Say What? – Crash Course in Kweyol

Saint Lucia is a colorful place. Dramatic green mountain vistas are peppered with explosions of flame of the forest or poinciana; the ocean is a palette of greens and blues, and the music and traditions vivid.  It makes sense then that Saint Lucia’s Kwéyòl language would reflect all that color. Kwéyòl (Creole) has grown out of a melange of French, English and African languages.  It embodies the West Indian experience in a linguistic melting pot and is textured with unique turns of phrase and idiom. You could say it in English, but well, sometimes nothing but Kwéyòl will do. Punctuate your conversation with some of these proverbs and nod knowingly as you do. You’re bound to impress upon your friends an age-old wisdom.

Lè bab kamawed ou pwi difé, wozé sa ou

Literal translation: When your friend’s beard is on fire, sprinkle your own.

In a small society where the private is public, it helps to have a saying that essentially declares: judge not less you be judged.

Koté pak la ba, sé la bèf ka jambé

Literal translation: Where the fence is lowest, that’s where the cow will jump.

This is a warning about the weakest link in an organization. Your adversary will always find the vulnerable spot, so pay attention.

Sa zyé pa wè, tjè pa ka fè mal.

Literal translation: What the eyes don’t see won’t hurt the heart.

This is the classic apologia for a liberal West Indian attitude toward fidelity.

Pwéson ni konfyans a glo, mé sé menm glo a ko twijit li

Literal translation: A fish has confidence in water, but it is in water that it is boiled.

Don’t get too cocky. When we are most complacent, we don’t notice the change in the tide, or temperature rising around us.

… èspwa mal papay

Literal translation: The hope of the male pawpaw.

This isn’t so much a proverb as an expression, and it’s a classic all-purpose one for everything from relationships to politics. The male pawpaw tree, though it flowers brilliantly, will never bear fruit. So, you can wait around hoping he’ll notice you’re the one and let your best years go by, but it won’t happen.

These are just a few of the many Creole expressions used in Saint Lucia. You’re now equipped to share a thing or two the next time you visit this fabulous destination!

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