Africa culture/tradition education

African Proverb: On The Rat and The Lizard

Igbo: Oke soro ngwere ma mmiri, mmiri guoro ngwere agagi ako oke

English: When a rat swims with a lizard, his hairs won’t dry as the lizards.

Origin: This proverb is widely used in Igbo land. The aged use this to instruct young people and children, mostly in folktales.

Reptiles are good swimmers and can survive in water for a long time. They are cold-blooded and hence can endure (not for long) in icy water. Lizards are reptiles, and their lamellate bodies do not get wet quickly. For our proverb, which compares mammals’ characteristics with reptiles, note that the latter does not have hair.

On the other hand, warm-blooded mammals are naturally distinguished by having hair and fur. Rats are hairy rodents. These rodents can’t last for long in the water. They get easily wet and cold.

Meaning: This proverb attempts to compare two characters – the rats and the lizards. Both characters have their unique weaknesses and strengths. However, owing to the nature of being cold-blooded and the absence of hair, reptiles can stay in water for long without getting cold.

We shouldn’t copy others just for the sake of copying. Every human has a distinct identity. Don’t do what others are doing; you are not the same. Doing what others are doing might be costly.


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