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Guyanese Proverbs

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The timeless, international proverb, “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush” is also used widely in Guyana, but it did not originate from Guyana nor is it unique to the people of Guyana. In this article, we will share some proverbs which may have originated from Guyana or are unique to Guyanese.

First Published: 4th of January, 2018 by Patrick Carpen.

Last updated: October 17, 2023 at 15:47 pm

A proverb is a general observable truth about life which has been passed down from generation to generation. Aside from the biblical book of Proverbs which is believed to have been inspired by God, there are many other proverbs peculiar to a particular people, region, or country.

While a proverb is considered a generally acceptable truth, it can be disputed. One such is the Proverb from the bible, “spare the rod and spoil the child,” which suggests that corporal punishment is the correct method for disciplining a growing child. This Proverb has been the subject of widespread debate across peoples, cultures, nations, and schools.

Here are some Guyanese Proverbs that have been passed down through the years, perhaps centuries. They are spoken in the colloquial “broken down” English also known as “Guyanese Creolese” which is a mix between standard English and East Indian or African languages.

What rain can’t full, dew can’t full.

“Wa rain cyan full, due cyan full.”

This means that something that usually takes a long time to get done cannot be achieved suddenly overnight. Parents sometimes tell their children this when they try to study only the night before the exam. If they couldn’t master the subject in one year, they can’t master it by staying up all night before the exams.

When you do good, you hold hood (wood); when you do bad, you see gad (God).

This proverb suggests that, because of the inherent ungrateful nature of people, those who seek to help and do good to others often end up getting hurt emotionally, financially, and in other ways. On the other hand, it appears from the surface that those who exploit others and do selfish acts end up winning. This is a highly disputed proverb, but many people agree that humans can be thankless.

Old man doesn’t run, but he catches.

“Ole man na run but ya ketch.”

This means that when you do something bad to someone and that person doesn’t go after you, the bad deed eventually catches up with you in some form or the other by the law or karma.

Everyday the bucket goes to the well, one day the bottom must fall off.

This means that if you keep doing some wrong or immoral act, one day you will get caught.

One, one dutty (mud block) builds a dam.

This means that just as one piece of dirt is thrown on top of the other to build a dam to prevent water, so one productive act after the other will eventually yield great results.

So, what Guyanese Proverb do you know of? Tell us in the comments section!

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