Wise Sayings From Old Folks in Saint Kitts

Updated on April 2, 2018
MsDora profile image

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

English is the official language of Saint Kitts. The island has a literacy rate of over 98%, which means that most people know how to read and speak Standard English.

However, back in the day when the old folk wanted to push some wisdom into the eager minds of younger family members, they sometimes reverted to the Saint Kitts Creole language.

Saint Kitts Language Lesson in 2 Minutes

The present generation hardly quotes these sayings, but they understand them and take the messages seriously. A switch to the native dialect by someone who usually speaks Standard English (for example, a teacher or any other professional) still gets attention.

All the sayings in the table below make references to animals, which suggest that they go as far back as the 17th century plantation, heavily populated by West African slaves surrounded by animals--some as part of the workforce or raised for food and profit. There is also a follow-up article, More Wise Sayings from the Saint Kitts Creole Language.

The sayings are selected from Local Sayings compiled by Creighton Pencheon and published in 2006 by the Saint Kitts Department of Culture. Judge for yourself the amount of wisdom which can be gained from the sayings of the Kittitian Old Folk.

"Fowl wa sleep a roost no hard to ketch."  Photo by Fraxinus Croat
"Fowl wa sleep a roost no hard to ketch." Photo by Fraxinus Croat | Source

Wise Sayings

Creole Version
Standard English Interpretation
The Meaning
1. Fowl wa sleep a roose no hard to ketch.
Fowls which sleep in their roost are not hard to catch.
Predictable people (who come home at the end of the day) are not difficult to figure out.
2. It tek time to foine ant’s belly.
It takes time to find the ant’s belly.
Persevere until you accomplish your goal, no matter how difficult it seems.
3. When cat out rat tek ee place.
When the cat is out, the rat takes its place.
When a superior officer is absent, it is a good time to show your capability (good or bad).
4. Cockroach no got no call in a fowl house.
Roaches have no good reason to be in a fowl house.
It is dangerous to be in a place where you know your life is in danger.
5. Dog no got no call a blacksmith shop.
Dogs have no good reason to be in a blacksmith’s shop.
It is foolish to show up for a performance, for which you know you are incapable.
6. A dog never know how big ee be until it swallow bone.
A dog never knows how big it is until it swallows a bone.
The worth of a person is measured by how well he or she handles a difficult situation.
7. Sensay fowl say pray fu long life not fu fedder.
Sensay fowls (they have few feathers) say pray for long life, not for feathers.
Focus on living and achieving, not on wishing for things you don't have and can live without.
8. Wa a joke to de butcher a det to the de animal.
What is joke to the butcher is death to the animal.
What is just matter-of-fact to one person can have severe consequences for someone else.
9. Wa sweet a goat mout sour a ee bottom.
What is sweet in the goat’s mouth, is sour at its bottom.
Some things which seem enjoyable at first can have unfortunate results.
10. All monkeys have de same face.
All monkeys have the same face (look alike).
The consensus is that you are exactly like the people with whom you associate.
11. Sheep nar bring goat.
Sheep do not give birth to goats.
Parents do not produce children who are entirely different from themselves.
12. Sorry fu ole hog it root dung you house.
Sorry for an old hog, it will root down your house.
People who should be grateful to you are usually the ones who make problems for you.
13. Monkey say wa dey a you jawbone no you wun.
Monkey says that what is your jawbone is not (your own) yours.
Even though something is in your possession, if you don’t own it outright, you can still lose it.
14. Every day is fishing day but no every day a catching day.
Every day is fishing day, but every day is not a catching day.
Put forth effort every day, but don’t expect tangible rewards every day.
15. Two bull cyarn live in de same pen.
Two bulls cannot live in the same pen.
Only one person can have the lead position; the other must accept a subordinate role.
16. You mingle wid de dog, you get bitten by de fleas.
You mingle with the dog, you get bitten by the fleas.
You keep bad company, you share their dishonor.
17. Me nar clean grung fuh monkey run pon.
I’m not cleaning the ground for monkeys to run on.
I am not laying the foundation for the benefit of some undeserving person.
18. Me too big a cat fuh lay kitten fool me.
I’m too big a cat to let a kitten fool me.
I am mature enough to deal wisely with the younger folk.
19. Wa roll of de hass back fall under ee belly.
What rolls off the horse’s back, falls under its belly.
Whatever you do now can affect your children later.
20. You never see de fowl bottom till wind blow.
You never see the fowl’s bottom until the wind blows.
You discover personal details about people when adversity strikes.

