We were exchanging proverbs while talking current events.
“A dog who pontificates loudly and speaks... er… without halt…. He cannot… yes, he cannot, before stop, make blood from your ankle.”
My Romanian student smiled sheepishly, as if asking her perfectionist, Gastrology-studied Self for permission to be silly. After apparently having received said permission, she embarked on a theatrical, gesturing voyage that involved opening and closing her thumb and index finger as if they had been pasted together by slow-drying rubber cement.
“Yes. Some dogs, you know, speaks dissertations loudly,” she explained as her thumb and pointer finger kissed each other in rapid, uninterrupted succession.
Ok, I thought: some dogs talk a lot.
“And these dogs,” she continued, eyebrow-pointing at her spastic fore-finger, crabclaw-like performance, “do not can bite for blood.”
Her fingers deflated, bored.
Ok, I thought… Edward ScissorHands can’t cut hair artistically….verbose dogs don’t draw blood… loud dogs have no bite…
“His bark is worse than his bite!” I cried, proud and relieved. I’d finally gotten what she was trying so dramatically to tell me.
“No! No!” she almost yelled, breaking enthusiastically from her characteristic, Med Grad stoicism, “like this, but different. He is like a empty cup who makes many bubbles, but has no boiling water…”
Alright, I thought… A Mormon beer carries no kick… one passionate individual does not sway the social tide… a peacock's plume out-weighs its meat…?
“No,” she clarified, “ He is like a loud dog with too much talk, but decreased thought. It’s means this dog is not of cleverness, but he boils his water anyway.”
And, finally, I understood the English proverb she was trying to find:
“Empty vessels make the most noise.”
And, yes, yes, my Romanian med student agreed and went on to explain how stupid (as she put it: “non-clever”) people often tend to talk too much.
And, though I wanted to point out how interesting the cross-cultural parallels between our respective proverbs were…
I shut up.
I couldn’t say another word.
After all, who wants to be a barking, empty vessel? Or a boiling dog bitch with no vampiric bite?
**Edit/Update: And, now you can see, perhaps, why teaching English as a second language can drive one slowly insane...