Jamaica Patois Wisdom – Experience

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: New broom sweep clean but ole broom know di corners.

English: A new broom sweeps clean, but the old broom knows the corners.

Meaning: Do not disdain the wisdom and experience of those who are older.

“Never trust anyone over 30 years old.”

That idea was popular in the “hippie” era 40+ years ago. The idea was that the “dropout” and “stoned” generation had all the good ideas. (Obviously, not the Biblical kind of stoning, but “stoned” on marijuana.J) I have wondered through the years who they trust now that they are in their middle-aged and later years.

The American humorist Mark Twain said something about how ignorant he thought his father was when Mark was a teenager, but he was amazed at how wise his father became when Mark was some years older. So, who got smarter, the son or the father? The answer is obvious.

The author of wisdom, our Creator, offered some words about our attitude toward those who are older. “You shall rise up before the grayheaded and honor the aged, and you shall revere your God; I am the LORD” (Leviticus 19:32). Family Bible Notes commented on this verse: “Respect to the aged is a mark of wisdom, and essential to virtue; a source of comfort, and a means of usefulness; an ornament to character, and a passport to influence, reputation, and honor.”

There are various reasons why older people should be respected, and one is that by reason of experience, learning, and time, we would expect them to have wisdom. Job’s friend Elihu had this to say: "I am young in years and you are old; Therefore I was shy and afraid to tell you what I think. I thought age should speak, And increased years should teach wisdom” (Job. 32:6-8).

Young preachers should consider this principle. I have seen young preachers who refuse to consider the wisdom, knowledge, and experience of older men who have spent years in the Lord’s service. Wise Solomon wrote the following words thousands of years ago, and they are still wise words: “Hear, my son, and accept my sayings And the years of your life will be many. I have directed you in the way of wisdom; I have led you in upright paths” (Proverbs 4:10-11).

Paul encouraged young Timothy to “continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them” (II Timothy 3:14). Obviously Timothy spent considerable time with Paul on their journeys, and the implication is that Timothy learned much both from observing Paul, and being taught by him. It would be a sign of arrogance for a young person to think there was nothing that could be learned from someone older who has shown a righteous life and respect for God’s Word.

Young people, male or female, show great wisdom when they are willing to be taught by those whose years of experience and gray hair have earned the right to be respected. That fact is true not just because it makes good sense, but most of all because God said it! How often have young people thought, “I should have listened to my parents.” How many troubles could have been avoided if some young preachers had been willing to listen to elders or older preachers?

“New broom sweep clean but ole broom know di corners.”

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