Everyone, from the schoolchild to the professor can find wisdom in these sayings. It would also be fun to practice speaking one or two in an appropriate situation.

It may seem difficult, but "A dog never know how big ee be until it swallow bone," so give it a try.


By Dora Isaac Weithers (April 2013).

Questions & Answers

  • What about the expression, ‘Oh me monkey‘. What is the meaning? I recently saw it on a hat while from St. Kitts.

    It sounds like an expression of surprise. "Oh, my goodness!" might have been just as good. "Monkey" is a common expression in Kittitian language, so "Oh me monkey" is acceptable but "monkey" probably has no specific meaning in that phrase.

  • How do you say "Happy Birthday" in Saint Kitts?

    "Happy Birthday" is what I hear most.

    We may hear "Happy Butday" or "Happy Bertday" from those who discard the "th" in "birth."

Comments

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    • MsDora profile imageAUTHOR

      Dora Weithers 

      8 months ago from The Caribbean

      Thanks, Grace, for your question pointing out the error. You're right and I will correct it immediately. Happy to know that the article helped you.

    • profile image

      Grace Alban 

      8 months ago

      You wrote, "A never dog never knows how big it is until it swallows a bone."

      Did you mean "A dog never knows how big it is until it swallows a bone"?

      I know, I immediately found the mistake, but this website really helped me. Thanks, MsDora!

    • MsDora profile imageAUTHOR

      Dora Weithers 

      2 years ago from The Caribbean

      Thanks, Shyron. So glad that you like the sayngs. Actually, there's another article, "More Wise Sayings" on Hubpages.

    • Shyron E Shenko profile image

      Shyron E Shenko 

      2 years ago from Texas

      Thank you MsDora, I love your words of wisdom, I hope they never get lost, yes I would love to read more of these.

      Blessings my friend

    • MsDora profile imageAUTHOR

      Dora Weithers 

      2 years ago from The Caribbean

      Mona, happy to introduce you to and entertain you with some creole sayings. I had the privilege just last weekend to meet Creighton Pencheon whose book inspired this article.

    • grand old lady profile image

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 

      2 years ago from Philippines

      I love this article. I had always wanted to know what creole was like. I'm not even sure if Brad Pitt was speaking creole to the patient in the movie, Meet Joe Black. Thank you also for the table with 20 quotes. I loved it, laughed at some, dwelt a bit longer on others.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 

      2 years ago from Queensland Australia

      I am sure I would enjoy it all MsDora, even if I didn't look the part.

    • MsDora profile imageAUTHOR

      Dora Weithers 

      2 years ago from The Caribbean

      Good for you, Jodah! Now all that's left is for you to visit the islands one day. You'd enjoy the live conversation -- and everything else.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 

      2 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Haha MsDora, I have been giving it a go. Some I think I have done ok with. I watch "Death in Paradise" on TV all he time :) and am a Bob Marley and reggae fan so I love listening to that kind of Creole speak.

    • MsDora profile imageAUTHOR

      Dora Weithers 

      2 years ago from The Caribbean

      Thanks, Jodah. Glad you like reading the list. Now what about trying to say some of them? (Laugh)

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 

      2 years ago from Queensland Australia

      A great list of very wise sayings MsDora, and thank you for sharing the Creole version. I loved it! Enjoyable and interesting hub.

    • MsDora profile imageAUTHOR

      Dora Weithers 

      2 years ago from The Caribbean

      Sommer, thank you for reading. Part of my Caribbean heritage.

    • SommerHope profile image

      SommerHope 

      2 years ago from Texas

      I loved reading this! Thank you for sharing!

    • MsDora profile imageAUTHOR

      Dora Weithers 

      2 years ago from The Caribbean

      Jgshorebird, I appreciate your comment.

    • profile image

      jgshorebird 

      2 years ago

      Enjoyable hub. Thanks.

    • Journey * profile image

      Nyesha Pagnou MPH 

      5 years ago from USA

      They definitely do.

    • MsDora profile imageAUTHOR

      Dora Weithers 

      5 years ago from The Caribbean

      Journey* sorry I missed your comment. Glad you enjoyed these Kittitian sayings. They certainly make sense anywhere.

    • Journey * profile image

      Nyesha Pagnou MPH 

      5 years ago from USA

      MsDora,

      I enjoyed reading these wise sayings and their meanings. One of my favorite is #2. So inspirational. Thanks for sharing.

