21 Vincy proverbs and their meanings

By Demion McTair. Updated 5:55 a.m., Friday, May 7, 2021, Atlantic Standard Time (GMT-4).

This article is an update of an article from 2018 written by Demion McTair and published on Secrets of SVG.

Each culture has its sayings and folk wisdom which are important parts of its everyday expressions.

Here are 21 commonly used proverbs in St. Vincent and what they mean:

1. When you think is bush, is people: translated in standard English, this would read: “When you think it’s only bushes around you, people are there too among the bushes”. The moral of this one is that you have to be careful with your character because no matter how much you try to conduct your actions in private, someone will see you and they will know.

2. Hog been ask e moma why e mouth long so, e moma say wait… your time ah come: translated in standard English, this would read: A hog asked his/her mother why the mother’s mouth was so long (elongated), the mother replied saying: “wait, your time is coming”. This is a lesson for amateurs who challenge experienced people in life. Things are not always the way they seem, circumstances make people who they are and you will never understand the outcome and impact of those circumstances until you’re in the position to face them yourself.

3. If crab nah walk, e nar geh fat: translated in standard English, this will read “if a crab does not walk, it won’t get fat”. This is used to mean that if one does not go around with some level of curiosity, one might never get to know information which might be very beneficial.

4. Throw sprat to catch whale: this phrase is used to mean that in conversation, you can say something to cause the person(s) you are talking with to give you more than just surface-level information on a particular matter.

5. Mouth open, story jump out: this is what usually happens when you “throw sprat to catch Whale”. You get far more than what you expected to hear, or, on the flip side, you end up saying or revealing much more than you should on a given issue.

6. What is a joke for school children might be death for the crapaud (another name for frog): School children might find it fun to kick frogs when the see them on the streets, but their fun could ultimately result in the death of the frog. In a broader context, this is used to mean be careful of the jokes you make with people, because they could take them seriously.

milk
People posing for a pic after a milk harvest at Richmond, St. Vincent

7. All skin teeth nah laugh: this means that not everyone who smiles with you is sincere and also that every smile doesn’t indicate fondness.

8. See me and come live with me are two different things: this means that the image portrayed by a friend or a family member as being nice, might change if you experience living with the person and seeing their true colours.

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9. Take time and kill ants and you will finds its belly: this is the same as saying “life rewards persistence”.

10. Parsons say christen yo pickney first: this means look out for those closest to you, before you look out for others.

11. Hog say bathe in the first water: this means that it is often better to “strike the iron while it is hot”… when an opportunity comes up, don’t delay.. take advantage early.

Mountain
The mountains of St. Vincent are some of the best places for meditation. Photo: Richmond Vale Academy

12. Mother prime (Prium / Pryum) say it won’t always be so: It is not clear exactly who ‘Mother Prime / Prium’ is/was or if the character is a fictional one. The proverb, however, means that no matter the struggles you are facing at present, things will improve at some point.

13. Where horse reach, donkey go reach: this one means that everyone, no matter their size, stature, or resources, they have the potential to reach where those who are already established have reached.

14. The wasteful will always want: this one is self-explanatory. Those who are wasteful will always find themselves in periods of want.

15. One day go be conquer day: this one means that no matter how unfairly you have been treated in life, you will rise above it and conquer one day.

16. Today for you, tomorrow for me: this is equivalent to saying “every dog has his day”.

17. Who have cocoa ah doe, look for rain: this one is usually used to alert a neighbour that they have visitors or relatives on their way and they are close by, so get ready for their arrival. In terms of its history, persons who dried cocoa beans won’t want to get them wet, so if rain is going to come, you’d want to salvage your cocoa beans.

cocoa beans
Cocoa beans being dried at the St. Vincent Cocoa Company. Photo: SVG Cocoa Company.

18. Weh eye nah see, heart nah grieve: this one is to mean that something you haven’t seen with your eyes cannot really affect your feelings towards it, especially when it comes to food preparation.

19. Moon run until day catch um: this means that no matter the amount of bad you do, it will catch up on you at some point. It also means that no matter how much you try avoiding someone or some decision or situation, you will eventually come face-to-face with it. Literally, it speaks of the movement of the earth and how the positions of the sun and the moon are seen in relation to one another, from night to day.

20. Guinea pig nar bring ram goat: This one is usually used to describe the stalk similarities in the behaviour of a child in relation to their parents. It is like saying “the apple does not fall too far from the tree”.

21. Make sense out of nonsense: this one is saying that no matter how stupid or untoward something sounds, or seems, listen very carefully, analyze, and evaluate it for its merits and demerits.

Bonus: All fish does bite but shark does get the blame: what this means is that once there is a known culprit for a particular action, so long as that action happens, everyone will incline to point fingers at the known culprit, even though everyone else around could be culpable.

There are many other notable proverbs. These, however, are some commonly used ones throughout St. Vincent. Some honourable mentions are; “What does not kill, will fatten” “monkey knows what tree to climb”, and “blood is thicker than water”.

cassava

Cassava Bread being made by Role Model Fruits, St. Vincent.

Others include; “Pot ah tell kettle e batty black”“Fool ah talk, but nah fool ah listen”“What done gone bad ah marning can’t come good ah evening”“Pickney who nah hear go drink hot water without sugar”, and “Old firewood easy to catch”

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