Jamaican proverbs hold a special place in our hearts. They represent the continuation of the oral history of our nation, a summation of the stories and lessons of our forefathers in a few succinct, witty lines. Nothing thrills us like hearing the words of our ancestors in our native tongue, passing along wisdom – sometimes with a heavy dose of humour – to the next generation. Here are some Jamaican proverbs speaking to the elements of fire and water.
Fire deh a muss muss tail, him tink a cool breeze.
Translation: When fire is at muss-muss’ (a fictional creature) tail, he thinks it is cool breeze.
Wen visitor come a we fireside, we mek we pot smell sweet.
Translation: When visitors come to our fireside, we ensure that our pots smell sweet.
Pudden cyaan bake widout fire.
Translation: A pudding cannot be baked without fire.
Yuh cyan tek mout-water so out fire.
Translation: You cannot use mouthwater to put out a fire just so.
Dutty water can put out fire.
Translation: Dirty waters can put out a fire.
When water trow weh, it cyaan pick up back.
Translation: When water is thrown away, it cannot be picked up back.
Rock stone a ribba bottom never see sun hot.
Translation: The rockstone at the bottom of the river never sees the heat of the sun.
Every fish eena sea nuh shark.
Translation: Not every fish in the sea is a shark.
Sun bun washer woman, but it dry her wet clothes.
Translation: The sun may burn the washerwoman, but it will also dry her wet clothes.
Drought time hard pon mawga cane, but it never too late fi a shower a rain.
Translation: Times of drought are difficult for a meager dog, but it is never too late to get a shower of rain.