I was listening to the radio on the drive home from San Francisco and heard this proverb from Haitian-American author Edwidge Danticat:
“Paròl gen zèl.” – words have wings (and she also said “words have feet”).
I have not heard this proverb or a similar one in English or Tagalog (Filipino). The topic on the radio was “Create Dangerously: The Immigrant Artist at Work”, and is on Edwidge Danticat’s reflections on art and exile, and what it means to be an immigrant artist. It was produced by the Cambridge Forum.
I though of this proverb upon waking up today, and it is true, words do have wings. In terms of something as basic as gossip, and writers and artist who change our thinking and our perception about the world through their art, words indeed do have wings (and feet).
And it turns out the Haitians have a rich menu of proverbs. The website konbitkreyol.org — from the Haitian Student Organization at Florida Atlantic University — has a section of Haitian proverbs in Creole, with English translations.
Haitian proverbs are concrete sayings popularly known, repeated, and passed down through generations. During Konbit Kreyol’s general meetings proverbs are sometimes taught in “Creole 101” mostly through skits performed by members. Haitian proverbs express a truth, based on common sense or the practical experience of humanity. They are often metaphorical.
Here are some interesting ones (of the many listed on the site):
- “Lang pa lanmè, men li ka neye-w.” — The tongue is not the sea, but it can drown you
- “Lè kabrit gen twòp mèt, li mouri nan solèy. — When a goat has too many masters (owners), it dies (tied) in the sun
- “Lespwa fè viv.” — Hope makes one live…
- Li pale franse.” — He speaks French. (so is likely is deceiving you)
- “Milat pov se neg, eg rich se milat. — A poor mulatto is black, a wealthy black is mulatto.
- “Pa pèdi founo pou yon sèl pen. — Do not lose your oven over just one bread.
- “Se sou pye mango chaje yo voye wòch.” — It is on the mango tree full of fruits that they throw stones.
- “Ou bat tanbou epi ou danse ankò.” — You beat the drum and you dance again.