Saturday, June 9, 2012



Not even a short selection of Haitian readings would be acceptable without a sampling of one of the most char- acteristic expressions of Haiti’s culture: the proverb. Each can be uniquely revealing not only as a general truth, but as an insight into many of the underlying attitudes of this fascinating people.
Rather than furnish a literal translation, in most cases we prefer to suggest a broad interpretation. The reader is invited to find others as well. Proverbs are similar to parables: more than one meaning can be valid.
1. Bondye bon.
Whatever God does is for the best. Whatever is, is good.
(Haiti’s eternally optimistic fatalism.)

2. Dèyè mòn, gen mòn.
After one sorrow, more sorrows. If it’s not one thing, it’s another. There’s more than meets the eye.

3. Sak vid pa kanpe.
No work gets done on an empty stomach. You get out what you put in.

4. Santi bon koute chè.
A big front doesn’t come cheaply.

5. Kreyon* Bondye pa gen gòm.*
God makes no mistakes.
What God promises He will give. What’s traced for you is forever traced.

6. Bèl fanm, bèl malè.
A beautiful woman means trouble.

7. Nèg di san fè, Bondye fè san di.
Man talks, God acts.

8. Pale franse pa di lespri pou sa.
Fancy talk doesn’t mean brains.

9. Bèl larivyè, nanpwen* rad*.
A beautiful situation, wasted.
All dressed up and no place to go.

10. Milat* pòv se nèg, nèg rich se milat.
Money is everything.

11. Prese bon, dousman bon.
There’s more than one right way.

12. Grangou dimanch pi rèd.
Hunger is worse when others are feasting.

13. Bon mache koute chè.
Bargains are expensive.

14. Tan ale, li pa tounen.
We can never recapture the past.

15. Fanm se kajou: plis li vye, plis li bon.
Women, like wine, improve with age.

16. Sa nèg fè nèg, Bondye ri.
God does not trouble Himself with what man does to man.

17. Tout moun se moun.
Everyone deserves to be treated as a human being.

18. Anpil bèl bagay anmè*.
Appearances can be deceiving.

19. Si ou bay pòv, se Bondye ou prete.
Charity has its rewards.

20. Nanpwen* kòb, nanpwen manje.
You get what you pay for.

21. Pitit tig, se tig.
“The tiger’s cub can be dangerous too.” (Jean-Claude Duvalier, 1975)

22. Ti nèg fè sa l kapab, grannèg* fè sa l vle.
Money and power are everything.

23. Tande pa di konprann pou sa.
Hearing is one thing, understanding is another.

24. Grannèg* se lalwa.
Might makes right.

25. Pitit se richès pòv malere.
A child is the poor man’s consolation.

26. Piti piti zwazo fè nich* li.
Everything takes time.

27. Lanne pase toujou pi bon.
The grass is always greener on the other side.

28. Fanm pou yon tan, manman pou tout tan.
Wife for a time, mother for all time.

29. Pise marengwen ogmante larivyè.
Every little drop counts.

30. Lè ou krache* an lè, li tonbe sou nen ou.
What goes around, comes around.

31. Apre dans, tanbou* toujou lou.
After the excitement is over, life can be a drag.

32. Kreyòl pale, kreyòl konprann.
Creole (as opposed to French) means straight, honest talk.

33. Kouri lapli, tonbe larivyè.
In avoiding one thing, we fall into something worse.

34. Bay kou bliye, pote mak sonje.
The culprit forgets, the victim remembers.

35. Po tè pa goumen* ak po fè.
Know thyself.

36. Entelijan twonpe* ‘leve bonè’.
The smart person figures the angles.

37. Fanm se zanj, fanm se denmon.
Can’t live with ‘em, can’t live without ‘em.

Sitting around won’t get you anywhere.


anmè bitter
gòm eraser
goumen to fight
grannèg “big shot,” person of importance
krache to spit
kreyon pencil
milat Mulatto
nanpwen (there is/are) no
nich nest
rad clothes
tanbou drum
twonpe to deceive, fool

(CHITA PA BAY 55-58 paj senkannsenk)

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