I believe that Haitian Creole is an integral part of Haiti’s strength.
This majority language in Haiti creates a sense of solidarity among its speakers, and through proverb preserves the resilience of a people that have fought for generations without ever succumbing.
“Tout sa ou pa konnen pi gran pase w’ ” (see title), was a bit of a puzzle for me when I first heard it. I couldn’t account for the way it was used; it wasn’t meant to inspire fear or a sense of ominous foreboding, but to recognize that you can’t know it all, and therefore cannot always control the outcome of any given situation (which for me, automatically inspires a certain sense of fear and foreboding!)
For Haiti, life has never been about predicting the future; life there is tumultuous, it’s unpredictable, and frequently unstable, so it becomes about continuously rising with dignity and grace to embrace each new day as it comes.
I think that exploring proverb can help those of us on the “outside” understand a little bit better the heart of Haiti.
Despite the oppressive character of injustice and poverty that plague so many, Haitian people are repeatedly described as overwhelmingly hopeful.
While many proverbs touch on life’s hardships, the more I learn about Haiti, her language and her culture, the more convinced I am that Haitian strength is preserved and conveyed (in part) through the language’s rich variety of proverbs. These range from humorous to poetic, and encompass a wide range of riddle-like complexities; together, they represent an incredibly woven tapestry of idiom, cultural knowledge, humor and resilience.
More Haitian Creole Proverbs:
“Chita pa bay”
[Sitting doesn’t give]
In other words: Sitting around/doing nothing doesn’t get you anywhere.
“Dèyè mòn, gen mòn.”
[Behind mountains, there are mountains]
Anyone who’s been to Haiti knows the inspiration behind this proverb, what it means though is that to move past one sorrow or problem will only bring you face to face with another. It can also take on the sense of “If it’s not one thing, it’s another”.
“Kouri lapli, tonbe larivyè.”
[Running from the rain, you fall in the river]
In avoiding one thing, we fall into something even bigger.
“Kreyon Bondye pa gen gòm.”
[God’s pencil doesn’t have an eraser]
In other words: God doesn’t make mistakes. (I think I’ve heard this one here in the U.S. before too?)
“Pale franse pa di lespri pou sa.”
[Speaking French doesn’t mean intelligence]
In other words: Fancy speech doesn’t mean you’re smart, or that your ideas are more valuable for that matter.
by Erin Nguyen on September 18, 2014