Parents or grandparents often mutter some strange sounding phrase under their breath with a stern look on their face. Each and every time, we are left completely clueless. Even if we make out the words, the meaning eludes us. That’s the nature of idioms – commonly used expressions whose meaning is not related to the literal meaning of the words they contain.
Jamaican idioms are a rich reflection of the African and European history of our nation. They are not only funny anecdotes, but also wise lessons.
Just like us when our parents or grandparents use an expression we don’t know, if you speak a phrase to someone unfamiliar with Jamaican culture, they’ll be totally bewildered. But say to a Jamaican child who romps too much, “chicken merry, hawk deh near” and they just might know that the time has come to stop playing and calm down. Many common phrases like “every mikkle mek a mukkle” are used in daily communication. But there are many others that the younger generation aren’t likely to have heard. Here are a few of the most useful ones:
1. Finger never say look here, him say look yonder. People never point out their own faults but rather those of others.
2. Nuh wait till drum beat before yu grind yu axe. Don’t wait for the event to happen to begin preparing for it. Prepare in advance.
3. Big blanket mek man sleep late. Having many luxuries can make one become complacent and take those blessings for granted.
4. Poun’ ah fret cyaan pay ownse a dett. Worrying will not solve your problems.
5. Rock stone a ribba bottom no feel sun hot. Those in easy circumstances don’t always appreciate the hardship of others.
So go out and sprinkle these idioms into your daily conversations. Let’s bring back an almost-forgotten part of our culture.