Wednesday, January 25, 2012


Creole and proverbs

According to Wolfgang Meider a proverb is a short, generally known sentence of the folk which contains wisdom, truth, morals, and traditional views in a metaphorical, fixed and memorizable(sic) form and which is handed down from generation to generation. Proverbs date back to Biblical times with the book of Solomon being a prime example.

As can be expected they are often a mixture of diverse languages and cultures. Creole proverbs are colourful and rich with their own distinctive features mixed with British, European or African origin. They are a rich part of our oral cultural heritage handed down by our elders who seemed to have a saying for every occasion. West Indian proverbs differ from those of other societies in that they seem to have a strong negative element i.e in form, meaning or context. In contrast to English proverbs many of ours seem to have a strong emphasis on bodily harm. Some examples that come to mind are:

What sweet in gout mouth sour in he bambam( Too much of a good thing can be bad)

Chicken merry,hawk deh near (In the midst of merriment danger is lurking)

Fowl that doh hear shoo will hear bap (Who don;t hear will feel)

Crab walk too much,im lose im claw(Overdoing things will cause breakage)

Across the region there are several different proverbs which convey similar meanings but are linguistically different. Hence the Guyanese saying “one one dutty mek dam" and the Vincentian "one one does fill basket" are both saying slowly but surely you will get the job done. Other examples are the Grenadian "Yuh evah see monkey on top gru gru tree" which is the variation of "Monkey know which tree to climb" used in other Caribbean islands.I can still hear my grandmother saying "little donkey got big ears" when our presence prevented her from sharing a juicy story with her friends or other family members. Another favorite was "sea don't have back door"(be careful) which was drummed into our ears every time we went to the beach. Many of them I never understood then but for some reason they stuck with me.I am glad they did because I consider them to be expressive and beautiful in a way that is so Caribbean

here in Grenada i know it as "one one cocoa does full basket"
Yeah,the expressions vary across the region but the general meaning remains the same.
Yes, they do. And there are quite a lot from our Jamaican grandparnets as well, for example "the higher monkey clim the more he expose"
I like Monkey Say Cool Breeze.. that saying is the same no matter where you go.. :-)
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