Hổ phụ lân nhi.

Tiger father, qilin child.

The meaning is praising father and child as extraordinary people. Tigers are symbols of strength and qilins (mythical chimera) are symbols of wisdom. This is similar to “Like father, like son,” “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree” (parents being the tree and children being the apple), and “A chip off the old block” (a woodchip from a block of wood).

Khéo vá vai, tài vá nách.

The skillful patches the shoulder, the talented patches the armpit.

The meaning is describing how challenging work (the shoulder and armpit of a shirt are difficult to patch) is handled by people who have ability. This is similar to “Rise to the occasion/challenge,” where people show that they can handle a difficult situation.

Ăn dối làm thật.

Fake eat, work for real.

The meaning is praising a person who is diligent and self-sacrificing (i.e., always ready to work and not concerned about eating). This is the reverse of “Ăn thật làm dối / Eat for real, fake work.” This is equivalent to “Keeping one’s nose to the grindstone.”

Ai cho sen, muống một bồn, Ai từng chanh, khế sánh cùng lựu, lê.

Who plants lotus in the same pot as water spinach,
Who compares lemon and star fruit with pomegranate and pear.

The meaning is know one’s place. Lotus is dignified, whereas water spinach is common. Lemon and star fruit are not as valuable as pomegranate and pear.

Ai ơi chớ vội cười nhau, Cười người hôm trước, hôm sau người cười.

O, do not be too quick to laugh at each other, laugh at others the other day, others laugh at you the next day.

The meaning is everyone has his faults, so do not be arrogant. This is equivalent to “Don’t throw bricks when you live in a glass house.”

Ai ơi chớ vội cười nhau, Ngắm mình cho tỏ trước sau hãy cười.

O, do not be too quick to laugh at each other, stare at oneself to show front and back then laugh.

The meaning is everyone has his faults, so do not be arrogant. Staring at the front and back means to look carefully. This is equivalent to “Don’t throw bricks when you live in a glass house.”

Ai ơi chớ vội cười nhau, Cây nào là chẳng có sâu chạm cành.

O, do not be too quick to laugh at each other, no tree is without worms on its branch.

The meaning is everyone has his faults, so do not be arrogant. This is equivalent to “Don’t throw bricks when you live in a glass house.”

Ai cũng muốn phấn dồi mặt, chớ ai muốn phấn dồi gót chân.

Everyone wants face powder, nobody wants foot powder.

The meaning can be 1) in life, everyone wants a beautiful face, nobody wants a ugly face, 2) defending oneself for something disgraceful as being out of one’s control. Powder hides flaws, so face powder makes face beautiful, whereas foot powder is useless.