This question about a translated Russian proverb sparked my meta: Words are not Sparrows, once they have flown they cannot be recaptured

I commented under it with my own translation of an Indian proverb: A weapon that has left your hand, and a word that has left your mouth - you cannot get them back.

I couldn't find any similar English proverbs yet, which is why I went to using an Indian one.

Would it be an acceptable answer as well? Or should it be restricted to the comments section?

  • 1
    Literal translations of foreign proverbs are interesting but would lack the usage element which is what OP is asking for. BTW OP already gives the literal translation of the proverb they use in Russia.
    – user66974
    Oct 6, 2017 at 10:36
  • @Josh Your thoughts on this one? english.stackexchange.com/a/412932/50044
    – NVZ Mod
    Oct 6, 2017 at 10:37
  • That is a quote at best, but it doesn't really help with what OP is looking for.
    – user66974
    Oct 6, 2017 at 10:39

2 Answers 2


Bear in mind that you are answering on the website "English Language and Usage". An Indian proverb is not part of the English language; a literal translation is not part of English usage (unless of course the proverb has been absorbed into English or there is an English version; but that's a completely different situation).

This isn't an obvious point and I wouldn't flag such an answer. I might, though, downvote it as unhelpful.

  • Makes sense. Thank you. So if it were commonly used in English, it would have been fine, I see... :)
    – NVZ Mod
    Oct 6, 2017 at 10:45
  • "unless of course the proverb has been absorbed into English or there is an English version" __ that is the crucial distinction here. Oct 6, 2017 at 13:18

My advice would be always check if the saying exists in English as well.

It seems that "Words are like arrows, once loosed you cannot call them back" is a well-quoted saying in English and is wrongly attributed to all sorts of individuals.

So, you almost missed out on a giving great answer. Go do it!

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .