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More Wise Sayings From the Creole Language of Saint Kitts

MsDora grew up, received early education and taught school in the Caribbean. Read her love and pride of the region—people and place.

In a previous compilation of Wise Sayings, we observed that Standard English is the official language of Saint Kitts, and that the people sometimes speak their native Creole English for dramatic effect.

"All skin teet nah laugh." See the meaning in the table below.

"All skin teet nah laugh." See the meaning in the table below.

In a workshop on Language Transmission, Language Death and the Caribbean Child (2008), Dr. Rose Davies of the University of the West Indies stated, " When language dies, culture dies." She counseled that it is important to pass on native languages to every future generation. The least we can do is to help the children read the language.

In addition to the previous twenty sayings, all of which had direct reference to animals, here are twenty more general, common sense sayings which offer wise counsel and laughter therapy simultaneously. In the process, we help keep our language and culture alive.

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Our non-Kittitian readers can also try saying at least the one they like most. The visitor who can repeat one these sayings in an appropriate setting will become the star of the show.

More Wise Sayings

Creole VersionStandard English InterpretationThe Meaning

(1) All skin teet nah laugh.

Every grin is not laughter.

Smiles may deceive you; they do not always mean what you think they mean.

(2) Before good food waise ley belly bus.

Before good food waste, let belly burst.

Rather than let an opportunity pass, take whatever risk is involved.

(3) Dance a yard before you dance abroad.

Dance in the yard before you dance abroad.

You need to be good at whatever service or performance you want to offer to the public.

(4) De apple doan fall far from de tree.

The apple does not fall far from the tree.

Children most likely inherit their parents’ traits (good or bad).

(5) De dance cyarn pay for de light.

The dance cannot pay for the light.

The fun is not worth all the time, effort (or money) it takes.

(6) Every day bucket a go a well one day ee bottom mus drop out.

Every day the bucket goes to the well; one day the bottom must drop out.

The everyday privileges which we take for granted will not last forever.

(7) If you no walk wey fire dey ee nar go bun you.

If you do not walk where the fire is, it will not burn you.

If you avoid trouble, trouble will not find you. (Well, times have changed!)

(8) If you spit up in de sky ee boun to fall back in you face.

If you spit up in the sky, it must fall back in your face.

Whatever you cause (good or bad), must have an effect on you.

(9) Jumbie know who to frighten a dark night.

Jumbies know who they can frighten in the dark.

People know who they can provoke without suffering the consequences.

(10) Moon run till day ketch um.

The moon runs until day catches it.

Take all the chances you can get before the cycle comes to an end.

(11) One han cyarn clap.

One hand cannot clap.

We are like parts of one body; we need to cooperate with each other.

(12) Pickny who wouldn hear wha marmy say drink, pepper, lime an salt.

Children who do not hear what the mother says will drink pepper, lime and salt.

Children who do not heed their parents’ advice will suffer harsh consequences.

(13) See me an come live wid me a two different ting.

Seeing me and living with me are two different things.

Meeting people casually does not prepare you for what they will be like in close interaction.

(14) Today fu me tomorrow fu you.

Today is mine, tomorrow is yours.

We take turns being hit by the difficulties (or the pleasures) of life.

(15) Tom drunk, Tom no foolish.

Tom is drunk, Tom is not foolish.

Misbehaving while in a stupor does not free a man from responsibility for his actions.

(16) When you did a ditch fu me dig two.

When you dig one ditch for me, dig two (the other one for you).

Expect that whatever evil you plan for someone is likely to happen to you.

(17) Wha bun you a wa sweet me.

What burns you is what sweetens me.

The same thing that irritates one person, makes another person happy.

(18) Wha gone bad a marnin cyarn come good a evenin.

What goes bad in the morning cannot become good in the evening.

Something started with bad intentions cannot have good intentions when completed.

(19) Wey you ketch you cole cough it up dey.

Where you catch the cold, cough it up there.

Wherever you got into trouble, go back there to get help with your problems.

(20) Who no wuk a day wuk a night.

Who does not work in the day will have to work in the night.

Who does not perform their duties at the right time, will have to perform it at an inconvenient time.

Credit for keeping a record of these creole sayings goes to Creighton Pencheon, former Minister of Culture.

"His extensive research into the history and culture of St. Kitts-Nevis has made him one of the foremost authorities on local cultural traditions," according to his professional profile.

Creighton has recorded scores of these wise sayings in Local Sayings (2006).

© 2013 Dora Weithers

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