Whether the road is crooked or straight,the main road is the short cut.

(Alternatively: The longest way round is the shortest way home.)

Note: For the Gael, the short cut is always supreme, but for the Gall (foreigner) it is to be avoided. Another Irish version of this week’s proverb has the same meaning, “Cam díreach an ród is é an bealach mór.” Through the centuries, the Gaels’ peripatetic journeys tended to be on feet unencumbered by shoes. Even in the twentieth century, a Donegal man living all his life in Clonmany, in the northeast corner of the Inishowen peninsula, recalled,

My father hardly wore shoes or boots about the house in the summer-time. And it wasn’t him alone but everybody else of his time. I knew a man in my time to get married in the second pair of shoes ever went on his feet. I wore no shoes myself when I was young. The men and women used to carry the shoes on their shoulder when going to the chapel until they got as far as Skeeog, and then they would put them on. They would take them off again on their way home.

Charles McGlinchey, The Last of the Name, The Blackstaff Press, 1986, p. 17.

Given this penchant of the Gael for perambulation unfettered by pedal protection, any path that minimizes foot falls is to be preferred.

The Gall, on the other hand, shod in boots, sandals, or shoes, prefers the safest way to the shortest path. This preference can be inferred in the English proverb, “The longest way round is the shortest way home.” The Viscount of St. Albans, the English philosopher Francis Bacon, was more explicit. “It is in life, as it is in ways, the shortest way is commonly the foulest, and surely the faire way is not much about.” (The Advancement of Learning, 1605.) Another English proverb warns, “Better go about than fall into a ditch.” These sentiments were expressed in an ancient Latin proverb, “Short cuts are long ways around.”