Jamaican Sayings and Their Meaning

kaylarStarred Page By kaylar, 1st Nov 2012 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Guides>Culture>General

Sharing a few words of wisdom in dialect, with their translations and explanations

The Way We Spoke

There was a time when Jamaicans practiced a diverting manner of speech. Avoiding obscenties, (of which we have a trailer load) and confrontation, a sentence was enough to convey a complete verdict.

Today, the ease of offensive and aggressive language, the belligerent manner of speech churned into the confusion of Patois has obscured many of these local pearls of wisdom.

When Faight di tawk lite yu pipe

This remark was oft said in deep rural communities.
It can be translated; "When a Fool Talks light your Pipe."
And means, ignore him.

It is usually said sotto voce while lighting a pipe (or a cigarette) and looking distracted. Most often, the person speaking does not hear what is said, but those
who do take appropriate action.

Old Firestick easy to Catch

This statement refers to the fact that it is easier to light dry wood than green.
The last time I heard it said was in a shop when the Widow was simpering
because the Manager was flirting with her.

It was said to indicate that the Widow was ripe for involvement with the Manager.

Never See Cum See

When someone who never had a car or lived in a modern home, or has been any where behaves as if they've always been accustomed to the finer things, this is the usual remark that is passed.

Most often someone comes into money, (legally or more likely illegally) and has to buy the most expensive whatever, knowing nothing about it, but seeking to impress others.

The others, who know the antecedents will make this statement in such manner it sounds like; nevaseecumsee, (one word).

Chicken Merry, Hawk Deh Near

This is a warning, usually said when people are having too much fun.
It refers to chickens happily pecking away, oblivious to the Hawk which
is about to swoop.

You'll usually hear it as the police car comes around the corner proceeding to where someone is blasting what they think is music.

When Fish cum from riber bottom say Alligator mout long, believe him

This statement used to be said to alert the listener to pay attention to whose who know what they are talking about contra those who are just talking.

It is not often used today as most people tend to believe whomever talks the loudest, but in olden days people seemed to be able to discriminate between the 'fish'* who actually saw the alligator and the rat who has never been near the river.

*The term 'Fish' is not used today as it has taken up a particular meaning in current slang.

When Trouble Ketch you Pickni Shirt Fit yu

When you are in trouble you take what you get.
The term 'pickni' means child.

The mental image is that when you need a shirt you grab whatever you can
although it is not your size.

Just some

There are a lot of sayings, many are virtually lost as they no longer apply to modern life, or are understandable by those under 30.

This is due to the peculiar attempt to call patois a language; (patwa fi wi langwij)
when it is a pidgen version of English.

The way it is spoken, from the back of the throat with a kind of sneer helps garble the words, hence the sing song of Jamaican speech is gone.


Adages, Jamaica, Patois, Proverbs, Sayings, Wisdom

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author avatar Mark Gordon Brown
15th Jun 2013 (#)

Those are great, I know a lot of neverseecumsee people!

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author avatar kaylar
16th Jun 2013 (#)

I am glad you liked it. I started the item some time ago, and only completed it today.

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author avatar M G Singh
16th Jun 2013 (#)

Very interesting indeed

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author avatar kaylar
16th Jun 2013 (#)

Thank you, I didn't know whether it would be interesting

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author avatar Johnny Knox
16th Jun 2013 (#)

Interesting article, kaylar.

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author avatar kaylar
16th Jun 2013 (#)

thank youif you notice I stated it in november 2012

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author avatar Carol
16th Jun 2013 (#)

Very interesting write, I learn something new every day.

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author avatar kaylar
16th Jun 2013 (#)

Thank you...I feel encouraged

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author avatar Stella Mitchell
18th Jun 2013 (#)

I love the Jamaican patois, kaylar , and when I was there I noted that they never said ...I am , but always... Me am . and always ..'im and never him .
God bless you
Stella ><

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author avatar kaylar
18th Jun 2013 (#)

Only Rasta use the 'I'. In Jamaica they use the Akan...not as much now as in the past...

In Akan (an African language)
it is

I = Me

So you could hear one person as the others,

"Wha' Onnu wan fe do?"
(What do you want to do)
and they answer; "Minano"
(Mi Nah Know)
(I don't know--)

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author avatar M G Singh
30th Jun 2013 (#)

I found it to be a most interesting post

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author avatar kaylar
30th Jun 2013 (#)

Thank you Madan

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