Haitian Proverbs (1)
Haiti is a non-literate culture. 80% or more of the people neither read nor write. Consequently, wisdom is oral. There are no detailed philosophical systems in Haiti. People hand down their knowledge and express it in proverbs. In the rural areas hardly 5 or 6 sentences can pass in any serious conversation without someone throwing in a proverb as defense of some idea. There are hundreds of proverbs. One very famous one is:
Tanbou prete pa janm fè bon dans
A borrowed drum never makes good dancing
Ti chen gen fos devan kay met li
A little dog is really brave in front of his master’s house.
Ti moun fwonte grandi devan baron
An impudent child grows up under Baron's eyes (Baron Samdi is the guardian of the cemetery in the Vodou religion)
Ravet pa janm gen rezon devan poul
Roaches are never right when facing chickens
Sonje lapli ki leve mayi ou
Remember the rain that made your corn grow.
Moun pa se dra
A protector is like a cloak
Nan tan grangou patat pa gen po
In times of famine, sweet potatoes have no skin
Ou konn kouri, ou pa konn kache
You know how to run, but you don’t know how to hide.
Se bon kè krapo ki fè l san tèt
It is because the toad is too kindhearted that he has no intelligence.
Piti, piti, wazo fe nich li.
Little by little the bird builds its nest.
Konstitisyon se papie, bayonet se fe.
The constitution is paper, bayonets are steel.
Rache manyok bay te a blanch.
Uproot the manioc, and clear the land.
Bel anteman pa di paradi
A beautiful funeral doesn't guarantee heaven.
Milat pov se neg, eg rich se milat
A poor mulatto is black, a wealthy black is mulatto.
Bel dan pa di zanmi
Just becasue someone is smiling at you doesn't mean they're your friend
Fanm pou you tan, manman pou tout tan
Wife for a time, mother for all time.
God is good.
Dye mon, gen mon.
Beyond the mountains, more mountains.
Sak vid pa kanp.
An empty sack can't stand up.
Neg di san fe;
People talk and don't act.
Bondye fe san di.
God acts and doesn't talk.
Pal franse pa di lespri pou sa.
Speaking French doesn't mean you are smart.
Bourik swe pou chwal dekore ak dentel
The donkey sweats so the horse can be decorated with lace.
Makak pa janm kwe petit-li led.
A monkey never thinks her baby's ugly.
Si travay te bon bagay, moun rich la pran-l lontan.
If work were a good thing the rich would have grabbed it a long time ago.
Li pale franse.
He speaks French (so is likely is deceiving you)
Kreyol pale, kreyol komprann
Speak plainly, don't try to deceive.