Thursday, October 23, 2008


Haitians use more proverbs than any people we've met! These fun phrases may make Kreyol-learning a little more complicated but certainly spice up a conversation. When blan use proverbs, it has this magic effect on people: they LOVE us for trying (or are immediately convinced of our linguistic fluency and start speedtalking). I like to think that proverbs reveal a lot about Haitian cultural values, too. Here a few that we've learned:

Ti pa ti pa zwazo fe nich li (little by little, the bird builds its nest):
The shortened form of this one is just "ti pa ti pa," and can be used to refer to anything that is done slowly or methodically. Like my ankle is healing ti pa ti pa, or Ben is learning Kreyol ti pa ti pa.

Pale Kreyol tankou rat (speak Kreyol like a rat):
as in, someday Ben and I hope to speak Kreyol like rats. Exactly. What's not to love about a culture in which, linguistically speaking, you dart around like a rat when you are fluent in the language?

M ap bwe yon tas kafe amè avek ou (I drink a bitter cup of coffee with you):
Haitians take coffee with their sugar. According to my coworker Marthe, "drinking coffee without sugar isn't interesting." So to proverbially offer someone a cup of coffee without sugar is to imply that they have made you angry.

Manje ki fet pa gen met (Cooked food has no owner):
Haitians know how to share.

A succinct description of Haiti, both literally and figuratively:
Dye mon, gen mon (Beyond mountains, there are mountians)

Bondye konn bay, men li pa konn separe (God gives, but doesn't share):
That's the Haitian answer to "why God permits misery." It's our fault, not God's. God has given us everything we need and left it up to us to divvy things up. It's the responsibility of people with more to share what they have with people with less. For a great discussion on how this plays our in Haitian culture, see Bryan's latest post.

In reference to hunger:
Sak vid pa kanpe (An empty sack can't stand up)

Lave men ou epi seche yo nan pousye a (washing your hands and drying them in dirt) : is stupid. And so this saying can describe anything that doesn't make sense, although technically it refers more to cause-and-effects. To miss out on the sunset from our porch because I'm writing this blogpost would be like washing my hands and drying them in dirt. So, I think I'll go enjoy the sunset with my husband.

1 comment:

Laura said...

How fun! It makes me think of how Jesus taught in parables...people connect with concrete images and symbols and stories. I'm not going to think of you two as rats, tho'.


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