Title: One Head, Two Heads
General information about item:
- Verbal folklore, proverb
- Language: Russian
- Country of origin: Russia
- Informant: Mikhail Gronas
- Date collected: 10/31/18
Professor Mikhail Gronas teaches in the Russian department at Dartmouth College. He is 48 years old and was born in Central Asia before moving to Moscow. He studied in the United States and has lived in Hanover for 12 years.
The proverbs, Professor Gronas said, are rather old-fashioned, but most Russians would know them. He learned the proverbs in childhood and said they are a common part of the language.
Одна́ голова́ — хорошо́, а две — луч́ше.
Literal translation: “One head is good, but two heads are better.”
Meaning: You can do more by collaborating than by working alone.
Transcript: “‘Одна́ голова́ — хорошо́, а две — луч́ше.'” Which literally means, ‘one head is good, but two are better.'”
“The idea is here that collaboratively, you can do more things, do them more effectively than on your own.”
Other proverbs I looked at tended to value friendship over other things, or to say that old friendships are better than new. This was the only one to explicitly say it is better to have more friends than fewer. It did fit in with a more group-centric mindset I saw in many of the proverbs I collected, where it is seen as valuable to be part of a larger group rather than alone.
This proverb is structured with a kind of parallelism, where the structure of the second half of the sentence mirror the first half: “x is … ,” “y is … .” Other proverbs I collected also exhibited this kind of structure. Unlike others, this proverb emphasizes the second item as the good thing, rather than the first item (“better” rather than “worse”).
Collector’s name: Zachary Benjamin