Jamaica Patois Wisdom – Awareness

by Jefferson David Tant

The Jamaican Patois dialect is colorful, unique, and humorous. It is my desire to share some of the philosophy shown in this mix of colorful phrases that are witty as well as thought-provoking. I hope the readers both profit and enjoy. In my quarter-century plus of teaching there, I have come to appreciate some things about their culture.

Patois: Fisherman neva seh im fish tink

English: A fisherman will never say his fish stinks

Meaning: People with bad habits will never admit to them

An adage says "Some people never learn." I'm sure you have known people like that. People who make one bad decision after another and never get the message that maybe they need to make some changes.

We are reminded of King Saul, who seemed to be intent on making bad decisions. Even though he could see that David was faithful to him, and respected his position as King of Israel, Saul sought to kill him time and again. I Samuel 24 tells of a time when David had a chance to kill the one who was seeking his life. Saul went into a cave where David and his men were hiding, and David's men urged him to strike Saul. But David refused. He did cut off a piece of Saul's robe, and then called to Saul after the king went out, asking him why he was seeking the life of David.

"When David had finished speaking these words to Saul, Saul said, 'Is this your voice, my son David?' Then Saul lifted up his voice and wept. He said to David, 'You are more righteous than I; for you have dealt well with me, while I have dealt wickedly with you'" (I Samuel 24:1-17). Yet just two chapters later we have the same scenario, as Saul continued to pursue David, and David one again refrained from killing Saul when he had the chance.

How often did the nation of Israel get off track? It would be interesting to go through the Old Testament and count the cycles of faithful service, rebellion, trouble, calling out to God, a deliverer sent, restoration, faithful service, rebellion, etc. On one occasion Moses declared: "For they are a nation lacking in counsel, and there is no understanding in them" (Deuteronomy 32:28).

There are two good sources upon which we can rely to make good decisions, and it would be good to consider them.

  1. The source of all wisdom is our Creator. God's Word is an infallible source of wisdom and guidance. In a conversation Eliphaz had with Job, he asked: "Do you hear the secret counsel of God, And limit wisdom to yourself?" (Job 15:8). We know that Eliphaz and Job's other friends misunderstood Job's situation, but they did utter words of wisdom at times.David wrote, "I will bless the LORD who has counseled me; Indeed, my mind instructs me in the night" (Psalm 16:7).
  2. The counsel of good friends. Solomon wrote: "The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, But a wise man is he who listens to counsel" (Proverbs 15:12). "Listen to counsel and accept discipline, That you may be wise the rest of your days" (Proverbs 19:20). Paul wrote:  "Do not be wise in your own estimation" (Romans 12:16).

We must be cautious about the counsel of our friends, lest it be bad counsel. "How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, Nor stand in the path of sinners, Nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night" (Psalm 1:1-2). Let us be wise about our habits, lest we foul the air with stinky fish.

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