A large part of our history and culture has always been our proverbs of didactic, comedic or portentous significance. These are things we would hear every day in Jamaica. However there are certain sayings that seem to be disappearing from our daily life. Though the use of proverbs tends to be sparse among the youth of our country, any young person with grandparents or old-fashioned parents can identify sayings like “one-one co-co full basket” or “wah sweet nanny-goat a guh run ‘im belly”. Although, even this feature of our culture appears to be waning. Members of the upcoming generation of young people likely cannot even identify the two aforementioned sayings as the use of proverbs in Jamaica occurs less and less. The following 7 Jamaican sayings have either already disappeared from our lives our soon will:
7. “High seat kill Miss Thomas puss” – literally this says that a cat on a high seat has a far way to fall; such a fall will result in death. It was a metaphorical warning that one’s excessive pride often results in a terrible downfall. The more commons saying in Standard English states, “Pride cometh before a fall”.
6. “Finger stink, u cyaa chop it off” – this is essentially saying that despite the state of a body part, it is not correct to get rid of it. It was once meant to teach that even though one’s relative is bad or disliked, one cannot disown that relative.
5. “Nuh live pon people yeye top” – this was a warning that individuals should not depend on others to provide for their needs.
4. “Wah nuh dead, nuh call it duppy” – the saying was intended to deter the practice of predicting. It conveyed the message that one must not right off other people’s potential; the events of the future are unknown.
3. Chicken merry, hawk deh near – this proverb was often mistaken to actually say “chicken Mary, hawk deh near”. However, the correct word is “merry”, which supports the proverb’s literal warning that when a chicken appears happy, a hawk, the predator of the chicken, is usually close by. It was meant to teach that when happiness is too great, disaster is usually impending.
2. “Spit inna di sky, it fall pon yuh face” – a metaphor appealing to one’s sense of gravity is used here. It literally states that when one spits in the sky, that same spit will fall back into one’s own face. It conveyed the same meaning of “what goes up must come down”, essentially stating that what is given will be returned. It warned persons to “do unto others as you would have done unto you”.
1. “Wah gwaan bad a mawning cyaa gwaan good a evening” – this leaves us with another warning basically stating that when a situation starts badly it will automatically end badly. It was used to teach Jamaicans to be careful of our initial intentions.
These sayings might still be heard now and again, particularly from our grandparents in the more rural areas of Jamaica. However, the daily use of these proverbs is extremely rare in modern Jamaica. The fact that most of us are encountering these for the first time in this article, attest to the unfortunate reality that traditional Jamaican proverbs have largely disappeared from our culture.