Jamaican Phrases
Pop story gi mi!

These Jamaican phrases make me smile. Over a three week period, I either used them myself, or heard them used in everyday conversation.

There are a lot more, but these are some of my favourites. They are not proverbs, as they don't have a moral or teach a lesson. I heard them all in St. Elizabeth, but as far as I know they're well known all over the island.

Popular Jamaican Phrases

Yu tink seh mi born big?!
Translation: You think I was born big (old)?
Meaning: Don't take me for a fool, I wasn't born yesterday!

Pop story gi mi!
Translation: Tell me a story
Meaning: Tell me the latest news/ I can't believe this news I'm hearing!

Dawg nyam yu suppa
Translation: Dog will eat your supper
Meaning: You will be punished/Something bad will happen to you. This saying usually relates to the consequences of an action or situation. For example, "Yu forget yu wife birthday? Dawg nyam yu suppa!" This indicates that there's an awful consequence to forgetting your wife's birthday. After all, what could be worse than your supper being given to a dog?

From Whappy kill Phillup
Translation: From the time that Whappy killed Phillup
Meaning: From a very long time ago. (I have no idea who Whappy and Phillup were, or why Whappy killed Phillup. I only know he did it way back in the past!)

Gi laugh fi peas soup
Translation: Give laughs for peas soup 
Meaning: To joke around and have a good time.

Come wid yu two long han
Translation: Come with your two long hands
Meaning: To arrive somewhere empty-handed.

Looking at you, di better one
Translation: Looking at you, the better one.
Meaning: Not as good as you. This Jamaican phrase is sometimes used in response to the greeting "How are you/How yu do?"

Puss inna bag
Translation: A cat in a bag
Meaning: Refers to the acquisition of something before you have seen it, or found out enough about it - you can't tell what a cat is like if it's in a bag.

From mi yeye deh a mi knee
Translation: From my eyes were at my knees
Meaning: From I was very young

Hell an powdahouse
Translation: Hell and powderhouse
Meaning A great commotion (imagine a room of gunpowder blowing up.)

Mi shame tree dead
Translation: My shame tree is dead
Meaning: I'm not easily embarrassed

Enough fi stone dawg
Translation: Enough to stone a dawg
Meaning: An abundance of something (so much that you can do idle things with it, like stoning a dog).

If a nuh so, a nearly so
Translation: If it's not so, it's nearly so
Meaning: If this isn't the truth, it's close to the truth. This Jamaican phrase is usually used to give credence to a rumour.

Yes, now, Spanish Town!
Meaning: You're going to get in trouble! This is a child's taunt to another child who has done something wrong and is going to be found out. It is usually delivered in a sing-song, rhythmic style.

Yeye mek four
Translation: Eyes make four
Meaning: To make direct eye contact with someone.

Afta tree nah grow inna mi face
Translation: As you can see, I don't have a tree growing in my face
Meaning: I'm obviously a good catch. Usually used in a situation where a woman feels she has the option of getting a better man than the current one who is treating her badly.

Yu mussi born back a cow!
Translation: You must have been born behind a cow!
Meaning: You are so backward and ignorant! (i.e. you can't see much from behind a cow, can you?)

I get so much pleasure from hearing these colourful phrases and expressions around me every day. I can't imagine what it would be like to live without this wonderful language ringing in my ears, from the oldest proverbs to the latest slang.

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