Do you know your Jamaican proverbs?
- Your best friend arrives at your house in tears. She tells you that her husband just caught her with another man and has thrown her out of the house. He has locked her out and she can not get in to collect any of her belongings, and he will not speak to her. What do you do?
a. Say “Hush mi dear. Come in and have some tea.”
b. Pick up the machete that is lying in the corner and say “Whey him deh?” with a wild look in your eyes.
c. Look up in the sky, and say unsympathetically “Yuh should neva mek him ketch you. Sorry fi yuh. Dog nyam yuh suppa!”
- 2. You are at the airport, and a young woman is gushing enthusiastically about the size of the airport, the beauty of the paintings on the wall, and the great food at Island Grill. What do you do?
a. Agree with her.
b. Pick up your machete and threaten to chop her if she doesn’t shut up.
c. Whisper to your companion “Neva si, come si.”
- 3. You hear in the news about a man who is suspected to have been in a dispute with someone over a piece of land. He has been off the island but his wife and children were attacked and their family home was set on fire. You…
a. Shake your head and say sadly “Poor man”.
b. Pick up your machete and threaten to chop the tv.
c. Say wisely “Cyaan catch Quako, cyatch him shut(shirt)”
- 4. You are visiting a friend in Canada in the winter, and have never experienced winter before. However, he offers to teach you how to ice skate. What do you do?
a. You decline, because you are afraid of falling.
b. You pick up your machete and chop up the ice skates.
c. You agree to give it a try, saying “If you go a tump-a-foot dance, you mus’ dance tump-a-foot.”
- 5. You go to the store to buy a pair of shoes. The one you like costs $150. You decide to buy another one for $50 because…
a. You don’t care what you wear.
b. You threatened the sales man with a machete and he ran you out of the first store.
c. Every mickle mek a muckle.
ANSWERS: If you answered mostly
(a) then you are a sweet, kind individual who can’t mash ants. If you answered mostly
(b) then I know of a nice, clean room at a lovely place called Bellevue waiting for you. If you answered mostly (c) then you are an expert in Jamaican proverbs, and probably come from ‘country’.
Dog nyam yuh suppa (The dog ate your supper) basically means that you are in big trouble.
Neva si, Come si (Never see, Come see) is used to indicate a person who is behaving in a naïve and overly enthusiastic manner.
Cyaan catch Quako, cyatch him shut (Can’t catch Quako, catch his shirt). Quako was a runaway slave. The proverb means that if you can’t get a hold of a person (usually not with any good intentions), then you take out your anger on those close to him.
If you go tump a foot dance, you must dance tump a foot. I’m not sure what tump a foot dance is, but this proverb is similar to the English proverb “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.”
Every mickle mek a muckle. Don’t ask me what mickle and muckle is, but this means that every little bit adds up. Another similar Jamaican proverb is “One-one cocoa full basket”.
Bellevue is a mental institution in Kingston, Jamaica, a suitable residence for a machete wielding individual.