Salt: a word which carries many, and mainly positive, connotations. Materially, it is a cheap and common kitchen ingredient collected by coastal communities or mined from suitable mineral deposits inland. Additionally, it is a symbol of unity gathering loved ones across a table for food, of purity preserving other substances from decline, and of usefulness in maintaining health. Note a connection to the Latin word salarium - the root of the modern word salary: apparently, Roman soldiers were offered salt as part-payment for their service to the Empire.
Salt is a common denominator for Brest, Cadiz, Gdansk, Kiel, Split and Malta: the six universities participating in the SEA-EU (European University of the Seas) initiative. This is a joint effort establishing a distinctly multilingual and pluri-ethnic European university encouraging excellence in research and teaching, and focussed on a common tradition and yearning to gain more knowledge about the marine environment that surrounds and sustains us.
Salt manifests a richness in cultures, an element to be proud of, and a proverbial subject that the six SEA-EU partners can easily relate to. And, just like universities, salt can add flavour to life. Here, then, are six proverbs that can teach a lesson or two about how we can live better:
1. As the Maltese proverb goes, represented in SEA-EU by the University of Malta, Għal Naqra Melħ tħassarx il-Borma (Don’t spoil the pot for a little salt).
Meaning: With a little more effort, you can get things right.
2. As the Spanish proverb goes, represented in SEA-EU by the Universidad de Cádiz, Al hablar, como al guisar, su granito del sal (When you speak, when you cook, use some salt).
Meaning: Don’t be boring when you have to speak. Add flavour to diction.
3. As the Polish proverb goes, represented in SEA-EU by the University of Gdansk, Być solą w czyimś oku (Be the salt in somebody’s eye).
Meaning: Be a thorn in the side, a devil’s advocate, someone that causes annoyance and sees things ‘from outside the box’ – different perspectives are valuable.
4. As the French proverb goes, represented in SEA-EU by the University of Western Brittany, Brest, Mettre son petit grain de sel dans une conversation (Put your grain of salt in a conversation).
Meaning: Give your opinion.
5. As the German proverb goes, represented in SEA-EU by Kiel University, Salz und Brot macht Wangen rot (Salt and bread turn your cheeks rosy).
Meaning: Hearty food keeps you healthy. It is a nourishment for the body and the soul.
6. As the Croatian proverb goes, represented in SEA-EU by the University of Split, Ne valja more soliti (Don’t salt the sea).
Meaning: Don’t tell us something we already know. Avoid stating the obvious.
And with those lessons in mind, as any other group of people worth their salt (pun intended) would do, the SEA-EU participants are sailing on to the next phase of their collaboration – sharing good practices in the training of doctoral students with research topics that delve into marine and maritime issues.
Are you aware of any other salt proverbs? Share below!