      Best,

      Journey *

    • MsDora profile imageAUTHOR

      Dora Weithers 

      5 years ago from The Caribbean

      Thanks, Gary. Never heard it, but I like it. Will pass it on.

    • profile image

      Gary 

      5 years ago

      You missing one ,

      When monkey dey ah low LAN , hardship ah mountain.

    • MsDora profile imageAUTHOR

      Dora Weithers 

      5 years ago from The Caribbean

      Kittitian, thanks for your encouragement, and for sharing the memories and laughs with me.

    • profile image

      Kittitian 

      5 years ago

      These bring back some good memories and gave me a few laughs as well. Keep up the good work, MsDora.

    • MsDora profile imageAUTHOR

      Dora Weithers 

      5 years ago from The Caribbean

      Insightful, you're welcome. Please remember to back up your data. That's a reminder for me too. Cheers!

    • Insightful Tiger profile image

      Insightful Tiger 

      5 years ago

      I was collecting "wise words" for years and then I lost the data on my computer. If I can recover it I will make a hub about it. Thanks for the encouragement, sis:)

    • MsDora profile imageAUTHOR

      Dora Weithers 

      5 years ago from The Caribbean

      Thanks Insightful. So glad you could use them. Perhaps you could also share from your "wise words" board.

    • Insightful Tiger profile image

      Insightful Tiger 

      5 years ago

      I love all these sayings sister Ms Dora :) Each and everyone is valuable. I will definitely pin this to my "wise words" board. Thank you for sharing!

    • MsDora profile imageAUTHOR

      Dora Weithers 

      5 years ago from The Caribbean

      Hendrik, glad you found it interesting. There are many interesting things about the island and its people. Thanks for reading and commenting.

    • HendrikDB profile image

      HendrikDB 

      5 years ago

      Very interesting! Thanks for sharing this.

    • MsDora profile imageAUTHOR

      Dora Weithers 

      5 years ago from The Caribbean

      Thank you, Greensleeves. Glad you found my article interesting and helpful. Thanks for letting me know and thanks for your vote. I appreciate you, too.

    • Greensleeves Hubs profile image

      Greensleeves Hubs 

      5 years ago from Essex, UK

      Really nice, unique page of information - both for the insight it gives into Creole speech and for the sayings of wisdom. Always interesting to learn about local cultures and philosophies - the more one reads these however and the ideas they contain, the more one feels that we are all basically the same wherever in the world we come from. Voted up.

    • MsDora profile imageAUTHOR

      Dora Weithers 

      5 years ago from The Caribbean

      Donna, thanks for your comment. Glad to help with the meaning; I didn't always know them either.

    • profile image

      DonnaWarner 

      5 years ago

      I remember a few of these, Dora, but don't know I would have been able to give the meaning if you hadn't "translated" for me. Thanks for sharing them.

    • MsDora profile imageAUTHOR

      Dora Weithers 

      5 years ago from The Caribbean

      Manatita, glad to see you here. Yea, I think they're wise and funny. I have a feeling that they're not all new to you.

    • MsDora profile imageAUTHOR

      Dora Weithers 

      5 years ago from The Caribbean

      Frank, I also like the ones you chose. So glad you found them entertaining.

    • MsDora profile imageAUTHOR

      Dora Weithers 

      5 years ago from The Caribbean

      Billybuc, you're welcome! Hope someday you can experience some of this culture firsthand.

    • MsDora profile imageAUTHOR

      Dora Weithers 

      5 years ago from The Caribbean

      Hi Suzette, thanks for your kind comments on the hub and on the beauty of our island. Please come again, soon!

    • suzettenaples profile image

      Suzette Walker 

      5 years ago from Taos, NM

      I love the sayings! They truly are full of wisdom. I have been to St. Kitts and it is a beautiful island. The people were so friendly. I love your chart giving the Creole version and then the translation and meaning. Voted up and shared!

    • MsDora profile imageAUTHOR

      Dora Weithers 

      5 years ago from The Caribbean

      Eric, I like that--"aged wisdom." Sounds really precious. Thanks for commenting.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      5 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Very well done. Wisdom is precious. Aged wisdom is invaluable. Thank you.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      There is great wisdom and humor in these. Thank you for sharing a part of that culture with us.

      bill

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 

      5 years ago from Shelton

      this was amazing I love number four.. number 15 too.. but four just way cool... :) MsDora thank you for this entertaining hub..

    • manatita44 profile image

      manatita44 

      5 years ago from london

      Funny. Good on Ya.

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