15 Reunion Creole proverbs

Every culture has its own proverbs, and Reunion Creole is no exception – it’s a very colourful language that often makes use of imagery even in simple everyday conversation, so for example if you’re starving you might say Mon léstoma i bat kart (literally ‘my stomach is playing cards’). If something is difficult: La pa in rougay tomat! (‘it’s not a rougail tomate’, the latter being a spicy condiment that is quick and easy to make), and to nitpick is chercher carapate su la peau bèf  (literally ‘look for a tick on cattle skin’).

Here’s a list of fifteen Reunion Creole proverbs with their French and English translations and/or equivalents:

Couler la peau la pas couler lo ker
La couleur de la peau n’est pas la couleur du cœur
You shouldn’t judge people by the colour of their skin

Coq mon voisin grossèr mon marmite
Le coq de mon voisin est la taille de mon marmite/Ce que possède le voisin fait toujours envie
We always want what the neighbours have

Bataille coqs

Kan gro bëf i sharzh, sort dëvan!
Quand le gros bœuf charge, ne reste pas devant
When the boss isn’t happy, watch out.

Bon kari i fé dann vië karay
Le bon carri se fait dans une vieille marmite/C’est dans les vieux pots qu’on fait la bonne soupe
Old pipes give the sweetest smoke

Semaine_cr_ole_002

 

Zorey koshon dann marmit poi
Les oreilles d’un cochon dans une marmite de pois/Faire la sourde oreille
Turn a deaf ear

Semaine_cr_ole_006

 

Bëf dëvan i boir dëlo prop
Le boeuf de devant boit de l’eau propre/Premier arrivé, premier servi
First come, first served

Kass pa la tet la plï i farine, soley va arnir
Ne te casses pas la tête si la pluie bruine, le soleil va revenir/Après la pluie, le beau temps
Every cloud has a silver lining

Entr_e_de_Ste_Anne_paneau

Pakapab lé mor san esséyé
Pas-Capable est mort sans essayer/Qui ne tente rien n’a rien
He who tries nothing has nothing

Kalebass’ amèr’ y suiv’ la racin’
La calebasse amère suit la racine/Tel père tel fils
Like father like son

GEDC0833

La chance lo shein lé pa la chance lo shat
A dog’s chance isn’t a cat’s chance/A chacun sa chance
Everybody gets a chance

Semaine_cr_ole_001

Poul i ponde pas kanard
Une poule ne pond pas un canard/Les chiens ne font pas les chats
The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree

Semaine_cr_ole_009

Le chien y sent sa queue
Chacun voit midi à sa porte
To each his own

Gro poisson i bek su l’tar
Le plus grand poisson ne mord pas en premier/Une bonne affaire se fait parfois attendre
All good things come to he who waits

Action

Ou va war kel koté brinzel i charge
Tu vas voir de quel côté l’aubergine est chargée/Tu vas voir de quel bois je me chauffe
See the true colours (of someone)

Goni vid i tienbo pa dëbout
Un sac de jute vide ne tient pas debout/Avoir le ventre vide rend faible
This last proverb is one of my favourites, but I haven’t been able to find an English equivalent. It literally means ‘an empty jute bag won’t stand upright’, the idea being that if you’re hungry you’re also tired and won’t be able to do anything properly without eating first (definitely my case!).

By the way did you know the study of proverbs is called paremiology?

The pictures are taken from the blog post in French Reunion’s best Creole proverbs, illustrated by Paul Clodel. As Reunion doesn’t have a set orthography you may notice some spelling differences between the quotes I’ve listed and what is shown in the pictures.

If you have anything to add, please let me know in the comments below.

 

Further reading:

3 responses

  1. Fascinating, Catherine. Thank you!
    The term ‘goni’ interested me. “À La Réunion, un goni est un sac en toile de jute. Le terme goni vient de l’Hindi goni qui signifie sac.” http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goni_(sac) (In Réunion, a ‘goni’ is a jute sack or bag. The term comes from the Hindi word ‘goni’ which means sack or bag.) In Sri Lanka, and no doubt in many other countries, a hessian sack is known as a gunny-bag.
    For that proverb, the nearest I can get is the quote often attributed to Napoléon: Une armée marche à son estomac. (An army marches on its stomach.) Not really close enough…
    I just love reading your blog!
    Clive

  2. Thank you Catharine for such an interesting post!
    It’s fascinating to see how popular wisdom translates into different cultural backgrounds – words and imagery may vary, but the “big ideas” are often very similar.
    I especially liked “Couler la peau la pas couler lo ker” – much more evocative than our “l’abito non fa il monaco” (which literally translates as “it isn’t the dress that makes the monk”).
    Cheers from Turin,
    Alessandra

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