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LPT SymbolThe Rest of the Idiom Story

Turkish Idiom origins...
for the letter 'B'...

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Idiom Stories -- House Favorites
Idiom Stories -- Letter 'A'

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The Rest of the Story about...

Baki kalan kubbede hos bir seda imis (Lit. It is said that... the thing that survives is a pleasant sound in the dome) -- Idiomatic Meaning: It's better to be remembered by the good words you've spoken, than the bad….

The story... This is the last line of a poem by the famous Divan Poet, Baki. In the line, he kills two birds with one stone using the compound verb 'baki kalmak' -- 'to survive'… First, it provides literal meaning -- 'baki kalan' (the verbal noun) means 'the thing that survives'. And secondly, of course, it plays on the poet's own name -- providing a clever way for him to 'sign' the poem.

There is a hadith (that resembles Baki's line) attributed to the prophet Muhammad, "Beware -- don't speak with a wicked voice, because the voice is not lost in the dome of the sky." Sort of an admonition to remind us that, "the evil that men do, lives after them…"

Baki gave importance to poetic flow, harmony and musicality. In general, he avoided 'Incongruous Language' -- such as words that were hard to say, and 'sticky' syllables. It's said that he could "record the splashing sounds of an eight-oared palace caique canoe in the Bosphorus waters, while jumping from one syllable to the other." So, when writing the lines, "Baki kalan kubbede hos bir seda imis," he may not have been thinking strictly in terms of Muhammad's hadith -- he may have been referring also to the importance of flow and harmony in a poem's structure.

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The Rest of the Story about...

Bir sIcrasIn çekerge, iki sIcrasIn çekerge, üçücüde ele geçersin çekirge
(Lit. Let the grasshopper jump once, let the grasshopper jump twice, on the third time he'll be caught…) -- Idiomatic meaning: You can't always trust to luck...

The story... During the reign of the Sultan Murad I, there lived in Bursa an old man and his wife. The old couple lived a simple, clean, rather poor existence.

One day, the old man's wife went to the hamam (Turkish bath). After she finished bathing, she couldn't find her clothing bundle where she'd left it in the changing room. In the place where it had been, she saw a fancily embroidered velvet clothing valise -- on a fine rug, next to some mother of pearl clogs.

The woman asked the hamamci (the hamam caretaker) about her belongings, and he replied, "We've moved your old rags to the cooling room. Go over there and dress yourself quickly and go on your way. The Chief Astrologer's wife has just arrived, these are her things -- and she mustn't see you here."

This insult greatly upset the bedraggled old woman -- and she wept and sobbed all the way home. So, by the time she opened the front door, she was in a terrible state. She confronted her poor husband angrily, "Either you become Sultan Murad's Chief Astrologer or let's get divorced!"

The old man, who could see no other choice, set up shop the next morning on the street as an amateur astrologer -- in order to gain experience at the trade. Days passed without a customer and one evening on his way home, he prayed pitifully, "Oh God, you know my dreadful situation. Please don't break up my comfortable nest of these many years. Let me take refuge under your shelter. And, please don't shame me," he begged…

The very next day God smiled down, and he got his first customer. A rich woman approached him and said emotionally, "Oh Astrologer, you've got to help me. I've lost my favorite diamond ring given to me by my sweet lover. No other astrologer has been able to help. Can you?" she sobbed. Saying the Islamic formula, the old man started scribbling on the paper in front of him and suddenly had an inspiration. "Ah dear lady," he said, "I think your ring may have been swallowed by an animal in your garden."

The woman ran immediately to her home. For she now remembered that when she had washed her hands after kneading some dough, she had left the ring on the corner of the water pump in the garden -- right next to were her pet turkey roamed freely… And, just as the 'astrologer' had predicted…when she had the turkey's stomach opened, they found her precious ring!

From that day forward the old man (who credited his good fortune to God's intervention) had plenty of clients. His fame spread far and wide -- and his wealth increased accordingly.

The 'new' astrologers name even reached the palace of Sultan Murad, the Padisah. And one day, the old man was called there -- because the Padisah also had lost a large diamond ring. The sultan ponderously ordered the would-be astrologer to find the ring, without delay, or face the consequences.

