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Proverbs are used in most languages, but in Samoan one form of the language, the formal language used by matais when discussing matters of importance, relies heavily on them. Even if you know what the orator is saying, you may not understand what he means, because the proverbs could relate to obscure historical events.
To give some idea, we have collected a number of the proverbs in Samoan, with their English translation, and where necessary an explanation of what it means.Ua tautalagia le umu lapalapa.
Someone has misued the umu lapalapa.
The undertaking was miscarried because of someones error.
E sao mai i Amouta 'ai tali' le Amotai, fa'i fo'i o lea, 'a o le toe aso i Moamoa.
The club fight took place on the three malae in Falafa.
We have overcome some difficulties, but there are more ahead of us.
Ia su'i tonu le mata o le niu.
To go about an undertaking in the proper way.
E sau le fuata ma lona lou.
In every generation there are some outstanding chiefs.
Ua mu le lima, tapa le i'ofi.
Having foolishly got into trouble he is asking for help.
Once bitten, twice shy.
O le upega tautau, 'ae fagota.
If at first you don't suceed try, try and try again.
O le upega le talifa.
A net which cannot be mended.
A sickly old man.
Ua se aga e tasi.
The all use a one gauge mesh.
They are all of one mind.
Sei fono le pa'a mona vae.
Look before you leap.
E gase le pa'a i lona vae.
When a crab is caught it is pierced with its own leg.
Someone who comes to grief as a result of their own actions
O le i'a itiiti le igaga.
Used by someone whose opinion has not been sought.
'Avetu ni lo, aumai ni lo.
One good turn deserves another.
O le poto a lauloa.
Refers to a chief of the second rank who gives an order which no one obeys.
O le vaivai o le fe'e.
The seeming weakness of the octopus.
Used when refering to a small but influential village or family.
Talanoa atu, 'ae le talanoa manu. A careless person will be taken by surprise by his watchful enemy.
Ou te se tagata tau suati.
I am a man who must obey orders.
Malu i pu'ega.
To lend aid in the undertaking.
Ua o gatasi le futia ma le umele.
We must be of one mind in the undertaking.
While the fisherman swings the rod, the others must assist him by paddling hard.
E le aia puga i le masi
Coral blocks have nothing to do with the preparation of masi.
This is no concern of mine
E a le puga nisi, a le 'ana nisi.
Let each do his share of the work.
Ua 'afa le aso.
A day for plaiting afa.
A rainy day