Jamaican Proverbs … Guiding, Chiding and Chock Full of Wisdom

Jamaican Proverbs … Guiding, Chiding and Chock Full of Wisdom


Many persons view Jamaican proverbs as highly entertaining. Every society has proverbs. It is part of the way the culture linguistically encapsulates gems of wisdom and caution. The truth is proverbs, Jamaican or otherwise, are chock full of wisdom and caution. In fact, my mother used proverbs as a way of teaching, guiding and also admonishing. I felt powerless when faced with her arsenal of Jamaican proverbs. I knew I was being either guided or chided and most times, I had no comeback line or strategy.

The beauty of proverbs too is that they have layers and shades of meaning. There is always a literal meaning … it means exactly what it says. However, the Jamaican proverb’s power lies in that coded subtlety, where it says more than it says and means more that it means. You get me. It is high context communication and so sender, receiver and observer of the message, need to have some context for understanding. Otherwise, the meaning is lost.

Creng Creng Proverb

So let’s look at our title proverb “Yie Kyaan Teck Meat Outta Creng Creng (alternate spelling Kreng Kreng). This proverb speaks about the need to work to achieve your goals, as wishing and hoping are not enough. So let’s operationalize the concepts … break it down. What is ‘Yie’? You got it… Jamaican Creole for ‘eye’. So far, so good. Now we move to Creng Creng? Any guesses? No, it’s not a musical instrument and not a snack. In the days before refrigerators were commonplace, families preserved meat by smoking it. The Creng Creng was a wire basket hung up in the ceiling of the outside kitchen. This basket is where the meat was placed for curing and storing. You cut off what you needed and left the rest in the Creng Creng.

So you enter the kitchen, you see this lovely piece of pork, beef, goat meat, and you look at it lovingly, while salivating. You want it, you can taste it, but guess what? No amount of looking and salivating is going to bring the meat to you. You have to put in the work … of walking, sometimes near the fire, and climb on perhaps a chair, balancing while using a knife to cut off what you need. Your Yie alone is not enough to teck di meat outa di Creng Creng.

So, if you want to achieve academically, you have to work, if you want to lose weight or muscle-up, you have to work, if you want career advancement, you have to work, if you want to be at the top of your game you have to work. Why? Because ‘Yie Kyaan teck Meat outa Creng Creng’.


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2 Responses

  1. We can only hope these lessons reach more of the younger generations who will then continue to impart these pearls of wisdom for generations to come. One I used to hear when I was a boy was, “When fiya deya mus mus tail him tink a cool breeze.” This one I know very well because I sometimes bore witness to what this proverb means. Thanks for this piece.

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