Grasping at straws and stalling for time, the old man said: 'Mighty majesty, I'll gladly carry out your order. But, this is the lost ring of a Padisah, so it will take me a while to bring all my powers to bear on the mystery. For this job, I need time to meditate in peace, at home. Please, permit me 40 days and nights -- I mustn't be hasty."

The Padisah agreed and starting the next day, he had meals sent to the astrologer's home every morning, noon, and night -- in the care of the same trusted servant. And every time the servant brought a food tray he'd say, "Here is your meal. Our dear sultan is praying for you. Good appetite."

As the days passed, the old man became increasingly panicked -- because he had no idea where the ring could be. And he would turn to his wife in the presence of the servant and cry, "Oh Woman, pray that God will help me…I only have 30 days…20 days…10 days...left." And these lamentations seemed to increasingly disturb the servant.

Finally with only one day remaining, when the servant brought the old man his breakfast, he found him moaning in a state of collapsed despair. "My goodness, old man," said the servant, "stop this moaning. My conscience is killing me. Here, take the ring. It was I who stole it," he confessed in a rush.

The old man was so relived that he nearly swooned. And he grabbed the ring from the servant's hand and quickly returned it to the Sultan. But in a tenderhearted gesture that spared the poor servant's neck, he said that the genies had brought it to him. The Sultan was astonished at the astrologer's last-minute success. And, at a magnificent state ceremony the next day, he made the old man his new Chief Astrologer -- after dispatching the former Chief Astrologer 'to Him above'.

In addition to this fine new job at the palace, the Sultan also offered to grant the old man his fondest wish. The old man remembered that is was the insult to his wife in the hamam that had brought him to this position in the first place. So he asked for and received the entire hamam, along with the now bootlicking and brown-nosing hamamci. His wife was overjoyed and proceeded at once to make the hamamci's life a misery.

But the old man, instead of being happy at his latest good fortune, began to panic again. He had twice been saved by God's fortuitous intervention, he realized, and his luck could run out at any time -- with deadly consequences.

Eventually, he couldn't sleep from worrying that he might fail at the Sultan's next bidding. So, he decided to ask to be relieved of his duties -- and with this intention he went to the palace. The Padishah admitted the astrologer into his presence in the palace garden. And there, without allowing the first word to be spoken, he extended his closed hand to the astrologer.

"Do you know, Chief Astrologer, what I have in my palm?" he asked sternly. The old man felt doomed. He had no hope at all that he could know the answer to this third, most crucial mystery. Fearfully, he summed up his predicament and murmured to himself: "The grasshopper may jump once, it may even jump twice, but on the third time the grasshopper will be caught".

With that the Sultan let out a whoop, and no one was more surprised than the old astrologer himself when the Sultan opened his outstretched hand -- and displayed the grasshopper sitting there in his palm. "Unbelievable, Chief Astrologer, you are really amazing!" exclaimed the Sultan, with a huge smile on his face.

The old man passed out from the shock and the sultan placed him under the care of the harem girls. It took him another 40 days and 40 nights to recover…And when he exited the confinement, his wife was astonished at his vigorous and youthful appearance.

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The Rest of the Story about...

BalIk agaca/kavaga çIkInca (Lit. when fish climb [poplar] trees...) -- Idiomatic meaning: It's impossible for the thing in question to happen...

The story... There was a time when the sea around Istanbul was so full of fish, that the fish bazaar overflowed with product -- and bargaining was even more prevalent than at the present time. One day a grizzled old lady went overboard and offered just a quarter of the fish monger's asking price. The infuriated fishmonger scornfully replied, "Dear Lady, we can't sell fish at that price, and we won't be able to sell at that price -- until fish can climb poplar trees!
Note: Poplar trees are still found 'abundently' in the nearby area.

Idiom Stories -- House Favorites
Idiom Stories -- Letter 'A'

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We wish to extend special thanks to
Osman Çizmeciler
for the Turkish source material -- on which this page is based.

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