Henry Alfred Alford Nicholls an Hugo Schuchardt (03-07823)

von Henry Alfred Alford Nicholls

an Hugo Schuchardt


26. 04. 1885

language Englisch

Schlagwörter: Sprachprobe Andere Folklore Volksliteratur Wissenschaftstheoretische Reflexion Sprachkontakt (allgemein)language Französischbasierte Kreolsprache (Dominica)language Französischbasierte Kreolsprache (Martinique)

Zitiervorschlag: Henry Alfred Alford Nicholls an Hugo Schuchardt (03-07823). Dominica, 26. 04. 1885. Hrsg. von Silvio Moreira de Sousa (2015). In: Bernhard Hurch (Hrsg.): Hugo Schuchardt Archiv. Online unter https://gams.uni-graz.at/o:hsa.letter.2608, abgerufen am 01. 12. 2023. Handle: hdl.handle.net/11471/518.10.1.2608.


Dominica. W. I.
26 th April 1885

My dear Sir,

At last I have the pleasure to meet your wishes in part by sending you the foregoing 55 proverbs etc, illustrative of our island patois. With a view of obtaining as many examples as possible, I applied for assistance in the matter to M r F. S. Fadelle, a creole gentleman in the civil service, and he has been so kind as to help me a great deal as you will gather from his letter which I enclose for your perusal. The last 25 proverbs are then applied by Mr Fadelle.

I have been unable, like Mr Fadelle, to find any trace of Anansi, or of any tales having the spider for a subject. However, I shall still persecute my enquiries and you may rely on me communicating with you should I have any success in the matter.

I will, later on, send you one or two tales “anancy stories” in patois so that you may the better be able to judge of the Dominica patois. In conversation, as is natural, the people wise of many English words of this fraction is on the increase in consequence of the influence of the government schools. Indeed we often hear a jargon of English and French patois in pretty equal proportions. The other day I heard a negro say “Moin ké allé try the question”. He was disputing about something or other, + he meant he would go before the Magistrate and “try the question” at law. Our people are very fond of the law + they seize every opportunity of invoking |2| its aid.

Should then be any enquiries you may wish to make of me do not for moment hesitate to communicate with me, for I shall have pleasure in doing whatever I can to aid you in your work.

Believe me yours very truly,
H. A. Alford Nicholls.

Prof. Schuchardt.


Patois proverbs used in the Island of Dominica.

1. Moin ka mange trop sel ici.

1. I have eaten too much salt here.

2. Moin pas té ka fouré tout dix doigts moin en bouche moin.

2. I do not put all my ten fingers in my mouth.

3. Barbe ou ka semble jardin nègre faienant.

3. Your beard is like the garden of a lazy negro.

4. Si zandolie té bonviande li pas té ka drivé assous barricade.

4. If lizards were good food they would not run about the fence.

Note. Use of “barricade” to mean fence a departure from French signification.

5. C’est pas moin qui la cause la morte Jacob.

5. I am not the cause of Jacob’s death.

6. Toute manger bon pour manger, mais toute parole pas bon pour dit.

6. All food is good to eat, but all words are not good to speak.

7. Si li teni cuillu li té ké manger trop bouillon.

7. If he had a spoon he would eat too much soup.

8. C’est couteau tout seul qui save ça qui en coeur giraumont.

8. It is only the knife that knows what is in the heart of the pumpkin.

9. La misère faire macaque manger piment.

9. Misery causes the monkey to eat pepper.

10. Macaque save qui bois li ka monter.

10. The monkey knows what tree he climbs.

11. Corde yarn mare yarn.

11. The vine of the yarn ties up the yarn.


12. Parole pas ka ta fait poid six cents.

12. Talking will not turn a pound into six hundred.

13. Moin pas ka file couteau avant moin voyé cabrit la.

13. I do not sharpen the knife before I see the goat.

14. Ranette pas teni raison devant foule.

14. The cockroach ought not to go before the fowl.

(Exact meaning - The fowl will never do the cockroach justice because he is his natural enemy.)

15. Rendre service bail mal dos.

15. To do a service gives one the back-ache.

16. Tous les jours calebasse allé la riviere, mais yon jour li ka rété.

16. The calabash goes to the river every day, but one day it will stop there.

17. Cent ans pow voleur, yon jour pour maître.

17. A hundred years for the thief, but one day for the master.

18. C’est pas tout ça qui gras pow tuer dans yon jour.

18. You must not hide all the fat animals in a day.

19. La riviere ka toujours couler dans la mer.

19. The river always falls into the sea.

20. Moun la qui ka bail ou conseil acheta chouval gros boudin pas ké aidé ou soin li.

20. He who advices you to buy a big bellied horse will not help you to feed it.

21. Toute temps soleil pas couché macaque pas ka dit zenfants li ké dormir sans souper.

21. As long as the sun has not set the monkey will not say that its young will sleep supperless (i.e. will not give up hope of finding something for their supper.)

22. Parole in bouche pas chargée.

22. Empty words carry no weight. Also employed to mean verbal message is not a load to carry, so no difficulty should be made about delivering one.


23. Quand ou ka espèrer assous canarie belle mère ou, ou ka dormie sans souper.

23. When you wait upon your mother-in-law’s canarie (an earthenware cooking pot) you will go to bed supperless.

Note. “ Assous” equivalent to the English word “upon”, an Anglicism introduced, like many others into the Dominica patois. Also “ esperer” meaning to “await” in patois, whilst in French it signifies to “hope”.

