Friday, January 17, 2014

20 Caribbean Proverbs

“Don’t reinvent the wheel!” There’s an old adage if I’ve ever heard one, but it is old for a reason. It’s very true and it has stood the test of time. Our elders and ancestors left us with excellent wisdom passed down through the ages in these idioms and sayings. I’m sure every person reading this blog has one or two from their own backgrounds and families that they’ve heard countless times (please share them in the comments if you have them). I, therefor, thought it would be interesting to share 20 prominent proverbs form the Caribbean diaspora. Their interpretations (in plain English) are included in italics right after the sayings. Enjoy.

1.           When you ain’t got horse, ride cow. Work with what you have.
2.           Talk does make talk. Trouble breeds more trouble; fighting leads to more fighting.
3.           “If I had know” does come too late. Hindsight and regret aren’t useful after the deed is done.
4.           One eye man king in blind man country. Know your talent and use it to your best advantage.
5.           Dog with money does buy fleas. Excess leads to more excess and waste.
6.           A crab never forget he hole. There’s no place like home.
7.           A eyeful ain’t a bellyful. What you see isn’t what you get and usually never enough.
8.           All fish does bite but shark does get the blame. Your reputation speaks louder than your actions.
9.           Breeze blow pelican same place him want go. Go with the flow and adjust to where life leads you.
10.      Dirty water will out fire. Everything has a use.
11.      One and one coco full basket. Hard work and determination will get the job done.
12.      Two poor cow does make good dung. Combining resources will lead to better results.
13.      You shake him hand but not him heart.  Appearances can be deceiving and hide one’s true intentions.
14.      Dog get four foot but could only go one way. You may have many options but can only choose one path.
15.      Shake with one hand, wipe your rass (ass) with the next. Know who’s a friend and who’s an enemy.
16.      Same knife kill sheep kill shepherd. What you do to others can be done to you as well.
17.      You want half a bread beg for it, you want a whole one, buy it. Work for what you desire.
18.      Fry the big fish first. Know your priorities and plan accordingly.
19.      Jumbi know who to frighten. Your enemies know to strike when you’re at your weakest.
20.      Pepper hot but good for curry. Sometimes we need the harsh, honest truth and adversity to succeed.


  1. A great list. I know #4 (with slightly different wording) but the rest are new to me. I try to invent sayings and proverbs for fantasy cultures, so seeing what different cultures come up with is always valuable.

  2. I think I may have even heard a Yiddish version of #4 as well. Most good wisdom is far too old to belong to just one group of people. Thanks for the comment.

  3. These are great. May have to crib and adapt a few for my own world building.

  4. By all means. Thanks for commenting.