loss of life to those engaged in it.

Yn raad mooar Ree Goree.
"The great road of King Oree"; or, the Milky Way.

Tradition has it that when King Oree landed in Man he was asked whence he came, upon which, pointing to the Milky Way, he said, "That is the road to my country." Hence the Manx name for it.

Kione mooar ery veggan cheayley, as kione beg gyn veg-eddyr. "
A great head with little wit, and a little head without any."

It is said that as some farmers were cutting their yearly stock of turf on the mountain side near Snaefell, they came upon a large block of stone on which was engraved– Chyndaa us mish, as yiow us choyrle.
- "Turn thou me, and thou shall get advice."
On turning it after much labour, they found on the other side–
Ta brott cheh beggagh arran croie,
Chyndaa us mish myr va roie.
"Hot broth softens hard bread,
- Turn thou me as I was before '"-
i.e., "A soft answer turneth away wrath."

Ny poosee eirey-inneeen ny ta'n ayr eck er ny ye craghit.
"Do not marry an heiress unless her father has been hanged."
She is sure to be proud and difficult to manage.

Mannagh vow cliaghtey cliaghtey, nee cliaghtey coe.
"If custom be not indulged with custom, custom will weep."
Manxmen are very conservative and tenacious of old customs.

Kiangle myr noid, as yiow myr carrey.
"Bind as an enemy, and you shall have as a friend."

Cre ylow jeh'n chayt agh y chrackan.
"What wilt-thou get of the cat but the skin?"

Ta lhane kinkyn ayns car-y-phoosee.
"There are many twists in the nuptial song"–-i.e., Matrimony has its hazards.

Traa-dy-liooar."–"Time enough"–is a phrase often on a Manxmen's lips. They are noted procrastinators. Gossips and tale-bearers are said "To go about like a brewing pan, because, as one brewing pan usually served a whole neighbourhood, in the days when beer was home-brewed, it went about constantly from house to house. Those who were wont to "draw the long-bow" were said to be "Playing Fodjeeaght." (Fodjeeaght, according to Cregeen, being "the distance of the furthest arrow shot in archery."

Tra ta'n gheay sy villey yiow shin yn Gulley-glass–" When the wind is in the tree you will get the Lockman." There is no apparent connection between the Lockman, who is a sort of under-Coroner, and the wind in the tree, but possibly some of our readers may be able to explain it.

Ta airh er cushagyn ayns shen.
"There is gold on cushags there."

Cushag is the Manx name of the weed, Ragwort. which grows luxuriantly in Man. The expression is an ironical one, and was used when people spoke disparagingly of the Island, and boastingly of other places.

"No herring, no wedding."

For, if the herring fishing was to fail, the young men would not be rich enough to marry. The Manx were formerly largely dependent on the fishing for subsistence, as Blundell remarked in 1648, "The sea feedeth more of the Manksmen than the soil." It was in recognition of this that a special clause was inserted in the Litany by Bishop Wilson, i.e., "That it may please thee to give and preserve to our use the kindly fruits of the earth, and to restore and continue to us the blessings of the seas, so as in due time we may enjoy them."

The Manx language abounds in quaint figurative Sayings, of which the following, will serve as illustrations

The Zodiac is called Cassan-ny-greiney–" The footpath of the sun." The Rainbow Goll twoaie–" Going north." The expression for "The perfect" in the Bible is Feallagh ny firrinys–" People of the truth." Of a man who prospers it is said Te cheet lesh–" It comes with him." When a man is advised to rely on his own understanding he is told Shass er e chione hene–" To stand on his own head." A person who is failing in health is said to be Goll sheese ny liargagh–"Going down the slope." Beggars are said to be Skooyll ny thieyn– "Walking (or, going) on the houses." For "the water is boiling," they say Ta'n ushtey cloie–" The water is playing." Remorse is expressed by the phrase Craue beg 'sy chleeau–" A little bone in the breast." An impudent person is compared to a white stone, thus : T'ou cha daaney myr clagh vane–" Thou art as impudent as a white stone." The white quartz stones are very conspicuous objects on the hill sides. An inconstant person is said to be Lhiam-lhiat–" With me, with thee," or Chengey lhiam, Chengey lhiat–" Tongue with me, tongue with thee "–i.e., "Blowing hot and cold." A Manxman calls his walking-stick Bock-Yuan-Fannee–" John the Flayer's pony," because this John is said to have flayed his pony, and to have been consequently obliged to travel on foot.



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