A Proverb for a Spittin’ Image

Yesterday I was in our previous city and ended up giving some South Asians and some locals a ride from a church service to a following home group time. As I was getting to know the men in my car I found out that one of the local men was from a mountain town far to the north. I looked in the rear-view mirror at him. I knew that face. I remembered that I had recently attended a training with a believer from that very town.

“What’s your father’s name?” I asked him.

“It’s Keith*,” he said.

“I know him! We were together at a training just a few months ago.”

“Ha!” the son said, “They say I look just like him.”

“You do! You look so much like your dad*. Your culture has a proverb for that, right?”

“Yes,” the other local chimed in, ‘Like an apple split into two parts.'”

This local proverb, unlike some others, is fairly straightforward to understand. We even have a couple sayings like this is English as well. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree is one, but that proverb seems to be used more for behavior. The saying that I’ve heard for physical resemblance from parents to children is that the descendant is the spittin’ image of their mom or dad. Why spitting? Perhaps something to do with spit-cleaning an old reflective surface? I find this an interesting example of how oral tradition in a culture can continue to communicate the metaphorical meaning of something even when the literal meaning and origin has been forgotten. “I know what it means,” you might say, “though I don’t know what it literally means.”

Thankfully, unless some kind of freak fruit disease or collapse of global trade destroys locals’ access to apples, I’m pretty sure that future generations here will continue to understand this local proverb about split apples.

*Names changed for security

*Though I didn’t intend it this way, this is is a weighty local complement to the strength of the father’s genes.

Photo by Eiliv-Sonas Aceron on Unsplash

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