24. Zaffaire cabrit pas zaffaire mouton.

24. The business of the goat is not the business of the sheep.

25. Voleur volé voleur, diable ka ri.

25. When the thief steals from the thief, the devil laughs.

26. Langue crapaud trahi crapaud.

26. The crapaud betrays himself by his voice.

Note. “Crapaud used in patois to mean “frog”, whilst in French it means toad. And “grenouille” meaning in patois “toad” signifies “frog” in French.

27. Si pas trahison nous ké vivè.

27. If it were not for treachery we could live.

28. Sac vide pas ka de bout.

28. An empty sack cannot stand up.

29. Tous les jours pour voleur, yon your pour negre garde.

29. Every day for the thief, and one day for the negro watchman.

30. Pardon pas ka guérir bosse.

30. Begging pardon cures no bumps.

31. Tirer boyaux mettez paille.

31. To extract one’s bowels & replace them with straw. i.e. To neglect one[’]s own flesh and blood and cherish strangers.

32. Toutes lapins tini grands zoreilles.

32. All rabbits have long ears. i. e. People of a certain caste are all of the same character & prejudices.


33. Toute bêle à feu ka klerer pour l’âme li.

33. Every fire-fly shines for himself (literally for his own soul.)

34. Barrière bas, toute moun ka jamber.

34. Every body steps over a low fence.

Note. This proverb is generally used to imply that if you humble yourself every body will take advantage of you.

35. Chat pas là rat ka bail bal.

35. Literally. The cat away, the rat gives a ball. This is simply an adaptation of a well-known proverb.

36. Ou pas ça chimbay pou épi yon doué.

36. You cannot catch a louse with one finger.

37. Kabrit ka mort, li ka quitter la peau li dans misère.

37. No goat dies and leaves his skin in trouble. Note. a goat skin is usually used to head the native drums, and the reference in the proverb is to the constant beating of the goat skin a drum-head. The use of “quitter” for “laisser” is interesting.

38. La guerre avertie pas ka faire dommage.

38. When notice of hostilities is given, war does no dammage.

39. Plus bois ka changer feuilles béké ka changer l’idée.

39. As trees shed their leaves, so the white-man (i.e. the educated man) changes his mind.

40. Vivre cent ans, mort you jour.

40. You may live a hundred years, you die in one day.

41. Kabrit boire, mouton soul.

41. Goat drinks, sheep is drunk. i.e. The sheep is always blamed for the goats offences.

42. Toute maman tété magran.

42. For want of a mother, one is nourished by one’s grandmother.

43. Zoreilles pas plus haut que tête.

43. The ears are not higher than the head. i.e. one is not greater than one’s superior.



44. Jour la pluie c’est jour la boue.

44. A rainy day is a muddy day.

45. Si peu la pluie et tant la boue.

45. So little rain and get so much mud. Usually referring to a person making “much ado about nothing”.

46. Ça yeux pas voir pas ka faire cœur mal.

46. What the eyes have not seen will never disturb the stomach. Note. Always used in reference to something objectionable supposed to be in food, but which has been later unperceived.

47. Perdu chien perdu gouti[.]

47. The dog lost, the agouti is also lost.

48. Devant chien c’est “Monsieur Chien”, derrière chien c’est “chien”.

48. Before the dog it is “Mister Dog”, but behind the dog it is “dog”.

49. C’est bon crabe la cause li pas tini tete.

49. The crab’s good nature is the cause of the loss of his head. This is ardently derived from some legend or tale.

50. Zoreilles pas ka mort faim.

50. The ears do not die of hunger. i.e. they are always well-supplied with news.

51 Kabrit faire sotte dans la cour, li mort dans la cuisine.

52. The goat plays the fool in the yard, he dies in the kitchen-

53. Ça ou perdre dans du few, ou ké trouver dans cendres.

53. What you lose in the fire, you will find the the ashes.

54. Ragiers tini zoreilles.

54. Bushes have ears.

55. Yon nègre marron yon gendarme derrière li.

55. A runaway negro and a policeman after him.


The last is scarcely a proverb, it may be ranked as a “saying”. It has reference to the curious custom of the people in not drinking their spirit with water; - they usually take the pure rum fruit, and then swallow a draft of water afterwards.



New Town
10th April, 1885.

My dear Sir,

Pray excuse my not communicating before this. The latter part of March being such a busy time with me, and having made a long tour of several days to Windward. I had to delay the consideration of the subject on which you are engaged. At the same time the delay has afforded me the advantage of adding 25 proverbs picked up in my peregrinations. I have failed to discover any traces of “Anansi” in the proverbial lore of the island, but there may be something on the subject to be gathered from parts of the island other than those I have recently visited. I have an impression |9| that Vieille Case2 ought to furnish some proverbs not generally current in Dominica, for there is quite an “argot” prevalent in that locality and its environs, where the speech and habits of the people are distinctly tinged with the influence of the neighbouring French colony of Guadaloupe and its dependency of Maria Galante.

Several of the wise saws I add to your list are from Martinique, and I have no doubt that Guadaloupe could supply a contingent to swell the budget. If it were worth your while you might write to Trinidad, St. Lucia, Grenada and St. Vincent, especially the two first, and you might obtain some more patois proverbs.

Some time next month I shall be round St. Andrew and St. David parishes, and if I come across |10| any more proverbial philosophy in vernacular form I shall let you have the benefit thereof.

I append herewith the additional instances, and remain,
Yours faithfully,
F. S. Fadelle

Dr Nicholls M.D.

1 Bibliotheksnummer 02870.]

2 Vieille Case ist ein Dorf im Norden von Dominica.

Faksimiles: Universitätsbibliothek Graz Abteilung für Sondersammlungen, Creative commons CC BY-NC https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ (Sig. 07823)