These Jamaican phrases may make you scratch your head and think "whaat????" if you've never heard them before. But when you stop to think about what they are actually saying, I think you will appreciate how dynamic our language is. Over a three week period, I either used them myself, or heard them used in everyday conversation.
These 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.
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: Pop story give me
Meaning: Tell me the latest news/ I can't believe this news I'm hearing!
Dawg nyam yu suppa
Translation: Dog 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. (This seems to be based on a murder that took place in the 1950s.)
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 hidden 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 throwing it at 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 about to be found out. It is usually delivered in a sing-song, rhythmic style. (I suspect this has something to do with one of Jamaica's biggest prisons being in Spanish Town.)
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 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 Jamaican slang. Jamaica is special!