It is better to back out of the middle of the ford than to be drowned in the flood.

Note: This week’s proverb, like many others, may have come from Scotland. The Scots Gaelic version is strikingly similar to the Irish one above. “Is fheàrr tilleadh am meadhan an àtha nà bàthadh uile.” (Better turn mid-ford than be drowned.) “Better wade back mid-water than gang forrat and droun.” — Scots. Better safe than sorry. In any case, this is a proverb that the Gaels share with the Dutch. “Beter ten halve gekeerd dan ten heele gedwaald.”

Note also: Scots Gaelic is nearer to the Ulster Irish dialect than any other. For example, the Ulster version of this proverb is as follows. “Is fearr pilleadh as lár an atha ná bathadh ‘sa tuile.” One of Grimm’s Law states that as languages evolve there is a tendency for the voiceless bilabial stop, p, to change to the voiceless labiodental fricative, f. This implies that the Irish word ‘pilleadh’ is an older form than the standard (caidhgeán) Irish word ‘filleadh.’

The Ulster word is pronounced p’ilu: while the Scots equivalent is pronounced t’ilu:. Both begin with a slender voiceless stop and end with the exact same sound, ilu:. On the other hand ‘filleadh’ begins with a fricative and ends with a schwa, both different from the Ulster and Scots pronunciations. In phonetic spelling given under the seanfhocal above, the schwa looks like an upside down ‘e.’ All three words have the stress placed on the first syllable, typical of Scots Gaelic, caidhgeán Irish, and Ulster Irish. The caidhgeán word, ‘filleadh,’is mostly used in Munster and Connnacht dialects.